Web Developer and Web Designer – What’s The Difference!?

INTRODUCTION

DIFFERENT CREATURES

Welcome to a guide on the differences between web developers and web designers. Once upon a time, my friend’s cousin was looking for a web designer to spice up his company’s website. Without any shreds of doubt, my friend jumped to recommend a code ninja – me. A senior web developer. So yeah… Maybe that doesn’t sound too strange to some of you folks at all.

But the truth is, even though there are some similarities between web developers and web designers, they are entirely different creatures altogether. Long story short – Generally, a web developer is technically inclined – Does coding and the system architectures. While a web designer is creatively inclined – Does website design and user interfaces.

Hope that is straightforward enough, but please take that as a generalization. There are also some uncommon web ninjas who can do both coding and design at the same time. So just what skill sets do each one have? Which one should you hire or seek as a career? Who is better? Read on to find out!

 

 

 

SECTION A

WEB DEVELOPERS

First, let us take a closer look at the web developers and what they do.

 

THE ROLES IN A PROJECT

In a big project, there will usually be a development team consisting of:

  • Managers – Takes care of the entire project in general. Takes lead of the general direction, controls the budget, and makes sure that the development is on time.
  • Designers – The creative side handles the branding, makes sure that the website follows the client’s corporate identity (CI) guide, and interface design.
  • Developers – Takes care of most of the technical aspects. Programming, database, system structures.
  • Quality Assurance – Does testing, reports bugs.

 

JOB SCOPE & RESPONSIBILITIES

Web Developers are also what some people think as “programmers”. Well, that is only partially true and somewhat correct. While the essential job scope of a developer is to take a website template from designers and “turn it into a website” – The skillsets of a lead/senior web developer is actually a lot more diverse than just technical.

  • Lead developers are also managers – They take care of the entire development process, and how it should be done.
  • Design, in the overall system structural sense.
  • Design, as in knowing how to work with designers, in creating the user interface.
  • Management again, the delegation of work to team members.
  • Knowing business processes, and how a web application can help/apply to the company.

So yep, programming is actually only a small part of what web developers do. This is also why some companies value experienced developers a lot – Because they don’t just do programming, they know when and how to apply various technologies to automate business processes.

 

 

COMMON WEB DEVELOPER JOB TITLES

Title Description
Junior Web Developer (Frontend) These guys work with the frontend pages of a website.
Junior Web Developer (Backend) These guys work on the backend processes instead. For example, writing scripts that deal with online payments.
Web Developer A full-fledged web developer who knows how to work on both frontend and backend.
Lead or Senior Web Developer (Full Stack) The “one man army” who deals with almost all the technical aspects of the project.

 

SOME COMMON TOOLS OF THE TRADE

  • HTML editor or integrated development environment (IDE)
  • Debugging tools
  • Database management tools
  • Code collaboration/versioning tools

 

 

SECTION B

WEB DESIGNERS

Moving on, let us take a closer look at what the web designers do.

 

JOB SCOPE & RESPONSIBILITIES

Just like the web developers in a similar manner, web designers are sometimes thought to be “design a website, throw the rest to a programmer”. The plight of a web designer is actually not that far off from a web developer…

Web designers are expected to know the creative aspects, and on top of that, they also must have some understanding of HTML and CSS – The technical limitations of what can be done, what cannot be done, how certain things work, and how to incorporate their designs into the technical side.

So yep, senior web designers really cover quite a lot of skillsets as well – Creative, branding, marketing, interface design, management, business processes, and technical. This is also why the experienced web designers are very well valued. Because they don’t just know how to make a website look good, they know how to grow a business online as well.

 

COMMON WEB DESIGNER JOB TITLES

Title Description
Web Designer Deals with the creative aspects, design, and layout of the websites.
UI / UX Designer Not so much on the creative aspects, but more on the user-friendliness and interface design.
Creative Director The “boss” who gives the overall creative direction – Not just the design of the website, but also with the interface, the branding in general.

 

 

SOME COMMON TOOLS OF THE TRADE

  • Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or equivalent graphic design tools.
  • Mockup tools.
  • User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) testing tools.

 

EXTRA

SUMMARY

Finally, we have looked at both sides of the coin. Here is a summary of the similarities and differences.

 

THE DIFFERENCES IN A NUTSHELL

Web Developer Web Designer
Discipline Technical Creative
Role & Responsibilities Programming, system structure, database structure, process flow. Design of website, user interface, branding, process flow.
Skills
  • System design and structuring
  • Business processes
  • Databases
  • HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, ASP, Python, etc…
  • Graphic Design
  • Branding
  • Typography
  • HTML, CSS, Javascript.
Tools
  • HTML editor or IDE
  • Debugging tools
  • Database managers
  • Photoshop, Illustrator, or equivalent
  • Mockup tools
  • UI/UX testing tools

 

CAN ONE BE BOTH DESIGNER AND DEVELOPER?

Most people will pretty much graduate from school with a certificate in either design or development. But as one work in the industry long enough, you will also pick up some “extras” along the way.

In the many years of my career as a web developer, I have also learned quite a lot of design principals from the designers; The designers have also learned HTML and CSS from working with a web developer. So yes, there is nothing to stop one from becoming both designer and developer. 😆

 

 

THEY WORK TOGETHER

As much as some bosses love to see a “Superman” who is good at doing both design and development at the same time, these people are actually quite a rare breed. The million dollar question is – How much work can one do, and how much can one learn about each discipline? In the many years of my career, I have learned design principals.

I understand some design stuff, but that does not make me a designer by trade; I cannot design an entire webpage from scratch, nor do I know how to do branding well enough. The same goes with web designers who may have learned some technical stuff over the years. That does not make them developers by trade, nor can they do an entire system structure from scratch.

So you need to understand this distinction in the specialization of skillsets. Having knowledge in both schools only makes one a Jack-of-all-trades, becoming a master of both is another story. Until then, web designers and web developers still have to work along side-by-side.

CLOSING

WHAT’S NEXT?

Thank you for reading, and we have come to the end of this guide. I hope that it has helped you to better understand, and if you want to share anything with this guide, please feel free to comment below. Good luck!

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