Web Design vs. Web Development

Since I have run into this issue with several clients and prospects as of late, I thought I would post a blog about it since it is on the forefront of my mind. In fact, I have taken this directly from a presentation I gave to a group looking to build a website.

A lot of organizations start with the idea that what they need is a website. So they start talking to web development shops in the hope that they can find one that will develop the best website for the least amount of money.

In my presentation I used the following analogy:

In general, how many people do you know who ask for a bid from their contractor:

General Contractor

before they draw up the blueprints:


However, most organizations ask for exactly that. Web developers are excellent problem solvers, but they need to solve the right problems. They will also tell you that the worst thing that happens with clients is they develop a really cool website, but the client asks them “where is the content”. The web developer typically expects the client to write their own content, but the client expects – a website.

Here is my formula for launching a website. In the end, just because you build it doesn’t me people will come to it. I broke it up into 7 easy steps:

  1. Positioning – Who is the website for? Why would the want to go to the website? What are the types of things they are looking for? What makes you different than everyone else out there? All these questions need to be answered before you ever put fingers to keyboard.
  2. Design – This is the blueprint phase of the process. This is where you typically identify key functionality, click flow, and usability, you build a site map, and you do blocking layouts for key pages. If done right, 60% of building a website should be in this phase.
  3. Build – This is the step most organizations are looking for when they want someone to do a website for them. However, a true build includes programming, writing content, proofing, testing, and revisions.
  4. Recruitment – Who are the influencers who will encourage participation? What is the value proposition to the influencers? Where does your audience congregate? Whatever your target audience, it is key to recruit both contributors and buyers.
  5. Online Promotion – Once your website is live, it is critical to promote it. This includes things like search engine optimization (both paid and organic), blogger relations, social tagging, and social networking. There are many ways to promote your website using web 2.0 tools, but they all require involvement and time.
  6. Offline Promotion – In the end, a website is just a digital store front. Even if you don’t sell products online, you sell yourself. Therefore, any traditional marketing efforts you use should drive traffic to your website. These could include efforts such as public relations, strategic alliances, events, and advertising.
  7. Maintenance – This one is often forgotten. However, it needs to be decided up front who will be responsible not only for ongoing site changes (new features, bug fixes, etc.), but who will be responsible for fresh content.

In the end, a website is just a tool that needs to be used properly in order to be effective. Not only that, but web marketing follows the basic rules of general marketing, namely – you have to have an audience that cares and engage that audience in what you are doing.


6 thoughts on “Web Design vs. Web Development

  1. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

    Jason Whitmen

  2. Excellent post. I think a lot of times developers get frustrated because of the very things you mention, but most of us forget that it’s our job to keep things on track, because we’re the experts.

    Most clients don’t (and shouldn’t be expected to) have the experience and knowledge in web development to know how to direct the project. That’s why they hire us. 🙂

  3. Sarah, I don’t know that there is anyone who is more of a consummate professional than you are. Most people’s thinking needs to evolve from hiring the nephew, the geek in a garage, or even the web firm to “do a website”.

    In the end, people don’t want a website. They want leads, or they want a way to improve their brand, or they want an easy way for people to find out more about them. Whatever the reason, there is almost always a disconnect between the programmer and the client. The programmer delivers what they do best, a functionally excellent and aesthetic website. However, most firms aren’t experts at marketing, just designing websites.

    This post was simply a way to help end users understand what it takes to really get what they want and what kind of capabilities they need to look for. Thanks for the comments, Sarah!

  4. Pingback: Cool homepages

  5. Many times I tried to figure out, what are people talking about here and what they mean by saying stuff like that. And I realized that they just don’t have a clue about the topic themselves. It’s kinda strange. Anyway I have to say that you mast understand, what’s really doing on to comment things. Otherwise you will look and sound stupid.

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