The difference between web design and web development

Which One Do You Need?

So you decided to contract out your website

Most people, when looking to contract out their website, are swarmed with a massive amount of buzz words, focuses, and other options. This has its benefits, because it allows you to shop around. However, on the other hand it can become hard to know what the right choice is, and even what you really need. One of the biggest instances of this is weather or not you need a web designer or a web developer.

The person you hire is usually capable of doing both, and often the terms are even used interchangeably, but as a consumer it is important that you know the difference between the two. This is because it not only makes it easier to know what you want and communicate with the person creating your website, but it also can make a world of difference in price.

 In a perfect world, developers would be completely honest about the work that needs to be done on your site and how long it will take. However, as a consumer it is always best to go into a situation, especially one that can be as pricey as a website, informed about what the services are, what they entail, and approximately what they cost. Here, without being too \”techy\” we will break down and explain the difference between web design and web development. 

Web Design

For most businesses, especially small businesses, web design is what you want and are looking for. The end result isn\’t going to look any different, the difference is the work that goes into it. There is significantly less work that goes into web design than development, and therefore it is significantly less expensive. Most of the time when developers are making a site, they are creating something that has been done before. They are most likely using a template and/or a builder and working on the WordPress platform, which allows them to create a well designed site quickly and with little to no actual coding.

This can bring up the question then, if they aren\’t actually coding the site, then why am I paying them so much to build it? Well, when it comes to web design you aren\’t paying the developer to actually write the code behind your site. Instead you are paying for their expertise. The templates and builders they use are usually not as easy to configure as advertised (just talk to anyone who has bought and used a template to build their own site). There is a lot that goes into a site, even if it is a template you need to know what you are doing, and that is what you are paying for.

They not only know what\’s going on behind the scenes when they use the templates and builders, but they have a significant amount of experience in using them. They know how to not only make a better looking site in a shorter amount of time, but how to make it: rank higher in google search, look good across all devices, include applications that track your web traffic, and ensure that a consistent backup and staging site are set up. Essentially their function is to take the worry out of building it yourself and ensure that your business is primed for success.

So How much do they cost? Generally speaking you can expect to pay around $50 an hour for web design. The end product costing anywhere from $500 to $5,000 depending on how much time goes into making the site, but for most small businesses it is pretty rare that a website exceeds $1500. The reason the cost is what it is because one, as mentioned earlier there is a lot that goes into creating a website, but also because of the high demand. Websites are currently the number one investment a business can make, which makes being able do design an integrated website that looks good on across all platforms a valuable skill.  

Web Development

 What separates development from design is the need for the developer to actually write code. Companies usually require web development when they need something custom built. There is a specific functionality that they need through their site that isn\’t mass produced or doesn\’t exist so the developer comes in and creates it. The most common forms of this are creating  custom themes and/or plugins for the WordPress platform, and creating web APIs. 

Projects that require development often take a much longer time than ones that only require design. This is because there is a lot more planning and work that goes into it. The developer will have to outline the scope of the project, what development tools they need, and develop a workflow and project pipeline before they even start coding the actual site or application. Then they have to start actually developing, followed by testing and ensuring everything is digitally secure. 

Rates for web development can range anywhere from $100 and hour up to $250 an hour depending on the skill of the developer and the context of the project. Since these projects take a significantly longer time to complete this can add up quickly. Final projects can range anywhere from $5,000 up to $25,000 and even as much as $50,000. It all depends on how big the project is and how much work needs to be done. It costs this much because now instead of the developer simply designing the site and using their expertise, they are building something completely custom and new. Furthermore, the same reasoning still applies as with design, it is the number one investment a company can make, but, even more now it\’s a skill that is valuable. It is something that is in high demand that not a lot of people know how to do.


When it comes to web development and design the main difference is the requirement for the developer to actually code the site or application, and most businesses will not need development. Some will want a project that is a combination of both, and if they do, it is usually a very small amount of development. For example, if you want a custom navigation bar for your site, or a particular styling that doesn\’t come with the theme.

Web design and development can be expensive, but it\’s worth it. You set yourself and your business up for success when you pay an expert to create something that everyone who visits your business will see. It\’s an investment after all, but, just like other investments you should still know what you are paying for. When talking to your developer about your site, explain to them exactly what you want and what your goals are as a business, and ask them if it will require any coding. If it does, and the price is too high, usually they can help you cut that down by offering alternative solutions. If it\’s still to expensive there are other options as well, so stay tuned for alternative ways to get a quality site on a tight budget, and if you have any questions feel free to reach out to us. Good luck!