The Difference Between Design and Development

October 4, 2019

A laptop sitting on the ground with a book and candle to the side

When looking to a professional to design a brand for you, a plan on how you'll launch your website is a must. You don't want to make the mistake of seeing your website as an afterthought when in reality, it is the cornerstone of your business. You will see a lot of designers in almost every price range that offer a website as a part of their package. Websites require a lot of moving parts so when you're ready to create a custom site or something based on a template, you'll need a website designer and a developer.

But wait, don't website designers build my website? Not necessarily! Investing in your website can cost a pretty penny, but you want to make sure that it's clear what you're receiving when you book a designer vs. a developer.

What is website design?

Website design is focused on the look of your website. Website designers present you with a mockup usually showing what each page will look like. However, this person may not develop or create your website. They also most likely won't be deciding how the site works, like dropdown menus, galleries, etc. although some do.

When you work with a web designer, you walk away with a plan for your website but you'll usually need to find a separate person to hire to implement the design on a website platform.

So, what is development then?

A web developer translates a design into code or implement a content management system (a long term for a platform) and add functionality to the visuals. Your developer would be the one to infuse interactive features and build your site from the ground up using the designer's specifications.

There are levels to development, with direct coding (typically seen on WordPress sites) being the most tried and true version of web development. A middle tier would encompass sites built from scratch with apps that allow website development without having to use code (the happy medium, Webflow and Showit fall in this area of the spectrum). The end of the scale that requires little to no development would be a site based on or utilizing a template (Squarespace is the type of platform that uses templates, but many designers are able to add a lot of personalization and code to make a truly unique site).

Why is this important now?

Website design and development had a very clear line drawn in the sand in the beginning stages of the internet. Most designers had no clue how to code a website and asking a developer to create graphics or make visual decisions would have been met with laughing or an eye roll. However, with the website platforms now available to designers, the lines have blurred.

Knowing the difference between these two services can not only help you make a more informed decision when booking a designer, but your investment in the project should be weighed in a new way. If you're spending your entire budget and you're not receiving web development, where will the money come at that point to build your website with your new visuals? It's important to understand what you're spending your money on and what will work best for your business.

Some platforms enable a website designer to build your website. However, there are also platforms that require a developer to truly create a custom, cleanly built website.


While you can infuse a ton of CSS on Squarespace (I have some friends who design in Squarespace and blow me away with the custom sites they can create), not every Squarespace designer is developing your website. If you look in a potential designer's portfolio and many sites look the same, or you can tell it's a Squarespace website once you land on them, they are strictly a designer.

Nothing is wrong with that of course! Many businesses simply need a designer and no developer. When reviewing your options, a brand and website package that does not include development will usually cost less overall since the development phase takes quite a bit of time to complete.


When you are using a website and blog on the WordPress platform, you bet you will need both a designer and developer. WordPress is entirely code based, even changing small details in a theme will require code. It's very important to make sure when booking a designer who offers WordPress design that they will also develop your site or they can easily refer you to a few developers that they work with regularly.


Showit is the perfect medium because you'll need a developer, but a Showit developer is going to be a designer very familiar with the platform and who can start a website from scratch for you so it's truly custom. You want to make sure your developer on Showit doesn't need a template to start your website, because you may miss out on some of Showit's amazing interactive features if the person you hire doesn't understand the platform inside and out.

There are also designers who can customize a template for you and that can be extremely helpful when you have a smaller budget. Typically, your investment will be higher when you have a designer and developer all in one person or studio.


Webflow is an interesting platform because a developer who understands code will take to it much more quickly than a designer who doesn't know code. Between the responsiveness of Webflow sites, the animation possibilities, and how easy it is to maintain and update, having a designer who knows Webflow can be a huge advantage to you when hiring a designer. We're so excited to be offering Webflow now as a part of our services suite. We really think Webflow can benefit all types of business owners, shop owners, and bloggers.

The benefit to hiring a designer/developer

With over 20 years of design and development experience, I have a true passion for offering both services to my clients because I want them to know I'm there with them every step of the way. Understanding HTML and CSS before website platforms and content management systems were a thing (think dial-up) has helped me to create websites that are streamlined but also optimizing the code to be as clean and minimal as possible.

Clean code equals faster speeds when loading your site and better SEO. I'm also able to help you update and maintain your site with practical education and a deeper understanding of the inner workings of your website.

What's next?

Whether you need a designer only or a developer and designer all in one, always evaluate your package options and book the service that works for your business. In the end, your investment will be well worth the time and money. You'll have the home that will take your business to the next level and build a connection with your audience.

Related Posts

Want to get posts & updates directly to your inbox?

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.