Difference Between Web Designer vs Web Developer

Jeff Ross
When entering the world of website creation, knowing the difference between web design vs. web development can be a bit confusing; we are here to clarify.

Define Web Design

If you search for the “definition of web design” on Google, you get a surprisingly cloudy answer. Many people errantly think that web design and development are one in the same. With this being the case, let’s clear the air; web design is the creation of the aesthetic of a website.

Role of Web Designer

Often, when thinking about design vs. development, people tend to consider web designers as “creatives”. Though there is an element of art to web design, there is more to the role. Here are some of the common responsibilities of a web designer:

  • Research: Being responsible for the look and feel of websites, a web designer must work to identify the goals of the website and strategize how the site’s design can facilitate the accomplishment of these goals. This often involves conducting interviews with the client, as well as users of the website. A web designer will often study the competitors of their client to see how they can uniquely position their client to stand out.
  • User Flow Mapping: User flow mapping is the tracking and planning of how users move through the site. With the goals of the website in mind, it is the web designer’s job to strategize on how to design the site in order to increase the user’s likelihood of taking the desired actions (often filling out a contact form, or purchasing a product or service).
  • Sitemaps: A sitemap is just like it sounds, a map of the site. It is the web designers responsibility to make a diagram of the website’s pages and how they link to one another.
  • Wireframes: A wireframe is a document that displays the layout of the content on a website. In other words, wireframes show where the text, images, and calls-to-action (CTAs) will be displayed. Wireframes are most commonly drawn by hand, or created with an application such as Figma.
  • Collect Resources: Often it is the designer’s responsibility to act as a project manager of sorts, and ensure that they receive all of the necessary resources, content, and assets from the client.
  • Design: As expected, the actual design of the website is one of the main responsibilities of a web designer. Common platforms for designing are Adobe XD and Figma. Once the design is complete, it is shared with the developer.

Web designer types

In the world of web design, you will meet a diverse group of people. As you proceed on your web design journey, you will come across a few different types of designers.

  • First, there are User Interface (UI)/ User Experience (UX) designers, who are responsible for shaping the user’s experience through visual design. This can range from web design to product design. The terms UI and UX are often used interchangeably and seem to stir up quite a bit of confusion.
  • Next, there are product designers, who strictly design products. This can range from websites to applications, and can even include the design of physical products (such as shoes).
  • If you hang out in the design world, you may also have come across interaction designers. According to Adobe, these designers are responsible for “the moment when a user interacts with a product and their goal is to improve the interactive experience.” Although interaction design is similar to UX, it is more specific to a singular part of the user’s experience.

Skills of Web Designer

A web designer has a unique set of skills, including many hard and soft skills. Typically web designers are expected to bring the following foundational skills to the table:

  • Hierarchy: In order to draw the user’s attention to the correct items, and make it simple to navigate the site, web designers utilize their skill by creating visual hierarchy. Visual hierarchy relies on the color, size, and shape of elements to smoothly guide the user through the site.
  • Color: Web designers must have a solid grasp of what colors portray and signify, as well as how they play off each other. In order to create a visually-appealing color theme, it is important to understand what colors work well with each other.
  • Type: A foundational knowledge of fonts and how to match them to certain aesthetics is a key skill to have as a web designer. This means knowing how to determine when the right time is to use an elegant serif font vs. a modern sans-serif font.
  • Layout: Mastery of layout is a huge plus for web designers. The ability to think of the most effective and visually-appealing ways of displaying content is essential and can transform a website and its performance.
  • Storytelling: The ability to craft a story with both the visuals and structure of the content within a website makes for a more engaging and enjoyable user experience.
  • Communication: In web design, you have an abundance of opportunities to communicate with different audiences, whether it is the client, user, or developers. You would be surprised with how much people value consistent and clear communication. Communication skills can be the pivotal skill in driving a successful web project and strong client relationship.

If you want to learn more about the skill-set of web designers, the Flux YouTube channel has a “Free Web Design Course”, which is a great place to start!

Define Web Development

We have finally reached the long-awaited topic of web development. Now, to define what web development is. Web development includes the creation, optimization, and maintenance of websites allowing them to be accessible, usable, and interactive for the public.

Role of Web Developer

Web developers have many roles and responsibilities. Below is a list of common responsibilities that web developers take care of:

  • Coding the site to display correctly: Through the writing of code in the programming languages of HyperText Mark-up Language (HTML), Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and JavaScript (JS) a web developer creates the visual interface of a website. HTML is the language that is used to set-up the structure of the site, while CSS is responsible for the styling. To cap it off, JS allows for the interactivity of the website. This code is what the developers write to have the website match the design that the web designer came up with.
  • Coding the site to function correctly: To ensure that the website performs correctly, the web developer must set-up proper connections between the server(s), application(s), and database(s). To accomplish this the developer codes in programming languages such as Structured Query Language (SQL), Python, PHP, and C++.
  • Connecting integrations: Oftentimes, a website needs to connect to a 3rd party platform in order to have some additional functionality present on the site. The connection of these platforms often necessitates more code to be written, which falls under the developers domain.
  • Connecting/Transferring domains: To have the domain point towards a website, it is necessary to login to an account with a domain registrar (where the domain is hosted), and adjust the Domain Name System (DNS) records to have the domain point to the website that was just constructed.
  • Testing: Once the website is developed, it is time to test! Two common types of testing are mobility and cross-browser. Mobility tests ensure that the site displays and performs as expected on all screen sizes. Cross-browser tests make sure that the site looks and behaves well on a variety of browsers (as some browsers do not support certain website features).
  • Troubleshooting: If there are bugs or errors present on the website, the developer will come in and adjust the code to resolve the issues.
  • Maintenance: As a site ages, there are often updates to be made. Once again, this is where the developer comes in and takes care of these adjustments.

If you find yourself saying, “I don’t think I could ever be a web developer because I don’t know how to code”, you are incorrect! With the advent of no-code, visual development platforms (such as Webflow) becoming a developer does not mean you have to code anymore. These no-code platforms write the code for you as you visually develop the site by using an Adobe-like interface to structure and style the website.

Web Developer Types

Just as there are a handful of different types of designers, there are a few different types of web developers. Here, we will cover the front-end, back-end, and full-stack developers.

  • Front-end developers are responsible for how the website appears to users. This entails writing code in the languages of HTML, CSS, and JS. 
  • Back-end developers write the code that allows for websites to properly send and receive information to and from users. To accomplish this, developers must manage the connection between servers, applications, and databases. This entails the utilization of programming languages such as: SQL, Python, PHP, and C++ to name a few.  
  • Full-stack developers are developers who take care of both the front and back-end development. These developers flex their versatile skill-set by managing how the website appears and performs.

Skills of Web Developer

Though web developers are better-known for their hard skills, soft skills are integral to the role as well. Below are the most common skills that are expected of web developers:

  • Coding: Whether you are a front-end or back-end developer, you will still be expected to be proficient in certain programming languages (or in using certain visual development platforms, such as Webflow).
  • Problem solving: Developers are responsible for finding ways to accomplish the needs and goals of the website. It is expected that developers are well-versed on the variety of solutions that exist.
  • Eye for detail: To collaborate with web designers, the web developer is expected to match the design provided to them. This means that the developer must ensure that even the most minute details of the design are present on the fully developed site. Since the developer may be the last one to see a website before it is launched, it is beneficial to have a sharp eye for errors and bugs that may be present on the site.
  • Communication: As with web designers, communication is of paramount importance for web developers. Miscommunication between the developer and client, or the developer and designer can lead to a malfunctioning or mis-styled site. Clear and consistent communication can be the difference between an unsuccessful and successful project.

What's the Difference Between Web Designer and Web Developer

At this point, the line between designer vs. developer should be clearer. Web designers are responsible for creating the vision and style of the website. Web developers are responsible for bringing the website to life through the writing of the website’s code, allowing it to be accessible, usable, and interactive.

What to Choose as a Career?

This is a highly personal decision that can only be made by you. It is important to take into account what aligns with your interests the most, as well as what meets your lifestyle desires, such as flexibility, pay, etc… 

If you are more of an artistic person, who does not have a desire to delve deeper into how things function behind the scenes, web design is a great career. On the other hand, if you prefer to know the inner workings of how things operate and do not want a career that is based on creativity, web development may be the better option.

There is also a third option. This would be to choose to be a web designer AND developer. This is a perfect option for those who are creative, but also love to know how things operate and build things from scratch. This is now an accessible option thanks to Webflow, which allows you to develop fully-functional websites without having to know how to program.

If you you are wondering whether now is a good time to decide to pursue a web design or development career, here is a video that shares some insight: 

Final Thoughts

Both web design and web development can be excellent career choices. In a world where internet use is rapidly expanding, each profession is expected to grow in demand faster than the average for all occupations. 

If you want to learn more about web design and development, Flux Academy offers a bundle of courses called the “Freelance Web Designer Bundle”, which includes three courses: “Web Design: Becoming a Professional”, “The Webflow Masterclass”, and “The 6-Figure Freelance Designer”. This means you have access to professional education on web design, web development (through Webflow), and growing your web design/development business.

If you are ready to transform your career and take control of your future, this bundle is for you!

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