Web designer vs web developer: what’s the difference? And, more importantly, which one do you need? Find out in this guide.
In this article, we clearly define, compare, and contrast each of these two services. We start with a basic overview and then break down the major differences between the two. You’ll even learn about the different types of web designers and developers and how to choose which service or services you need.
Learn all you need to know in this comprehensive analysis of web designer and developer differences.
Table of Contents
Web Designer vs Web Developer: A Basic Overview
The simple difference between web designers and developers is right there in their job titles. Designers craft the look of the website while developers turn that design into an actual, functioning, published website. More accurately the developers build/code a website based on the design they’re given.
What a Web Designer Does
There are different types of web designers, as we describe later, with different design specialties. But the essential job of a web designer is to create an original, aesthetically-pleasing, and uniform theme to apply to every page of the site.
Originality is one of the most important factors. There are thousands of websites all over the net where one can download website themes for free. When someone pays for a professional site design, they expect an original design that suits their brand.
Designers take into account the client’s specific requests and the look of the client’s brand. Then, they use their knowledge and artistic skills to craft a custom design that can’t be found anywhere else.
The designer doesn’t necessarily design for the functionality or performance of the website. But this may be among their specialties. They also may or may not take part in the coding/programming side of website creation.
A Web Designer’s Skill Set
Designer’s need at least a basic education in design skills like color theory and graphic design. They also need a decent understanding of website functionality and layout standards. For example, they’ll need to come up with a theme for the mobile site as well as the desktop site.
Since they design for businesses, they should also know a bit about business, branding, and selling. Their design needs to match the style and attitude of the brand they’re designing for. It must also be attractive to that brand’s specific audience.
What Tools Do Web Designers Use?
Web designers may use a Content Management System (CMS), that is, a website building program, to aid them in creating their theme. A CMS can help them see what their design ideas look like on an actual website.
But it’s not their job to build the site, so they may leave this fine-tuning to the developers. The developers can tweak the design if necessary when applying it to the site.
Web designers will definitely use design apps like wireframing tools and prototyping software. They will also use image editing software like Photoshop. They might also make use of stock photo resources to incorporate into their designs.
What a Web Developer Does
A web developer’s job focuses primarily on the building, function, and performance of a website. They take a given website design and either apply it to an existing website or to a new one they create from scratch. Often, though, when updating an existing site, the old site is completely rebuilt.
It is their job to build and code a well functioning site that adheres to the design they are given. It is not necessarily their job to optimize a site for search engines, User Experience (UX), or the specific company goals a client has for their site. However, there are specialized web developers who do provide these services, as we’ll explain in detail later.
Now, the developer may be in collaboration with a designer and maybe not. It happens sometimes that the developer is not given a custom design to work with, and it is not their job to create one. In such instances, the client would need to decide what design the developer will use, whether it’s a premade template or a custom design.
If the developer doesn’t also provide design services, they will usually recommend someone. It’s best if the client chooses a design before they seek development services.
A Web Developer’s Skill Set
Since the website needs to be responsive, developers must program both the desktop and mobile versions of the site. The developer might also be trained to use a CMS to help them assemble the website.
In all this coding and programming, bugs and other errors are not uncommon. As such developers also need to be very good at problem-solving.
And because they work for their clients, they must have good communication and people skills. And they need to have good time-management skills and work quickly enough that they don’t miss deadlines.
What Tools Do Web Designers Use?
They’ll use programming software as a workspace in which to build the website. This might include an Integrated Development Environment (IDE), a version control platform, and a CMS. A CMS can help them build the site more quickly than coding alone. It’s like building off of coding templates instead of manually typing each line of code for every aspect of every website from scratch.
For testing/fine-tuning, they use website testing tools and developer tools for specific browsers. Most likely, they’ll also use issue tracking/management software to help them manage the various projects they’re working on.
They may even have staff at their disposal to perform certain tedious jobs that don’t require a complete knowledge of programming.
Different Types of Web Designers
Really, the only thing a web designer is required to do is to hand the client an original picture of what their website should look like. But they could do very much more.
So now, let’s look at the different types of web designers. These range from the basic to some specialized types that provide valuable upgraded services.
Basic Web Designers
This is the basic type of web designer that provides no additional, specialized services. If a web designer doesn’t specify that they provide any of the following specialized services, it’s because they don’t provide them.
Still, they provide custom designs that will benefit the website far more than a free template would. But if you’re paying for a design that doesn’t benefit the function or performance of your website, make sure it’s cheaper than one that does. Otherwise, it’s best that you maximize the benefits of your web design service by opting for the following specialties.
The most basic level of designing for the look and feel of how a website functions is called User Interface (UI) design. In addition to the visual aspects of the site, UI designers focus on the usability of the site as well.
This includes making sure the site is organized intuitively. UI designers make sure the site’s navigation system looks right, functions smoothly, and allows users to find things easily.
They will govern the look of links and buttons on the site. And they may design animations for revealing content as visitors scroll down a page or transition to another page. UI designers strive to combine the look and function of the site into one well-oiled machine.
Additionally, many web designers specialize in designing for user experience. This is similar to UI design—so similar, in fact that people are often confused as to what the difference is. The truth is that UX design includes UI but also much more.
First of all, the focus of each of these two design techniques is different. While UI design governs the look and usability of the site, UX design focuses on the overall level of satisfaction the user gets from the site. Usability is only one factor of how well a user is pleased with the site.
UX design requires a lot more research than UI design. This includes data on general internet user behavior as well as the behavior of the client’s specific audience.
UX web designers want users to be, on the whole, happy with and hooked on the website they’ve designed. Plus, they want their clients to reach their website performance goals.
Lastly, visual designers combine both UI and UX design skills. Now, since UI is part of the total UX, UX designers already incorporate usability in their design process to some degree.
But visual designers have a more complete understanding of UI and how to incorporate it into UX. They are the ultimate web designer with the most complete set of skills and services you could ask for.
Different Types of Web Developers
Now, let’s look at the various types of web developers.
Back-end development is purely the coding and programming of the website’s structure. As such, back-end developers are experts in coding and programming languages.
Their focus is mainly providing a functional website. They have nothing to do with the final look or layout of the website. They do, however, spend a lot of time and effort making sure there are no programming/coding bugs when they submit their work to the front-end developers.
Front-end developers are sometimes known as “client-end” developers. This is because they are in charge of the final appearance of the website that the client will see.
They usually work closely with a designer or at least closely with the design they’ve been given. It’s their job to take the back-end developers website structure and apply to it the design they’ve been given.
They also work more closely with the client than the back-end developers. Obviously, they also need to be fully-educated in coding and programming.
Full-stack developers are just what they sound like. They do both the back-end and front-end development of the website on their own (or as a team). Full-stack development is the complete package.
Are Web Design and Web Development Always Separate Services?
Since their services complement each other, web designers and web developers most often collaborate with each other for mutual benefit. In fact they usually partner up as part of the same company.
Other times, a web designer/developer will learn both sets of skills. This way, they can provide the whole combination of services on their own.
And some companies provide only one of these services or the other. Always check what services are provided before you hire.
How Do You Know If You Need a Web Designer or Web Developer?
Since a website should have both a professional, original design and proper coding/security, most clients need both. For example, if you need or already have a design, you still need someone to implement it. If you need someone to build you a site, they need a design to work with.
But some clients have members of their staff that can provide one of these services so they would only need the other.
Web Design vs Web Development: Your Complete Guide
Web designer vs web developer: which do you need? Now you know the answer. You need both!
Furthermore, your best option is a company that provides all the services of web designers and developers combined. The whole project runs more smoothly and more quickly with less room for error.
And where can you find one company to do all this? You already have!
We are able and willing to help you with all your web design, web development, and digital marketing needs. Book a free consultation and let us know what we can help with. Then, we’ll promptly let you know how we can help.