Web Designer  |  Web Developer

The Difference Between A Web Designer VS Web Developer

Chad Prinsloo | Web Designer

Chad Prinsloo  |  Digital Strategist  |  Johannesburg

July 06 2020

Many people use the terms web designer, web design, web developer, and web development interchangeably, but they really do have unique roles and responsibilities. If you are a client looking to hire a web professional to build a professional website for you or your company, it’s important to know the difference between these two terms and the skillsets that come with them.

What is website design?

Web design or website design is the process of creating websites. Web design involves several different activities and factors working together, such as layout and structure, user interface, colours, visual imagery, fonts, user experience design, SEO, and content creation. These elements determine how a website looks, feels, and works on various devices. Website Design typically describes the front-end design of the website (what website visitors actually see and interact with)

Website design used to mean creating websites exclusively for large devices like desktop browsers. However, a big shift happened around 2008 when the popularity of iPhones and other major brands and mobile browsers became mainstream. Because of this digital shift, the importance of mobile and tablet traffic has now surpassed desktop browsing.

What is a web designer?

Web designers are creative professionals who transform an idea, vision, or a story, into a visually appealing digital design and use their layout to build the user interface and user experience throughout the entire website. A web designer designs the website’s look and styling, copywriting, experiments with colours and adds visual imagery.

Just like an architect would create a plan outline for approval of your house prior to starting to build it, a web designer will model the layout of your website for approval before building it.

What are the main roles and responsibilities of a web designer?

  • Conceptualizing creative ideas with clients
  • Writing and editing content
  • Designing engaging landing pages
  • Optimising sites for maximum speed and scalability
  • Determining software requirements based on the client needs
  • Testing and improving the design of the website
  • Ensuring website function and stability across devices i.e. desktop, mobile, tablet
  • Maintaining the appearance of websites
  • Designing visual imagery for websites and ensuring that they are in line with branding for clients
  • Working with WordPress
  • Communicating design ideas using wireframes
  • Incorporating and improving functionalities and features into websites
What skills are needed to be considered a good web designer?

Skilled web designers use the principles of design to create a website that not only looks great, but functions effectively. Web designers need to have the following skills:

  • A good understanding and knowledge of WordPress
  • Have a good understanding implementation for user experience, to identify the simplest approach to attain the desired function.
  • Adobe Photoshop or Affinity Photo for photo editing
  • Adobe InDesign or Affinity Publisher for eBooks, or PDFs
  • Adobe XD for designing web mockups
  • Know what color combinations and design elements location are the most user-friendly and effective
  • A good understanding of HTML and CSS to custom style or make more complex changes to a website
  • Basic knowledge of hosting/server management
  • Strong analytical skills and an understanding of how consumers buy. Especially web consumers
  • Proficient understanding of SEO
  • Soft skills like time management, patience, project management and focus on every project or task
  • Have a positive attitude and provide excellent client support

What is a web developer?

Web developers, in comparison to web designers, don’t prioritise making website resources look visually attractive or focus on how a web visitor interacts with a website. Instead, they focus their efforts on backend development like server database management, writing code, and creating a more complex site or app functionality that requires dynamic data that should be stored securely to provide a user with an interactive experience.

In short, web developers create logical, functional websites using various programming languages. They also spend a lot of time testing and fixing bugs.

What are the main roles and responsibilities of a web developer?
  • Writing well designed, testable, efficient code by using best software development practices
  • Integrating data from various back-end services and databases
  • Website and software application designing, building, or maintaining
  • Research and propose software programs that are compatible with future technologies
  • Fix bugs, troubleshoot, and resolve problems
  • Create web models or prototypes that include physical, interface, logical, or data models
  • Optimization of the web application for maximum speed and scalability
  • Implementation of security and data protection
What skills are needed to be considered a good web developer?

Web Developers handle things like data storage and site load times. They must be able to validate and test website functionality and fix any bugs that prevent the site from working.

  • Proficient understanding of code versioning tools such as Git
  • Familiarity with at least two programming languages such as PHP and Python
  • Hands-on experience with network diagnostics, network analytics tools
  • Proficient in JavaScript, HTML, CSS
  • Proficient in My SQL.
  • Able to solve complex programming problems
  • Data migration, transformation, and scripting
  • Soft skills like time management, patience, project management and focus on every project or task
  • Advanced knowledge of hosting/server management

Should you hire a web designer or web developer?

You now know the differences between a web designer and a web developer. Web designers typically have a creative mindset, whereas web developers usually think methodically and logically. If you are a business owner who requires a website for your business without the need for complex data or integrations, a web designer will fit your needs perfectly. If what you require is a web application that is complex and mostly interactive and uses custom data to work, a web developer would be best.