Web Designer Vs. Web Developer: What’s the Difference?

The terms ‘web design’ and ‘web development’ are often used interchangeably; in fact – it’s a common question we get from our clients. Despite some similarities, however, they’re two completely different disciplines with different focuses and skill sets. Both web design and web development play a crucial role in website creation but are more different than they are alike. In this article, we’ll explain the difference between a web designer and a web developer, as well as some of their similarities. We’ll also help you decide which type of professional you need for your project. Lastly, we’ll discuss the job prospects for both fields, including job duties, salary expectations, education requirements, and career path options. So, let’s dive in and explore the world of web design vs. web development!

What is Web Design?

Web design is a crucial aspect of website construction, designing the ‘front end’, user-facing side of the website, including the visual design and user experience. This encompasses the website’s design and layout, as well as the overall style of a website. This includes the colour scheme, graphics, and overall interface that users see on the front-end layout of a website. The primary objective of an effective web designer is to create a website that is not only visually appealing but also user-friendly.

In addition to visual design, a web designer’s job includes other essential aspects of a website, such as ensuring that the site aligns with the client’s branding, encourages user engagement, and enables easy navigation. This means always keeping user experience (UX) and the user interface (UI) in mind throughout the design process. Many people think a web designer is a graphic artist, but they’re not the same thing: there are a lot more factors that go into a well-designed website

Web designers create a wireframe, which is a visual prototype that illustrates the website’s content layout, navigation, and behaviour. They then move on to deciding the website’s colour scheme and adding graphics and imagery. In essence, web design focuses on a website’s look, feel, and usability, shaping how users interact with and perceive it.

What is Web Development?

On the other hand, web developers focus on the behind-the-scenes of a website and back-end development. One of the biggest differences between a web developer and a designer is that they write code using programming languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to build web pages and the overall structure and functionality of the website. The web developer is responsible for selecting the platform the website runs on and writing code that ensures that the website is fast, secure, and works seamlessly across all devices. This is known as ‘responsive web design‘.

Web designers and web developers work in tangent with each other. While the web designer is responsible for the more visual aspects of a website and creating the website’s wireframe, the web developer is also responsible for writing the code that brings the vision to life. They build and enhance your website using their coding skills to ensure the website’s envisioned features and functions work correctly, including the navigation, forms, and interactive elements.

Defining the Difference Between Web Design and Web Development

Web development and design both play an integral role in creating a successful website, creating a union between design and functionality. The web designer is in charge of creating a striking visual appearance that promotes brand recognition and ease of use. A web developer is someone who uses code to make this design and make the website interactive, functional and ready for launch. The end result of good web designers and developers working side by side is an all-around attractive and effective website that meets the needs of both the business and potential customers visiting the site.

Similarities of Website Design & Website Development

While web design and web development are two distinct professions that require different skills, there are some areas where they overlap. Both occupations require technical knowledge and an understanding of programming languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Functionality and ease of use are also fundamental principles of both disciplines. For web designers, this means creating a layout with a clear visual hierarchy that structures information in a way that makes the most sense for users. For web developers, this means coding a responsive, fast website that doesn’t break.

Another key similarity is that web designers and developers both need to take a client-centric approach. They have to understand the client’s needs, business objectives, and target audience well to build a website that aligns with their brand’s identity. A thorough understanding of the client’s expectations is crucial for both professions to deliver a website the client will be satisfied with.

The Need for Cohesion

Design and development are two essential parts of creating a website and both have to work harmoniously to achieve success. A developer can’t code a website without a design; inversely, a website designer can’t bring their creation to fruition without a developer coding it. A functional website should have visual elements and features that align seamlessly, meaning the developer and designer need to collaborate and combine their skills to develop and design a website with a positive outcome. 

Working cohesively means the designer has to use their eye for design but also work within the limits of what the developer has the time and ability to code, and the developer has to do their best to ensure the end product is how the designer envisioned it. Collaboration ensures that design and development decisions align, resulting in a cohesive user experience. Together, they bring the vision of a new website to life.

Achieving the Same Goal

Website development and design share the same goal: creating an effective website. Both the website’s visual design and its code and functionality play a vital role in achieving this goal. This means website development and design are equally important in delivering a website that meets the user’s and client’s requirements. Web designers create the idea and design style using design and editing software, then web developers use a website builder platform like Elementor to bring it to life. Both aspects of website creation are equally important.

Developers and designers work together to ensure that the website has a seamless user experience, is accessible to all users, and is optimised for search engines. Ultimately, the goal of both website development and design is to create a website that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also functions well and meets the needs of its users.

The Value of Visuals

The importance of the visual elements web designers bring to the table can’t be understated and goes beyond just looking good at first glance. A seasoned web designer knows how to leverage user psychology during the design process to drive forward business goals through strategic visual hierarchy and strong branding.

The choices the web designer makes dictate the first impression people get of your business from when they first arrive on your landing page onwards. The web designer holds the power to make sure that the impression is positive by creating a clean, professional, and visually appealing layout. This will encourage people to stay on your website longer, increasing the chance of conversions. 

Should I Hire a Web Designer or a Web Developer?

If you need a brand new website from scratch, you probably need the expertise of both a website developer and a website designer.  Both web designers and web developers play integral roles in the life cycle of a website. However, if you’re looking for a refresh or update of your current website, you might only need the services of one and will have to put thought and consideration into which one you choose. 

The first step is to assess how your current website can be improved and make a list of the changes you’d like to make. This will help you make an informed decision about whether to hire a web designer or web developer.

The answer depends greatly on what elements you want to change or add to a website. If you want to update the look of a website to be more modern, match new branding or keep in stride with your marketing strategies, a web designer is what you’re looking for. Web designers also help you improve the structure of your website and ensure it’s easy to navigate and uncluttered. 

On the other hand, if you need to add additional functions to your website, like a contact form or an in-site shopping function, hiring a developer is a good idea. Part of the web developer’s job is also increasing website loading times and responsiveness, as well as running ongoing maintenance. 

Interested in Becoming a Web Designer or Developer?

Aside from offering a completely different set of services to clients, the two jobs also offer differing professional experiences with contrasting opportunities, potential salaries and educational requirements. If you’re considering a career in the website field, it’s essential to consider all these factors before you decide to be a web developer or website designer. We’ll go over some of these factors below so you can make a more informed decision about the career path you choose.

Job Prospects for Web Designers vs. Web Developers

Web designers and developers both have promising job prospects in today’s digital landscape. Web designers focus on creating visually captivating websites, prioritizing user interfaces and experiences. On the other hand, web developers specialize in coding and programming the back-end functionalities of a website. The demand for both professions is high due to the continuous growth of the Internet and e-commerce. Front-end developers with expertise in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are particularly sought after. Overall, the job prospects for both web designers and developers are projected to be favourable in the coming years.

Overview of Job Duties for Web Designers and Web Developers

Web designers specialise in using design software like Photoshop or Adobe Dreamweaver to create visually appealing websites. On the other hand, web developers write code in programming languages such as JavaScript, Python, or PHP to build the website itself. While web designers prioritise a website’s visual appearance and user experience (UX), web developers ensure its functionality and performance. There can be some overlap in job duties, with many web developers and designers having some of both skill sets. Collaboration with clients, project managers, and other team members is often necessary in web design and development projects. Web developers must have strong technical skills, whereas design skills are much more important for web designers.

Salary Expectations of Web Designers and Web Developers

This is potentially where website development and design differ the most: there is a notable gap in salary expectations. A survey found that Australia’s average web designer salary is $92,573 per year or $47.47 per hour in 2023, and entry-level positions start at $80,000. On the other hand, web developers earn a higher median salary at $105,479 per year on average or $54.09 per hour. Entry-level positions start at $91,977 annually.

It’s important to note that this is just one survey, and salaries vary greatly based on factors like experience, location, and employer. Most web developers and designers also find niches and have specialised skills that can bump up their salary.  For example, Full Stack Developers, who can build both the front and back end of a website or web application, earn a higher annual salary at $123,300 on average. Similarly, on average, web designers who specialise in UX make $115,000 annually. On the whole, although they differ, both professions offer competitive salaries with the opportunity to upskill for higher compensation. 

What Education Level Do Web Developers and Web Designers Need?

Employers highly value higher education when hiring either web designers or web developers, but the degrees to break into each profession differ. Most web designers often start by either studying visual or graphic design, digital media or website design on its own. On the other hand, web developers often have qualifications in computer science, software development or information technology.

It’s worth noting that not all successful website designers or developers have degrees, although it’ll help you get a leg up. It’s possible to break into the field and find success by self-teaching and showcasing skills through a portfolio. Regardless of your chosen path, continuous learning is essential to succeed in both professions to stay up-to-date with ever-evolving technologies and the latest web design trends.

The Potential Career Paths Web Development And Web Design Offer

Before jumping into either profession, it’s important to envision where you want your career to progress down the line and what the pathways are. Becoming a website designer allows you to progress to being a UX designer, visual designer, Chief Design Officer or even a creative director. Web developers can become front or back-end developers, lead developers, technical directors or Chief Technology Officers. 

Both web developers and designers can choose to work as a freelancer instead of joining a web design agency. Freelancing is ideal for people who value working independently, want a flexible work schedule or have the ability to work remotely. The downside of becoming a freelance developer or designer is that you always have to be on top of finding the next project to keep a steady flow of income.

Our Team of Web Designers and Web Developers

We hope this article has helped clarify the difference between web developers and web designers. Ultimately, web design and web development converge with a common goal: creating websites that are not only visually striking but function impeccably – catering to the needs of both the client and users. Whether you’re interested in becoming a web designer or a web developer or need to hire one, understanding the difference between them is important to make an informed decision and ensure you get the exact outcome you’re looking for.

If you need a new website, you should highly consider hiring both. This is the ethos we follow at Futuretheory: When a client approaches us for a new website, our team of experienced web designers and web developers collaborate to provide the client with a well-rounded, highly functional and well-designed website. 

  • Juliette Owen-Jones
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