Web Design or Web Development: What is the difference?
The topic brings me back to the day when I first began to work on the scripting for websites, a time before PHP, before WordPress, and a time when the only way to login to an account was by HTTP authentication (http://you:firstname.lastname@example.org). To say things have changed would be an understatement. But one thing never does change: definitions. The very nature and root word of a definition is to be definite, which means to never change or move. This is the reason for my blog post today.
Many people seem to be confused what web development is, or what web design is. Somehow, even web designers, SEO companies, and web developers seem to be that the two are somehow different or not an integral part of each other. I’ve read in every corner of the internet “the difference between Web Development and Web Design” and they were all WRONG — Dead Wrong. Whether they were simply not understanding what the terms meant or they were just writing fluff pieces to increase their own website’s SEO, I’m unsure, but I know they were wrong and any suggestion that the two are different is misinformation.
To present my case I’ll start with what each word entails.
Don’t fret, I’m not on a tangent. SEO is intrinsically tied to this very subject.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the art of carefully placing content tags in the HTML of a website so search engines can better understand the importance and content of your website. For instance, ensuring that product categories have H2 (Secondary Heading) tags, while your page title (main category) has H1 (Primary Heading) tags alerts the search engines that your main category name is more important than all of the other categories on that page. While that doesn’t mean that your other categories are any less valuable than any other, it is less important on THAT page. When you use these types of standards, the website becomes “SEO” or Search Engine Optimized and Google generally places these websites with heavy weight on their search engines because it knows the content of your website better than say Billy Bob that wrapped all of his categories in H1 tags (thinking it would make the search engine weigh each one higher) when all he really did was confuse the search engine and in some cases break their rules.
Ahh, and here is where I go back to my teenage years; a time where one had to use perl or CGI to create dynamic websites — everything had to be scripted from scratch because there were no free or open source libraries to use and every company had any and all login scripting completely privatized. So if you were creating a website, you had to start from scratch and open notepad and begin working on your new login script and then build a customer portal or whatnot from that.
Today, many websites and “developers” use a CMS or Content Management System. These are generally open source scripts that work as a login portal and site content management system out-of-the-box with little customization. Wordpress, my favorite, is no different. But in order to customize it, you have to know a server-side scripting language called PHP (Hyper-text Pre-Processor). This is not called “development” by itself as most will tell you, it’s called “scripting”.
Now, most of those website authors I mentioned above are likely scratching their head right now and asking, “Isn’t that a web developer?”. No, its a scripter or programmer, all depending on how far you’re willing to go to call a scripting language a programming language.
Again! I’m not on a tangent, I swear, when you get to the “WEB DEVELOPMENT” part, everything will make complete sense!
Then, you have the pay-per-click advertising, social advertising, viral marketing, etc. If you haven’t noticed, nothing is labeled as development yet. Well, let’s just skip to that right now.
Web development is the incorporation of ALL OF THE ABOVE to create a complete or incomplete (meaning you can leave some things out) website solution. Yes, Web Development is the “top category” for Web Design, Web Scripting, Marketing, AND SEO. Nothing is exclusive, they are all inclusive of Web Development. A “web developer” could be:
- A Web Designer
- A Web Scripter
- An SEO Specialist
- A Marketing Consultant
All of these roles fill in what is called “The Web Developer”. If you don’t believe me, then try and complete the follow sentence:
The PHP Scripter, Web Designer, and SEO Specialist __________________ed my new website into a beautiful marketing tool!
I rest my case.
Hopefully, we’ve now set the record straight and have restored some faith in the internet dictionaries! 🙂