Web Designer vs Web Developer: What’s the Difference?

There’s a significant difference between the roles of web designers and web developers, and not recognizing these differences can even lead to misunderstandings with clients.

In this post, we aim to clear all the misconceptions to help both clients and beginning professionals understand what these roles entail.

Whether you’re a client looking for the right freelancer for a web design project or a professional hoping to get started in the industry, this guide will allow you to get a clear understanding of the roles of web design and web development to make the right decision.

Let’s dive in.

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Web Designer vs Web Developer

There is no one superior role here. Both roles of web designers and web developers are crucial to building a website.

The simplest way to describe the difference between a web designer and a web developer is to compare them to architects and engineers.

Much like an architect, web designers focus on the design, user experience, and implementation of the right elements to create a successful website.

And just like engineers, web developers take the design and structure created by the web designers and construct it into a functional website using code and frameworks.

There is no one superior role here. Both roles of web designers and web developers are crucial to building a website. Of course, there are many professionals who are capable of handling both roles as well.

Let’s dig deeper to understand these roles a bit better.

The Role of a Web Designer

The Role of a Web Designer

When you enter a website address on the browser and visit a website, everything you see is designed by a web designer.

The main role of a web designer is to create the visual layout of a website to present all of the information in a well-organized manner. This is called the front-end development. And it’s much more complex than it sounds.

Main Responsibilities of a Web Designer

A website consists of many different elements from the big components such as the structure and menus to lots of other elements such as buttons, icons, images, and fonts.

The web designer is responsible for making the right decisions and choosing how and where to include these components on a website.

That’s not all, a web designer is also responsible for:

  • Researching and understanding the website requirements
  • Making sure the website has a responsive design
  • Optimizing the site for desktop and mobile browsers
  • Integrating a content management system
  • Enhancing the design to deliver a great user experience
  • Creating wireframes and mockups
  • Communicating with clients and getting feedback

Aesthetics, UX, and UI Design

Designing a website is more than just about arranging some text and images on a pretty layout. It’s an intricate process that requires you to consider many aspects, including the user experience.

The user experience design (UXD) is what ensures the website delivers a satisfying experience to the visitors and helps the clients accomplish their goals effectively.

For example, a business website needs to be designed in a way that takes users through a buyer’s journey that gradually encourages them to purchase a product.

That’s only achieved through the right aesthetics, user experience, and user interface design.

Tools and Software Used by Web Designers

There are many stages in the web design process and you need to use different tools for each stage. The choice of the platform and software is usually a matter of preference.

For creating website design layouts and wireframes, most designers use UX tools such as Sketch, Figma, and Adobe XD. For concept designs and mockups, Adobe Photoshop and InDesign are perfect for the job.

The Role of a Web Developer

The Role of a Web Developer

Every button, link, image, video, and animation you see on a website needs code and scripts to function.

Web developers are in charge of giving life to these elements and the design created by the web designers. They write the code and scripts necessary to make everything on the website functional. This is called the back-end development.

Main Responsibilities of a Web Developer

There are a few different categories of web development:

  • Website development
  • eCommerce website development
  • Web app development
  • Back-end admin development
  • Website and app maintenance

The main responsibility of a web developer is writing the code necessary to build the website or app. Sometimes, they are also responsible for other parts of the website development, like maintaining the website.

Front-end, Back-end, and Full-stack Development

Web developers also have to share some of their responsibilities with the web designers.

For example, both the designer and developer need to make sure a website is compatible with older versions of browsers, which are still being used by a significant number of people.

So, some parts of the front-end and back-end development are shared between the designer and developer. And, those who can handle both aspects of the process are called full-stack developers.

Full-stack developers are capable of both designing a website and coding it to make the site fully functional.

Programming Languages Used by Web Developers

Depending on the type of websites, web apps, or back-end systems they create, web developers choose to master different programming languages.

The most popular programming languages among web developers are PHP, Python, Swift, and Ruby.

Web frameworks such as Bootstrap and Foundation as well as content management systems like WordPress are also used in web development projects.

No matter what type of work you do, mastering HTML, CSS, and JavaScript is important for all web developers. Those are like the ABCs of web development.

Collaboration Between Designers and Developers

As we mentioned before, despite all the debate, there is no single superior role between web design and web development. Both roles are required to create a functional website and they are equally important.

Web designers and developers have to work together to build websites. So, having at least a basic understanding of the other role is important for more effective collaborations. Unless you are a full-stack developer, of course.

Good communication is key to collaboration. And, above all, have respect for the other role and their contribution.

Should You Become a Web Designer or Developer?

Choosing the right role entirely depends on your preference and personal interest. If you’re more passionate about design and user experience, you should consider the role of a web designer.

If you enjoy writing code and tackling the technical side of the web development process, a web developer role would be more suitable for you.

And, if you’re interested in both, you can become a full-stack developer.

Before pursuing a career in either role, It’s also worth considering the advancements of AI. Right now, there are AI tools that are capable of both designing websites as well as writing code. They are not perfect but at the rate of AI development, it will only get better.

However, don’t let that discourage you from pursuing your career. Instead, learn and find ways to incorporate AI tools into your web design and development process to make your job easier and more efficient.