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Hey, I’m Chiedo and I’m a web developer at Chiedo Labs. My goal is to help you learn to speak web developer. Got questions? Throw them in the comments below.

Web Design vs Web Development vs Web Marketing

Understanding the difference between the individuals involved in a project will help you make more informed decisions and gauge when someone is out of their realm of expertise.

Core Definitions:

  • Web Designer: Someone who creates designs that depict how a website should look. Not someone who writes the code to make the websites functional. A web designer spends more time thinking about how humans will interact with a website.
  • Web Developer: Someone who actually builds websites and applications by writing all the lines of code that power things behind the scenes. A web developer spends more time thinking about how computers will interpret and perform for the websites they create.
  • Web Marketer: Someone who specializes in driving traffic to websites. This is done with tactics not limited to the creation of landing pages, writing content, launching advertising campaigns, and email marketing campaigns.

Other terms you may hear:

  • UX: Short for user experience. A web designer with UX skills will do more than ensure things look good. A UX designer will ensure that the experience the user has on the page is pleasant and easy to navigate.
  • UI: Short for user interface. A web designer with UI skills is often talented at developing web applications, admin panels, and web software rather than just informational websites.
  • Freelancer: An independent person providing services alone or with other consultants rather than as a part of a team.
  • Agency: A company providing services via the employees its vetted and trained. They occasionally refer aspects of a project to partner consultants.

Food for thought:

It’s rare for a freelancer to be great at web design, development, and marketing at the same time. Agencies usually have multiple capabilities under one roof. But even with agencies, there’s usually one core competency with other “additional services”. So know who you’re hiring and ask them where they’re strongest.

Software Development Agencies vs Marketing Agencies

Sometimes a marketing agency will dabble in creating custom software and a software development agency will dabble in marketing. More often than not, your best bet is to work with a company who’s focus aligns with yours. Or use both.

Core Definitions:

  • Marketing Agency: An agency with the goal of helping you generate more buzz, get more attention, and grow your brand. They tend to focus on web design and web marketing. eg. Creating the design and marketing strategy for nike.com.
  • Software Development Agency: An agency with the goal of helping you create or improve custom software. They tend to focus on web and/or general software development. eg. Creating the software that powers airbnb.com or LinkedIn.com.

Food for thought:

With agencies, you will get better long-term support and more capabilities than you get when you work with a freelancer. But agencies do cost more, so work with a freelancer while you’re pre-revenue.

Work with a marketing agency if you need help with perception. And, work with a software development agency if you need help with functionality and automation.

Informational Websites vs Web Applications

If you’re looking for an informational website, you typically start with a freelance web designer or marketing agency. Whilst, if you’re looking for a web application, you typically start with a web developer or software development agency. Let’s explain.

Core Definitions:

  • Informational Website: A website for sharing information where each user typically has the same experience. eg. blogs, restaurant websites, city government websites, personal brand websites.
  • Web Application: A custom website where each user can alter the experience they and/or other users have on the platform. eg. Online stores, inventory management software, social media sites, ride-sharing software.

Food for thought:

If your goal is to help your customers or staff find information, you need an informational website. If your goal is to create a tool, platform, or interactive experience for your staff or customers, you need a web application.

Web applications cost more to build and maintain due to their complexity. Be sure to ask about maintenance costs rather than just the upfront costs.

Informational Website Lingo

There are a million and one ways to build informational websites depending on your specific case and the skillset with whoever you’ve hired. I’ll break them down by category.

Core Definitions:

  • Static: A website built without any back-end technologies.
    • Pros: Most secure and reliable.
    • Cons: Your developer has to make all your changes for you. Websites take longer to build and maintain this way.
    • Technologies: This is built with technologies known as HTML, CSS, and Javascript.
  • CMS: A website that makes it easy for you to manage the content on your website.
    • Pros: Affordable and easy to add new features due to plugin libraries. In addition you can make all changes yourself.
    • Cons: They require a lot of maintenance and more often than not, when an information website is hacked, it’s because it was built on a CMS.
    • Technologies: There are many types of CMS options but popular options include WordPress and Drupal.
  • Website Builder: A website built entirely in your web browser and hosted by your website builder service provider.
    • Pros: Cheapest option. Secure and reliable.
    • Cons: Usually poor SEO. Very limited functionality and control over design.
    • Technologies: Squarespace, Weebly, and Wix are all popular website builders.
  • Custom: Built with complete control via the use of web application technology.
    • Pros: Limitless possibilities. Complete control. Easy to scale.
    • Cons: Expensive.

Other terms you may hear:

  • WordPress Theme: WordPress themes are the look and feel of WordPress websites.
  • WordPress Plugin: WordPress plugins are a collection of features built by the community of WordPress developers. Plugins allow you to add more functionality to your WordPress website.
  • Template WordPress Theme: When you work with a designer, they’ll often take an existing template and customize it to match your brand’s look and feel. If you go this route, ensure the designer uses a tried and tested WordPress theme and doesn’t get too creative with the customizations.
  • Custom WordPress Theme: When you work with a developer, they’ll create a WordPress theme from scratch.
  • Domain Registrar: A domain registrar is where you buy your website address. Make sure this is registered under an account you control, not the freelancer or agency! You can register domains at GoDaddy.com eg. google.com, mystore.com.
  • Web Hosting: Web hosting is what you pay for to keep your website online and house all your files and data. Use whoever your freelancer or agency recommends.

Food for thought:

If you don’t want to spend too much time in thought, more often than not, the best choice for an informational website today is WordPress. According to VentureBeat, 30% of the internet runs on WordPress.

But do not try and turn your WordPress website into a web application by adding a bunch of plugins. WordPress is great when used for informational websites, but too frequently, it’s used for more.

Web Application Lingo

There’s a lot here. It gets pretty complex. Fast. So buckle your seatbelts and hold on tight!


  • Programming language: A computer language that developers write to make the computer do things.
  • Framework: A set of tools and rules, built on top of programming languages, that make it easier for developers to build software and work in teams.
  • Open-source: Software that everyone in the software development community can build upon and share.
  • Back-end: Usually used to identify the code that runs on a web server, rather than your browser.
  • Front-end: Usually used to identify the code that runs on your web browser. eg. HTML, CSS, Javascript.
  • Database: Allows the code your developers write to store and retrieve the data your application collects.
  • Full-stack: Both the back-end, front-end, and databases involved. Everything.
  • Git: A tool, developers use, that allows them to undo mistakes they make with their code. This can be done with a simple command. Ensure your developers to use Git and share all code with you on GitHub or an alternative Git host.
  • Amazon Web Services: AWS provides a suite of tools developers can utilize in your web application. There are far too many to name, but it’s commonly used for hosting your applications.

Food for thought:

Ultimately, web applications are a million times more complex than informational websites, so you’ll lean on your developer pretty heavily for recommendations.

But at the very-least, you should have a base-level understanding of what they’re recommending.

Web Applications vs Mobile Apps

To close things up, there’s one more distinction worth noting. Web apps vs mobile apps. I can safely assume you know what mobile apps are. But the challenge is deciding what you need.

Deciding What’s Right

Nine times out of ten, when companies ask us to build a mobile app, what they actually need is a web app.

If what you’re building relies on an internet-connected data source, you almost always want to build a web application first and then build the mobile app version later after testing and validating your idea.

With that being said, there are situations where starting with a mobile app is really the only viable option, eg. Instagram and Uber. But those situations are rare and are usually backed by a lot of funding.

Food for thought:

Mobile apps typically cost more and require more maintenance, so building the web application first saves you time and money while confirming people will want to use what you’ve built.

As a rule of thumb, build a web application first when possible and worry about a mobile app later if it’s still warranted.

Closing Thoughts

I tried pretty hard not to make assumptions about prior knowledge as I wrote this… but you know how it goes.

At the very least, use this to decipher email proposals or keep it open on a tab during your next meeting with a web team.

If there’s anything I can fix, let me know below. I do really hope this was helpful!

Feel free to watch the video here.

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