Web design and development are interchangeable phrases. Almost every web design, digital, and marketing agency claims they offer both services, and most have the capability, either in-house or working with partners to deliver other elements of a project for a client.
However, when considering web design or development agencies to work with, it’s useful to know that design and development are very different. Depending on your aims, you may only need design, or development, or both. But without this understanding and clarity, it can be difficult to get the outcomes you need.
In this article, we cover the difference between design and development, some trends to be aware of what to look for when picking developers and designers to work on your website.
Website design and development: what is the difference?
Although these words are used interchangeably, they mean two distinct elements of designing and building a website.
Website design refers to how a website looks and feels. All of the design aspects, including the user experience, how web visitors navigate through the website and how the design impacts web visitor outcomes. For example, do you want web visitors to buy something on the site, in which case you need an e-commerce feature. Or is the website a lead generation magnet? In which case, a designer needs to create a landing page that attracts potential buyers into your companies sales funnel.
Web designers use various tools and technology solutions to design websites. Some of the most popular include Adobe InDesign and Photoshop and InVision. During the design process, skilled designers should maintain regular contact with clients to make sure they’re getting what they want and the overall appearance is aligned around brand guidelines and other design assets.
Designers are also referred to as front-end developers or UX/UI designers, or experience designers since much of the work is now focused on the user experience as well as how a website looks and feels.
Web development, on the other hand, refers to how a website functions.
For some basic websites, development isn’t needed or is only involved in the early stages when templates need to be uploaded to servers. After that point, a designer is brought in to create the website using a template.
Developers still need to work with designers during this process, and it will be up to the developer or an account manager to keep in contact with the client and coordinate the design and development process. Once a website is ready – they are usually built on a staging site – a client can review the work, suggest changes and then plan for the day when the new website can go live. At that point a project is signed-off and any future work or ongoing maintenance or hosting can be agreed before a final invoice is sent.
Website design trends
When thinking about your new website, it’s useful to be aware of trends and what consumers expect. Web design changes over time. How we experience the web now is different from five or ten years ago, and over that time the way websites look and feel has changed enormously. This, in turn, changes our experience of websites and they evolve to fit our needs and expectations.
Going into 2019, we expect the following trends are going to have an impact on website design and development:
This one is always going to be important. Especially with more people than ever accessing websites on smartphones. Faster websites will keep users attention. Slow websites are already penalised by Google. If your website doesn’t fully load in 3 seconds then you can expect a significant number of web visitors won’t hang around long enough to wait.
2. Minimalist and flat
Creating websites with mobiles in mind is essential.
Consequently, the overall design should aim to be flat and minimalist. Overly complex websites with confusing user experiences and journeys don’t appeal to a mobile-first audience. Keeping things simple will make it easier for you to achieve your goals for the website and make sure that users get where they need to go. It should also keep loading times quick, thereby keeping your potential customers on your website instead of going to a competitor.
A trend that hasn’t gone away since 2015, which is when mobile searches overtook desktop searches. Only three years later, one in five U.S. adults don’t conduct any searches on desktops or laptops, and everyone expects this trend to accelerate and continue.
Instead of designing a desktop version of a website that is optimised for mobile devices, designers are creating websites for mobiles that also work on desktop browsers. This is an important fundamental shift that needs to be at the forefront of your design process.
4. One page
One way to make sure a website is optimise for a smartphone is to put everything you need on one page. Search engines are favouring simple, fast and mobile-centric designs. Just make sure that there are enough words on the website to rank for the keywords you need, and sufficient information to sell your product/service and encourage web visitors to take action.
5. Video backgrounds
Another trend that has taken off in 2018 and will only increase into 2019 is video backgrounds. Videos are more effective at capturing the attention of web visitors, showing instead of telling. It doesn’t need to be a long video or cinematic masterpiece, it simply needs to promote your value proposition and clearly show what your company does.
Throughout your website, another way to keep the attention of web visitors is with short (a few seconds at most) micro-animations. It can be a great way to get across a complex subject quickly or encourage a user to click on something, such as a ‘buy now’ or ‘call us’ button, or a menu.
Micro-animations are everywhere and they help web visitors know they’re taking the right actions, the actions you want them to take on a website. We fully expect this trend to continue into 2019 and beyond.
Web visitors are active every hour of the day and night. But that doesn’t mean you need someone to manage the website 24/7. With chatbots, you can provide customer service around the clock and make sure that a service is in place to answer questions.
More and more website are turning to chatbots to provide answers to customer questions. You can program them with frequently asked questions, then the AI/machine learning that runs in the background picks up on keywords and phrases, then provides answers and more information. Depending on your website, some enable automatic purchasing, increase revenue through e-commerce channels.
These are some of the most prominent trends we expect will continue into 2019. Now let’s consider how to pick the right team to design and develop your website.
How to select the right designers or developers for your project?
1. Track record
Before picking designers, developers or an agency, you should get a sense for what they can deliver for you through a portfolio. If one isn’t available on their website (not every company wants to broadcast this due to the risk of competitors stealing clients), ask to see examples.
Agencies and developers/designers that have worked with similar companies is a positive sign. As is a mix of B2B and B2C experience. It is equally useful to view websites they’ve built on mobile devices to make sure they’re keeping up with industry trends and experiences.
Working with designers and developers is similar to Goldilocks trying the porridge in the house of the Three Bears. Not too cheap, not too expensive: they should offer a price that seems ‘just right.’ Prices that seem too cheap usually mean that work could be rushed, or you end up with a poor-quality or template-designed website that won’t achieve what you want. It might even be necessary to get another company or team to rebuild it.
Avoid working with designers and developers that appear to look like a bargain. But at the same time, if a quote seems excessive, walking away is smarter than going over budget.
3. Design skills
Before working with any designer, make sure you’ve seen examples of their work. Websites they’ve designed and any other portfolio pieces. It will give you a sense of what they can do for your website, and talk over with them your ideas. Ideally, during the costing process, they should put together a few ideas for this. In some cases a designer will create a stylised mockup during the discovery phase of a project, giving you the option to pick the overall design you want them to create.
4. Coding knowledge
In the same way, you need to know the developer – or team creating the back-end of your website has the relevant coding skills and knowledge. And that you can see examples of similar websites built using the same languages and technology stack.
5. Responsive customer service
Getting a website designed and developed as a process. It should be collaborative. And during this process, you need to be confident in the company or team doing the work. Poor or infrequent communication is a bad sign. Make sure those doing the work are responsive and take on board any feedback and changes you want making.
Developers that have certificates to demonstrate the skills they have are a valuable asset. Certification and accreditation is an advantage over companies that don’t have the in-house talent to deliver more complex projects. Certificates from industry giants, such as Google, Adobe, Rackspace, and Amazon Web Services are worth looking out for and asking about.
7. Positive reviews
As with any purchase, make sure you are working with professionals that have positive reviews and testimonials from customers. Ask to see them if they’re not forthcoming, or ask for a couple of clients you can email for a reference.
8. A process
Designing and developing a website is a process. Working with a company that has a process in place is a good sign, it is a reason to have confidence in what they will deliver. It is also a sign that your project should be managed on-time and budget.
9. Time management
Designers, developers, and agencies should keep to agreed timescales. In most cases, a project is quoted for the overall work, not how many hours a team is working on a website. Otherwise, you risk projects taking longer than expected, resulting in higher costs.
When getting a website built, go into the process knowing whether you are looking for a custom-coded or template website. Knowing this should guide you in the direction as to whether you require a website designer or developer, or a team that can do both. Make sure they’re aware of industry trends, have a portfolio and client testimonials, charge a reasonable price and are capable of delivering when they say they will.