Career Crossroads: Web Developer vs. Web Designer

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:: By Phillip Singer, InfintechDesigns ::


People often talk about website design and development interchangeably. In their defense, it is difficult to differentiate between the two if you are not familiar with the industry.

If you are a client who is simply looking to have your site up and running, then this difference is going to be irrelevant to you. It really is not a big issue to many people; only to the designers and developers themselves. They are the ones who struggle to figure out where their job starts and ends.

The server administrator will not care who does the designing and developing as long as they have the material they require to keep the site running. You will not lose sleep at night trying to figure out who does which task in the process of creating your blog. As long as you are able to add content to the blog and make money from it then you are good to go.

At the most basic level, the website designers are the ones who are responsible for the functioning of the site. They are the professionals who will come up with the ideas of how a design should look like. The developer’s work, on the other hand, is mostly technical. The designers are the people who do things like coming up with the layout of the site, placement of the images, styling of the fonts and selection of colors. These two professionals work together to make sure that you get the most out of your website. Let’s take a look at each profession individually, shall we?

Web designers at work

Being a Web designer is almost like being a fashion designer. These two are worlds apart from each other though. While a fashion designer is simply creative and artistic in their work, a Web designer has to be creative but in a very abstract way. The creative type of Web designers is the best. These people have a strong inclination of getting into their clients' heads and ensuring that they see what the client is visualizing. They take the vision of the client and convert it into an impressive, artistic design.

There are some designers who study things like typography, usability and user interface design. In their armory, you will find tools like Photoshop, DreamWeaver and Illustrator. They are the people who are addicted to visiting sites like iStockPhoto and Kuler. A designer’s role therefore revolves around developing the creative aspects of the website.

Web developers at work

These ones are very technical in their work. They are the people you will hear talking about things in abbreviation at all times- CSS, PHP, HTML, SQL, FTP, ASP and many other technical terms used in Web development. Problem solving is a very important skill for these professionals. They are fantastic in mathematics; why should they not be? Every single day they are going to be writing a code in at least five different languages which include the likes of the aforementioned HTLM and XHTML, JavaScript, CSS and others.

They might not be found visiting iStock that frequently because most of the time they are working with some text editor and site development plugins like Firebug. They frequently visit sites that are similar to the Mozilla JavaScript reference, PHP manual and jQuery Documentation. They also know about API and how to develop using it.

Web developers are essentially programmers, or rather, they are often referred to as programmers. However, their skills typically exceed those of a conventional software developer. They are technical experts with skills in problem solving and programming. If you want to add some new graphic to your website, they are probably the people who will be of most help to you.

When you can do both

In this day and era, it helps a lot if you are able to do multiple things at the same time. With that said, it is not uncommon to find designers who do both wWb development and designing. Developers can also design a site. There are some individuals who are simply not getting enough of just being creative. Such people will not only create amazing website designs, but they will also go to the extra mile to execute the design in code.

It does help a lot if you are able to do both the designing and the development. There are clients who just do not have time to go looking for these two professionals in different places. At the same time, a large number of clients always want someone or a company that provides both services. They do not want to waste their time moving around in search of these professionals. When you are able to do both the designing and development, you can rest calm knowing that you will always have work coming in your direction.

Don't Stress

These two careers can be ridiculously stressful. Hence, you should not push yourself too hard to master both. If you are all about being creative and coming up with smart ideas that help to meet people’s expectations, then you should stick to design. Those people who are never going to sleep peacefully at night unless they have managed to write a code in multiple languages will find Web development to be their cure.

In as much as it is helpful to know both, it is not exactly necessary. Nowadays, Web design companies distribute work based on what an individual is able to do best. There are those people who are able to design awesome sites even in their sleep, while others do not need code dictionaries. Working with such a company means that you will have to stick to one line and perfect it.

The Deciding Difference

The difference between website designers and developers is insignificant if you are simply looking for the services. However, if you want to get into these careers, then you should take some time to know the option that is best for you. They are both lucrative and you can get awesome results from them effortlessly.


Phillip Singer works with the best New Orleans Web design and development company and is passionate about the youth and seeks to help them select the best career options.

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5 comments

RobertM 03-03-2016 12:12 PM

"They are both lucrative and you can get awesome results from them effortlessly."

Seriously?  Have you looked outside since 2006?

JulieK 03-03-2016 12:22 PM

I agree with the previous comment. Bathing there is a huge difference between a developer and designer and many a developer think they are designers which the clients soon find out they are not

ChrisE 03-03-2016 12:27 PM

Awesome results never come effortlessly.

SilviaB 03-03-2016 4:01 PM

Sometimes, I feel that this is a false dichotomy created by people who don't really, truly understand web design (eh, development, whatever you want to call it).

While many programmers (this is what we used to call them, you know) are not necessarily versed in design, being a *good* web designer by necessity includes aspects of programming, SEO, UI development etc. Creating a pretty site without any knowledge of how design elements and structure effect search engine optimization, including loading speed and "freshness", what a website can technically *do*, or the viewer interaction with the site gets you a nice web postcard and nothing else. That's how you end up with an unusable site. You don't have to be master of it all (though it certainly helps), but knowing what's out there and what is possible certainly helps.

I've been designing/developing websites for about 18 years, and while my degrees are in Graphic Design & Photography, I had to learn a whole lot of other things in order to call myself a web designer. On top of HTML & CSS (*every* designer must know those), I picked up good SEO skills, and can find my way around Javascript, PHP, Mysql etc as needed, as well as quite a bit of marketing-focused psychology and an understanding of user interaction. A website is a *dynamic* entity and a networked entity as opposed to a piece of paper with an ad on it. If all you know is to create a layout, you're NOT a web designer.

Every few years, the industry relabels its terms, I suspect in order to raise pricing and create buzz :-). "Responsive"? Yeah, way back in 1998 we considered it a cornerstone of good web design. "Ajax"? It's simply Javascript talking to whatever the backend language you use (often PHP). Egads...

JeffC 05-24-2016 2:26 PM

Philip, this article really needed to be proof read/edited.

With that aside, when you say that a web developer's skills "typically exceed those of a conventional software developer," I would argue that a full-stack developer, rather than front-end web developer, may have more skills. If you are talking about a front-end web developer those programming skills usually revolve around Javascript and the DOM, no?

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