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    8 min read

    Web Designer vs. Web Developer – Which Do You Need?

    By Derek

    Chances are you’ll run into a web designer or a web developer no matter where you go, be it on a train, in a bar, or at the golf course. However, do you know what these terms mean? Can a person be both, and how is one different from the other?


    Given the widespread confusion about these terms, you’ll find people looking for web designers when they actually need web developers, and vice-versa. This has been a hot topic for several years because most people don’t really understand the roles these professionals play in building a website. If you’re wondering which of the two you might need, going through this web developer vs. web designer guide might work well for you.


    Before moving forward, you need to look at both these professions separately, while understanding the role they play together in creating a functional website.

    web developer vs web designer


    What Web Designers Do

    Simply put, web designers design websites. They use programs such as Dreamweaver, Figma, Photoshop, and InDesign to create the visual aspects of websites. After the design is complete, it moves to the coding table, where the website comes to life.


    In most cases, a designer is not the one who writes the code. A designer’s work is to create the components that a website will have, including its layout. The approved design then moves to another expert who will write the code and make it a functional website.


    A large part of the work a designer completes depends on imagination and effectively addressing the situation at hand. The process requires high levels of creativity as well as paying attention to the needs and expectations of the audience a website wishes to target. Professionals in this line of work might come from different backgrounds but they usually have a firm footing in arts and graphic design.


    Web designers tend to have extensive portfolios that they show to potential clients. A strong designer is always skilled in different concepts such as user experience (UX) and brand building, and knows how to use elements like colors and typography based on user psychology.


    Types of Web Designers

    Good web designers, much like other professionals, need to adapt to the latest trends and technologies. Given the long way that the internet has come since its inception, it’s near impossible to find a web designer who has mastery over all web design-related aspects. Now, web designers fall into three basic brackets.

    • UX designers. A user experience (UX) designer focuses on identifying and solving problems that users might have, ensuring that the websites they design meet the needs and expectations of their visitors. UX designers also map out the basic structure of the user journey.
    • UI designers. User interface (UI) designers focus on building good-looking, interactive, and intuitive interfaces. They are responsible for creating graphics and using other visual elements like drop-down menus and buttons, basically filling a UX designer’s design with the required visual elements.
    • Visual designers. Visual designers need to ensure that the final design looks appealing and fulfills the needs of its users in a seamless manner. You may think of them as a mix of UX and UI

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    Responsibilities and Skill Sets of a Web Designer

    Given that web designers might specialize in different areas, their responsibilities and skill sets tend to differ. Depending on the type of web designer working on your project, here’s what you may expect.

    • Conceptualization of ideas
    • Establishing best practices, guidelines, and standards
    • Defining a website’s form and functionality
    • Coming up with creative, interactive, and responsive designs
    • Determining how to provide a good user experience
    • Understanding of conversion rate optimization (CRO)
    • Knowledge of CSS and HTML
    • Expertise in wireframing and prototyping
    • Ability to map the user journey
    • Knowledge of color theory, branding, typography, motion graphics, and progressive enhancement
    • Adept at using web design software and tools


    Web designers also need non-technical skills to succeed in their roles. For instance, they need to set the right expectations with their clients and interact with them at regular intervals, so having good communication skills is important. Since their work is largely collaborative in nature, having good interpersonal skills also helps.

    difference between (a) web designer and web developer


    What Role Do Web Developers Play?

    While there are aspects of a web developer that appear similar to what a designer does, there is more than one difference between a web designer and a web developer. Remember the expert to whom the designer hands over the design for coding? That’s the web developer.


    Web developers are responsible for building a website’s backbone. They understand languages specific to the web and build websites from the ground up. A proficient developer’s kit is full of tools such as CSS, JavaScript, HTML, and JQuery, among others. Unlike designers, developers don’t focus on making websites look attractive. They focus on steps to ensure that the code they create is technically sound and clean. They also need to make sure that the final website is true to the approved design in every way.


    Web developers need to think logically to work efficiently, and they need to carry the required skill sets and technical abilities. Most successful web developers have degrees in different fields, with the most common being programming and computer science. Like web designers, they also need portfolios to show potential clients. The best web developers are keen on specifics and are detail-oriented because their profession involves a lot of coding.


    Types of Web Developers

    Much like web designers, modern-day web developers fall into different brackets as well. These include:

    • Front-end developers. Front-end developers work on elements that a website’s user interacts with directly, which include text, styles, colors, buttons, menus, and other visual elements. They use languages like HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. They are responsible for implementing a website’s structure, design, content, and other elements that users get to see. They also need to focus on website performance and responsiveness.
    • Back-end developers. The back-end or the server side of a website stores and arranges all website-related data and works in ensuring that the front end functions as it should. Back-end developers are responsible for developing functionalities that users access indirectly when they interact with the front end of a website. They work with different system components, create application programming interfaces (APIs), and build libraries.
    • Full-stack developers. Full-stack developers have the required technical know-how to work on front- and back-end development. They are also capable of debugging websites.

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    Responsibilities and Skill Sets of a Web Developer

    While web developers play different roles, there are overlaps in their responsibilities and skill sets.

    • Knowledge of tools like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, Angular, Python, NodeJS, and WordPress
    • Proficient at coding
    • Ability to test and debug code
    • Back-end database management
    • Ability to optimize websites for search engines through effective SEO
    • Implementing responsive web design
    • Tracking and managing coding changes through version control


    Much like web designers, web developers can also do with having some non-technical skills. For instance, debugging code typically requires analytical and problem-solving capabilities. Since web developers have to interact with different people, having good communication and interpersonal skills is also ideal.


    Two Different Jobs, One Main Goal

    Web designers and developers might work on different parts of building a website but at the end of the day, they have one goal, to create websites that are secure and that viewers find interesting. To accomplish this, the design must be on point and the development must be sound. For a website to be complete, it needs to look good and function properly. The appearance of a website needs to reflect the brand it represents and the interface should encourage users to perform desired actions.


    As more and more designers learn to code, the line that exists between development and design is starting to get blurred. Developers, on the other hand, are paying attention to the theories used in web design. This means that sometime in the future, job titles may well be along the lines of “web designer and developer.”

    o i need a web developer or web designer

    Working Together

    One of the main reasons why web developers and designers might find it difficult to work together is communication. Both processes involve a lot of jargon that the other side might not understand. To bridge the gap between the two and make working together a smooth affair, they might want to consider the following:

    • A reduction in the use of jargon.
    • When one needs to explain something to the other, showing is a better way than telling, and using working sketches makes life easier for everyone.
    • In a world where everything runs on ideas, it is important to be open-minded. A designer should accept design concepts suggested by the developer and the developer should accept user experience ideas from the designer.
    • Learning about each other’s profession is a great idea. This ensures that whatever a designer works on merges perfectly with the next steps handled by a developer.


    Can a Web Designer Also Be a Developer?

    The web developer vs. web designer comparison shows that the two are different. However, this might not be the case for very long. With advancements in web design and development technologies, it’s plain to see that the two streams are converging. Already, several designers are learning about web development and the converse holds true as well.


    So, yes, a web designer can be a web developer as well, and vice-versa. Accomplishing this, though, might not be as easy as one might imagine because it will involve learning new skills and gaining expertise over a period of time. In addition, while some critics are saying that web development is dying, it’s definitely not, it’s simply evolving just like any other field.


    Do I Need a Web Developer or Web Designer?

    Web designers and developers play important roles in creating websites. More often than not, people who need new websites require the services of both, although they might choose to go with one or the other.


    Bear in mind that simply choosing a web designer or a web developer might not produce the desired results because your website could be lacking on different fronts. For example, while a web developer might create a technically sound website, it might not provide a good user experience.


    If you wish to get a new website or revamp your existing one, partnering with a web design company might be in your best interest. This is because any such company would have web designers and developers on board, and it can also assist you with branding and marketing your business. After all, what good is a website if it does not attract enough visitors and then guide them toward performing desired actions?


    If your requirement is very specific and you don’t need to create a new website, you may use the services of a web designer or web developer based on the task at hand. Here are a few examples.

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    Web Designer

    • Design the layout of a webpage
    • Carry out simple website updates
    • Create logos and other visuals
    • Design responsive web pages


    Web Developer

    • Carry out extensive website updates
    • Create contact forms
    • Identify website errors by running tests
    • Optimize web pages so they load faster



    Together or independently, web designers and developers hope to achieve the same goal, which is to create functional websites that visitors find attractive. However, they follow different processes and use varied technologies. Design involves addressing the visual elements of a website such as layouts, imagery, colors, typography, and fonts. Developers use the designs and bring them to life by adding functionalities to the components created by designers.


    Now that you know where the web design vs. web development comparison stands, you’ve probably realized that you need both to create a visually appealing user-friendly website that functions smoothly. Oftentimes, using the services of a full-service digital agency is the way to go because its expertise extends beyond web design and development, and it can help promote your brand in the online world using different strategies.

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