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Web Design, Web Development: Whats the Difference?

If you’ve been looking for help with your medical website design, chances are you’ve come across the terms “web design” and “web development.” These terms are often used interchangeably, typically because most people don’t really understand what is involved in creating a website.

But each of these terms have a wildly different meaning and are important in their own respective ways. Without each one, a fully functioning and attractive website could not be designed. If you’re looking to hire someone to help with creating a website, it’s important that you understand the difference between these terms and how that can apply to your website creation process.

This understanding will help you when it comes to brainstorming your website’s design and function, and how those factors relate to its overall purpose.

Web Design/Web Designer


Web Designer sitting at his computer consider layout options for a medical website design he's making


A web designer is often an individual that has a variety of skills that surround visual design. But it’s so much more than just making a pretty design. It’s about creating a website that meets the needs of your visitors, functions on a variety of devices without looking unattractive, and ultimately creating a design that is easy to navigate and converts individuals.

Web designers work on a website’s “front-end,” which is the part of the website that is public facing. This is where customers interact with the website and navigate it to find what they need. A good web designer should also have extensive experience and training in user experience (UX). This is because no matter how attractive a medical website design is, it must be easy for people to navigate.

Customers come to your website seeking answers to questions they have. Good website design for medical practices creates a website that makes an easy path for people to find what they’re looking for. They do this by minimizing the clicks needed to get to various pages within your website, use clear language, and offer a practical way to find the answers they want. A web designer’s ultimate goal is to make a website that truly caters to the customer.

An experienced web designer will understand design principles that make an attractive website on both your desktop and mobile devices, as well as making websites that are intuitive. The web designer’s ability to marry form and function is crucial to a website’s success.

Web Development/Web Developer


Web Script for a medical website design being displayed on laptop computer


Web developers work on both the front-end of a website and the back-end. The front-end is the portion of the website that customers and visitors see and interact with. The back-end is the portion of the website that deals with more interactive parts of the website and complex programming.

Each of these developers is an important part of creating a website that is functional and attractive. However, depending on your needs, you might not actually need one of each type of developers. In fact, many smaller projects fare quite well when working with a front-end developer.

What works best for you will vary based on your needs, plan, and budget.

Front-End Web Developer

A front-end web developer works with languages like CSS, HTML, and JavaScript. They typically take the design created by a web designer and code it so that it renders properly on the website. Like a web designer, a front-end web developer needs to have a solid understanding of user experience and how visitors interact with a website.

Oftentimes, websites that simply require front facing pages and don’t require more extensive functions, like booking an appointment or accessing patient records, can rely simply on front-end web development. But websites that rely on databases and need to function at a higher level will need a back-end developer.

Oftentimes, in website design for healthcare professionals, we see a need for a back-end developer, because we want to provide patients with the ability to contact the office, schedule appointments, and access their patient records.

Back-End Web Developer

Developers who work solely on the more complex parts of programming are known as back-end web developers. These developers pay special attention to understanding the necessary functions of the website and how customers will need to interact with it.

These more complex functions, like scheduling an appointment or creating an eCommerce feature to a website where individuals can make purchases securely, take development skills in languages like PHP, SQL, and Ruby on Rails (these are just a few of today’s most popular languages).

Back-end developers also understand how to connect various aspects of a website. So, if an individual comes to your website and schedules an appointment, they might also build in a feature where that person gets a confirmation text and a reminder text. This is incredibly complex but can play a large role in how people experience your website. It looks simple on the front-end, but on the back-end, there’s a lot of work that goes into it.

Oftentimes back-end designers get to stretch their creative legs when there isn’t a software solution that meets their needs. In this case, they’ll start from scratch and build a functioning product that works perfectly for what they need it to do.

Full-Stack Developers

You might’ve heard people talk about full-stack developers, but what are they? A full-stack developer is essentially a developer who is experienced in both front-end web development and back-end web development.

These developers bring experience from each layer of development and are often quite experienced in each realm. They are likely experts in several languages, both front and back-end, and are comfortable working on a wide variety of online tasks.

Full-stack developers will also have experience with server languages, which play an important part of proper database integrations.

When you’re choosing a professional for your medical website design, it’s important to think about what you want. Unless an individual is a proven full-stack developer you might be better having both a web designer and web developer on your team. And, if your website becomes more complex you might even need to bring on both front and back-end designers. While this seems daunting, the outcome of your project is likely to be much more positive than if you hadn’t done so.

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