Web Designer & Web Developer: The Key Differences

Vicente Diaz
By Vicente Diaz

On the internet, the terms Web Designer and Web Developer seem to be highly related. In fact, many people tend to think these two words mean the same thing even though they do not. These roles, yes, are related, but they are definitely not identical.

So, What’s the Difference?

Designers have a creative mindset.

Web designers are often people who focus themselves more on the aesthetic and the visual appeal of a website. They are more creative and, depending on the type of designer, they specialize in either graphic design, UX, or UI. In web terms, designers start off by building the layout or wireframe of a website and then add its branding to make it look unique and pleasant. Once they have completed the design phase of a project, they normally hand over the designs with assets to developers for coding.

It is key for designers to create something unique, but balanced for a great user experience. They need to create something that looks very appealing but also not obtrusive, and to also have consistency within all layouts to create a relationship between the elements. This forms a better flow when navigating through the site.

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Web designers normally don’t go deep in programming languages, but they do have knowledge of basic CSS and HTML.

Common tools used by Designers:

  • Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, XD
  • Sketch
  • UXPin
  • Basic HTML & CSS

Developers are all about technicality and logic.

Developers are known for using “the left side of the brain”, meaning that they are more logical, analytical, and objective types of people. Their main job on a project is to grab the design provided by a web designer and build the backbone of a website based on that.

You can divide developers into two types: Front End and Back End. It’s pretty common and almost required for developers to have knowledge of the two ends, but depending on the person, they are always going to lean to one side. Front End developers are usually focused on the User Experience of a visitor, such as the visual aspects, interactions, and everything that a visitor sees on a page. As for the Backend developers, they focus on hidden parts of the website such as server configuration & database queries. These backend configurations are essential pages that need to save information, have forms, are e-commerce, or anything that the website needs to process into a database.

Common Tech & Languages used by Developers:

  • Structure: HTML, CSS3, SASS
  • Version Control: Github, bitbucket
  • Backend Languages: PHP, Ruby, NodeJS
  • Front End Languages: Javascript, Angular, React, Vue, jQuery
  • Editors: Sublime, VS Code, Atom, etc.

They Don’t Battle, They Share a Goal.

Having these completely different roles, you can’t compare the two and claim that one is better. If you are planning to hire one, it will depend on the job for which you need them. You can surely find someone who does the two jobs, but that one will be likely inclined to one side more than the other. You might end up with either a really pretty website with mediocre functionality, or an aesthetically average site with great functionality.

You get the best product when you have a team working on it since designers and developers both work better together. They will both do what they do best. In addition, the fact that they both work together can speed up the process through idea sharing, QA, and feedback with each other to provide a top-notch final product in record time.

Conclusion

In the web development world, Web Designers and Developers are commonly confused as interchangeable terms. Even though these two jobs can be achieved by one person, companies have specific roles for each of these. Designers can focus the aesthetic part of the job by creating the layout of the website with a desired branding, while developers are able to code out everything created by the designer from scratch. By splitting the two jobs, they can both work on their specialties to create an excellent product.  

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Vicente is a Web Developer at Power Digital. Born and raised in Chile, he moved to San Diego, CA to pursue a degree in Management Information Systems at SDSU. His passion for coding and design has driven him to focus on currently on web development but desiring to extend his skills to further complex applications to create great user experiences in multiple environments.