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web design vs web development

The Beginners’ Guide to Web Design vs Web Development

If you need a new website, or some improvements made to your existing website, and you’re new to the field, you’ll probably find that a lot of confusingly similar-sounding terms get bandied around.

Two such terms are web design and web development. In Webstruxure’s view, these are complementary disciplines – partners, not rivals. In our Wellington offices, we have both web designers and web developers, and they seem to work pretty well together.

But what do the terms “web design” and “web development” actually mean, and what’s the difference between them?

All About Web Design

Web design is about what the user sees when they go to your site, and how the experience your site – so web design is closely connected with user experience design.

Engaging content and useful tools may be what keep users coming back to your site, but first impressions are important too. As soon as they land on your website, users start making assumptions about your business based on what they see and what they experience.

Finding the right combination of responsiveness, usability and creativity can give your business the edge over your competitors – and that’s where a good web designer comes in.


Mobile and tablet Internet usage has now overtaken desktop usage. That means your website needs to work as well – or better – on devices with small screens as it does on devices with full-width screens.

Responsive web design involves designing the page in such a way that arrangement of elements on a web page changes depending on the width of the screen that’s being used. Web pages should always be designed so that users encounter the most important information, links or tools first. On a small screen, that becomes even more crucial.


Your website needs to be useful – that is, it needs to allow your users to perform necessary tasks or find information that is important to them. But it also needs to be usable. The most useful sets of tools or the most vital information won’t do you any good if users can’t find it or, when they find it, can’t navigate it to a successful conclusion.

Website usability is a huge field, and testing websites and website designs on actual users still plays a big part in it, but over the years, some good principles have been developed. We’ve spent years putting them into practice, and we can save you time by forewarning you of likely usability issues that might affect your website plans.


In web design, creativity can be a mixed blessing, because the object of the exercise isn’t to pioneer bold new fields of art, but to come up with a design that users can recognise and follow, and which is sufficiently distinctive that users don’t confuse your site with those of your competitors and peers.

“Creative” doesn’t have to mean “designed from scratch”. We often work with the WordPress and DNN content management systems, both of which lend themselves to designs based on a wide range of pre-existing web design templates. Here the creativity lies in choosing the correct template for your needs, and then adapting it to make it distinctively yours.

All About Web Development

Web development is the process of taking web designers’ work – whether that is a brand new, purpose-designed site or an off-the-shelf or tweaked template site – and turning it into a website that works. There are lots of ways of dividing up the web development space, but a common distinction is between front-end and back-end web development.

Front-end web development

Front-end web development involves talking the visual design, converting it into HTML and CSS, and using Javascript and other tools, such as JQuery, to build what people will see in their browsers. Front-end web developers work closely with web designers, and they need to know all about responsive web design. Broadly speaking, front-end web developers deal with the client side of web development.

Back-end web development

By contrast, back-end web development deals with the part of the process that happens in the background. If front-end development is the shiny shopfront, back-end web development is the factory floor. Web projects typically involve clients, servers and databases, and it’s the back-end web developer’s job to write the code that takes data from those databases and servers and delivers it to the front end in a useful, usable form. Back-end web developers work with tools such as Java, PHP, Ruby on Rails, Python, and .Net. .Net is the first ‘N’ in the DNN content management system, which Webstruxure specialises in.

Design. Development. Is there anything else?

There’s a whole lot more! For example, we haven’t even touched on creating meaningful, effective content for the site – something which site owners have a bad tendency of leaving to the office junior, instead of getting experts in content strategy and content creation involved – or the closely related discipline of information architecture. We’ll talk about some of these in future blog posts.

Web Design and Web Development: Partners, Not Rivals

Webstruxure sees web design and web development as partners, not rivals. At Webstruxure’s Wellington offices, our web design and web development teams work closely together to produce websites that look good, provide a good user experience whatever type of device they are viewing the site on, load fast and work well.

But we’re about more than just web design and web development, vital though those both are. Whether you are after content strategy, ongoing support or email marketing, we can do that for you too.

Webstruxure is here to make the web work smarter. Let us know how we can help you for user friendly, mobile friendly and search engine friendly websites. Our services include:
Web design
Content strategy
 User experience

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Tim Jones - Content Strategist at Webstruxure
Tim Jones – Lord of the Words

Tim works as a content strategist and project manager for Webstruxure, helping clients make sure their websites meet user needs and business goals. He is also a published author of fiction and poetry, with seven books published, and has co-edited two poetry anthologies. You can find out more about Tim’s writing on the New Zealand Book Council website.