In this article, we want to shine a light on these very questions. We will look at what web designers and developers each do in their field work to find out the difference between them. After that, we will also have a look at whether the division between the two is even that clear.
In the end, we want you to end up with a clear understanding of the job descriptions and who you need in which case. Or, if on the other side of the fence, give you enough information so you can decide for where you’d like to take your career.
What Does a Web Designer Do?
“Web designer” is the most common term for people creating websites. However, it is usually a stand-in for a very broad set of skills. So, in order to show the difference between web designer and web developer, let’s peel the onion and see what web designers actually do.
Work with Graphics and Visuals
Web designers typically do the visual design of a website and create the overall look and feel of it. The result are templates for websites that can later be put into practice.To do this kind of work, web designers usually first have to sit down with the clients to understand their needs and then come up with a concept that fits it. While doing so, they also need to consider existing branding in order to preserve a unified experience across all marketing channels.
Once they have a concept, web designers start creating the visuals. Usually their tools of choice are graphic design software like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. With their help, designers put together wireframes as well as necessary assets like graphics, buttons, images, and the likes.
In order to do it right, they need an understanding of things like colors and how they work together, contrast, shapes, textures, typography, and more. Aside from that, you also need a certain amount of creativity and imagination and other things generally considered right-brain activities.
Guide User Interaction
However, web design is not just an art but also a craft. It not only needs to look good but be functional as well and accomplish its goal.
For example, most websites aim to move visitors to take an action such as make a purchase, sign up for a service, jump on an email list or something similar. In addition to that, they also need to be easy to navigate and intuitive to find your way around.
For that reason, web designers also need to understand user psychology and keep on top of the latest developments in interface design. Otherwise, the end result will not only be hard to use but might also look out-of-date and unprofessional.
In Contrast to That, What Does a Web Developer Do?
So, how is this different from development? Well, web development is usually the second stage of the website creation process. It’s where you take the design and make it a reality. For that reason, a developer’s job is usually much more technical. However, there are different kinds of development work.
Frontend vs Backend Development
Web development is most often divided into two camps: frontend and backend development. While their work often overlaps, they do serve two different purposes:
- Backend — Backend work, on the other hand, is, even more, code intensive. It focuses on how the site works, for example, how it interfaces with the database. You might also need a backend developer for advanced functionality like user accounts or a shopping cart. In WordPress, backend developers need solid skills in PHP as the platform mostly runs on that language. In addition to that, they might also work with APIs and need to know how to connect different types of software with one another or create functionality from scratch.
As you can see, no matter which part of web development you end up working in, all developers need programming chops. For that reason, the tools include code editors and other development tools. Development work is also very analytical and detail oriented.
Of Full-stack Developers and Designers
The above shows the difference between web designers and web developers on paper. But is it really that clear-cut? The answer is no. In reality, the lines are often a lot more blurred.
Design and Development Have Lots of Overlap
Since both parts of the website creation process depend on one another and have a lot of overlap, many designers and developers have skills outside their main area of work.
For example, as a visual designer, it only makes sense to know how pages work and behave. Doing so makes you more effective at your job as you can put that knowledge into practice without having to constantly check back with the developer as to what is possible.
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