Web Designer vs Web Developer: Do You Know The Difference?

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Many people are used to confusing the two terms “web design” and “web programming” (or “web development”), but in fact, despite the similarity, they refer to two completely different fields of activity. 

The most obvious one is that a web designer is responsible for the visual or aesthetic side of website creation, while a web developer handles the invisible design side of coding. In short, a beautiful web interface is built by web designers, and a web developer is responsible for turning beautiful visuals into a page that is actually shown to visitors.

Both fields have to do with website development. The main difference is what part of the project they are responsible for. 

In this article, we’ll look at the differences between web developers and web designers, and how they cooperate.



What is Web Design?

The concept of “web design” is the broadest term describing the skills of professionals in this industry. Calling themselves “web designers”, people often want to indicate that they have a fairly broad set of skills, one of which is visual design.

The “design” part refers to the client-facing (or interface) part of the website. In other words, a web designer is responsible for how the website will look and how users will interact with it (web designers are sometimes called User Interface designers, or UI designers). Some UX designers will also do some UI, but other UX designers will only do research and wireframes. 

Experienced web designers apply graphic design skills when building websites, so their projects look just great. They also have a clear understanding of what is usability and therefore, build user-friendly sites. Their design calls for interactivity because it’s so easy to understand intuitively. In short, designers don’t just create “good-looking sites” – they lay the groundwork for a usable website interface.



What is Web Development?

Web development is split into two main areas: the development of the client part and the development of the server part. Some of the skills required for these areas overlap, but the purpose of developers in each area is different.

A client-side developer uses the graphical layout of the future website (designed by him/her or received from a graphic designer) and translates it into programming code. The developer uses HTML for website layout, CSS – to control visual styles and layout, and sometimes, even Javascript. For some small, simple sites, the development of the client part is the only task that web programmers have. More complex projects require the development of the server-side as well.

The development of the server-side requires more programming skills, as well as providing a deeper interaction with web pages. The developer of the server provides the very work and functioning of the site, as well as determines how visitors will use the site and what functions they will be able to use. The skillset of such a developer may include the ability to work with program code that interacts with databases, or the development of features such as a shopping cart for eCommerce, which provides a connection to the system processing electronic payments, and many others.

Professional web developers should be able to program CGI and work with scripts such as PHP. They must also understand how web forms work and how different software packages and application program interfaces combine different types of software products to create solutions that can respond to specific customer requests. Server-side developers sometimes have to create some new functionality from scratch. That is in case there are no software tools or packages on the market that can be used to meet the needs of their clients.



Web Development and Web Design. Common Things

You can choose the multifunctional path, i.e. to perform the duties of both web developer and web designer. However, as a rule, people delve into a particular specialization. 

In fact, both professionals are responsible for creating websites for all types of businesses. If you prefer to code, choose web development. For anyone looking for creativity, you should take a closer look at web design.

Now let’s take a look at the differences between web developers and web designers and see how they work together to achieve a common goal.


Web Developer Duties

Web development is the foundation of building websites. This includes a lot of coding, using all available programming languages. 

Web developers are responsible for the server-side (back end) of a website project. They don’t care about colors to add or fonts to use. They get all this information from a web designer or brand strategist and then paste it into the code. 

A web developer is also called a front-end developer. Web development is the process of creating an interface, such as a web page or an app, and implementing user interface interactions using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, frameworks, and other software development solutions.

The primary responsibility of a web developer is to collaborate with interaction designers, UI designers, and visual designers to create pages in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, based on visual design. At the same time, they need to maintain a populated page and be responsible for optimizing the site’s performance.

In addition, they have to determine whether the interface designed by the UI designer can be implemented using development technology. At the same time, they have to interact with the in-house developer and determine if the relevant data can be provided according to the interface content.

In addition, a skilled web developer must have certain aesthetic abilities and collaborate well with the interaction designer and visual designer. Obviously, a professional web developer is a bridge between web design and code.

UX specialists work directly with web developers to create seamless user experiences. The UX designer projects the structure of the site, and the developer builds its design.

Web developer tools are as follows:

  • Source code management tools: SVN, CVS, Git, etc.;
  • IDE (Integrated Design Environment): WebStorm, Sublime, VS Code, etc.
  • Front-end development technology: HTML, JavaScript, CSS, etc.
  • Framework: JQuery, React, Bootstrap, etc.

Front-end development has become popular in recent years, and many young people want to become web developers. Consequently, the skill requirements are getting higher, and, of course, the salary level of web developers has also increased.


Web Designer Duties

Web designers work with the client-side (front end) of websites. They are focused on the visual component of projects. 

In many cases, web designers also perform the duties of graphic designers. It’s perfect if they know the basics of programming. Although, designers working in web studios most often don’t code at all and only focus on the visual aspects.

Web designers are responsible for the web visual design part. A web designer must have a great sense of aesthetics and be able to create a good-looking website. Moreover, they use web design tools such as Photoshop, Coreldraw, Frontpage, and Dreamweaver to make the website stand out from the rest.

When you visit a website, the first thing that catches your attention is the page’s interface design, such as content introduction, button placement, text combination, color scheme, and user manual content. This is the web designer’s job responsibility.

Related jobs include UI designer, UX designer, and visual designer. However, a web designer cannot completely ignore coding. Web design and web development may require some level of programming knowledge.

Skilled web designers need to understand code better than graphic designers, and understand design better than web developers. As creators of beautiful web pages, their ultimate goal is to create a site that will delight users. As stated above, the designer is the one who determines how the end-user will view the site/app.

Web designers work closely with web developers, and teamwork yields great results. 

Some of the most popular web design tools are as follows:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • InVision Studio
  • Sketch
  • Adobe Dreamweaver
  • Marvel
  • Figma
  • Affinity Designer

Basic web designer’s job duties are as follows:

  • Being responsible for overall site style positioning and providing an overall visual experience for end-users;
  • Designing engaging and responsive landing pages;
  • Being responsible for prototypes (sample sites);
  • Performing graphic design of product catalog;
  • Predicting how the design will get audiences to act and respond;
  • Knowing advertising design;
  • Conducting website tests and mobile optimization (stability on mobile devices);
  • Writing and editing website content;
  • Being more tech-savvy (responsible for coding and programming);
  • Assisting developers with page layout and other work;
  • Meeting with clients to discuss the requirement and/or project progress;
  • Demonstrating and receiving feedback about prototypes (sample sites);
  • Solving code problems and work closely with back-end developers to ensure proper integration of web/app logic;
  • Keeping up to date with the latest tech and custom software developments, etc.

In addition to certain skills, professional web designers need to have the following traits:

  • Be communicative – clearly articulate their thoughts, know how to work in a dedicated development team, find an approach to any client;
  • Be curious – look for problem solutions in different ways, try new approaches;
  • Have analytical skills – analyze, structure, and plan their work. Build a step-by-step system;
  • Stay focused and attentive to details – focus on a particular task for a long time, without being distracted by social networks, messengers, coffee/smoke breaks, etc.;
  • Be responsible – understand the importance of doing the work in time, and report in a timely manner;
  • Be creative – understand in advance how a page, an app, or a site will look like after the visual design.

Most importantly, there has to be a good sense of taste – no designer can do without it. However, if you’re a novice, don’t think about it as a natural talent. Taste is developed by observation. So it’s all in your hands.

In general, web designers are responsible for using their own aesthetic knowledge with various tools to create a beautiful web page. A good designer can capture the entire style of a company’s product, creating a good impression on customers.



Difference Between Web Designers and Graphic Designers

Although they are all designers, graphic design and web design are two different fields. Graphic design is when the initial product is a design, a visual representation of an idea that’s translated to paper in a print shop (most often) – that is, just a picture or animated picture for the Web. Graphic designers don’t code.

Web designers typically know more than graphic designers, they learn coding languages from a web developer and can embed that image into a site. Sometimes, they have to create animations such as FLASH, JS, CSS, etc.

Basic web design skills include JavaScript, JQuery, PHP, web app development, UI design, mobile app development, and more.

The print industry has given rise to graphic design. Paper materials are less interactive than their digital counterparts but they still depend on the artistic assembly of graphics, illustrations, etc. Navigation in paper materials must be consistent and logical.

Graphic artists are more responsible for the artistic side of a project. They can sketch by hand and technical means. Often, graphic designers make sure that each project is designed accordingly.

Consequently, graphic designers: 

  • Put art first;
  • Have a one-way relationship with their audience;
  • Are more artistic (e.g., can sketch a project on paper or using digital technology);
  • Emphasize the visual part in their projects;
  • Know how each design element translates to print.

Graphic designer required skills include Adobe Creative Suite, concept development, marketing materials, etc.

Basic graphic design tools include Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW.



How Do They Work Together?

Web developers and web designers don’t always work on projects together. It all depends on the size of the site and the specific needs of the client. Most often, they work closely together if you want to create a unique and complex project. For example, a website with an abundance of animations and user interactions, or an online store with an original UX design and omnichannel integration. 

Projects of this complexity involve collaboration between a UI designer and a web designer. They deal with the visual part of the website, after which a UX designer and web developer get to work. Using the most appropriate programming languages and technologies, these two professionals create a website. Most often a combination of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and other more specific languages such as Python and Ruby on Rails is used.



Sometimes Boundaries Can be Blurred

Some professionals in the field of web projects specialize in clearly defined areas of work, but many professionals prefer to go beyond certain areas. For example, such a person may be a professional in the graphic design field and have great Photoshop skills. Plus, there may be some HTML and CSS knowledge, which, therefore, means that coding simple pages is not a problem. The fact that you have such cross-skills and knowledge is quite useful, as it increases your competitiveness in the industry as well as your value as a professional.

A graphic designer who understands the principles of creating web pages is more prepared to work on the design of such projects. Similarly, a web developer who understands the basics of design and visual communication can make smarter choices when writing page code and designing the interface for their project.

In the end, no matter if you have such cross knowledge or not, when looking for a job or for someone to build a website for you, you need to be clear about what you need – web design or web development. The total cost of the work performed will depend on the availability of certain skills that you (or someone you hire) have/has. 

In many cases, hiring a person capable of developing the design and client-side of a small site will cost less and take less time than finding an advanced web developer specializing in writing code for the program part of sites. However, if we are talking about large-scale sites and projects, you can not do without the involvement of a whole team of professionals, which will include specialists working in all necessary areas.

Both graphics specialists and web designers have an impact on the website’s appearance, but their roles are very different. Each profession has a different skill set and a specific role in the creation process. Understanding these important differences allows business owners to find the right person and service to build their website.



Conclusion

Web design and web development are two different professions, however, there are not as many jobs for a web designer as there are for a web developer. A web designer works solely on creating a graphical layout of the website. A web developer, in turn, transforms this layout into an actual project, writing the appropriate code by means of various technologies.


Author’s Bio:
Dmytro Sokhach is an entrepreneur and the 6-Figure Flipper Club member. Founded Admix Global (web agency) that builds websites, makes them profitable, and sells them as business.

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