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Web Designer vs Web Developer - Core Difference

Web Designer vs web developer - who do you really need to hire in your new company? Explore your answer in our new article.

Written by RamotionJul 21, 202114 min read

Last updated: Feb 8, 2024

It's fairly natural to get confused about a clash between a web developer vs web designer, as both of these roles are involved with web application development and occasionally possess similar skills. Or at least that is how it appears from the outside. However, web design and web app development processes play quite diverse roles and are responsible for separate sections of website development. The diversion of these two roles is carefully discussed in this article, so keep close attention to the basics, and you’ll be able to see the difference between web design and web development.

However, web development may be divided into two broad types: front-end development, which is concerned with the user interface, and back-end development, which is concerned with the development of website functionalities. A full-stack developer is capable of taking on both the front-end and back-end parts of a website and produce a strong user experience, as well as construct the clear business logic of a platform. We’ll discuss each of these in greater detail a bit later, for now, let’s take a look at the skills that a web developer has to have.

What are the major skills of a web developer?

As it was mentioned previously, the vast majority of web developers require a specific set of technical skills to execute all of the required tasks. And at the very least, a web developer should know and have a solid education in the following areas:

  • Knowledge of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP
  • JavaScript frameworks
  • Bug testing
  • Back-end frameworks
  • Databases
  • Content Management System
  • SEO practices

Along with technical skills, there are a whole bunch of other non-technical skills that are very beneficial for a web developer. This includes analytical skills, which can be used throughout the debugging process and solving complex coding errors within the code architecture. In addition, it is critical to have strong communication and teamwork abilities while interacting directly with the clients and other stakeholders (like web designers, as an example).

Other responsibilities and skills that web developers utilize other small technologies and platforms to fulfill their duties. Like for example, Jira for tracking issues and GitHub for branching the code structure.

What kind of opportunities are there for a web developer?

Typically, web developers execute most of their tasks on a small number of computer languages. However, these languages will vary according to the business type of web app projects they are undertaking. Thus, all web developers are divided into three following categories:

Front-end Developers

Front-end engineers produce the website with CSS, HTML, JavaScript, and other languages oriented on creative design, as well as Content Management Systems. Front-end development, alternatively referred to as client-side development. Due to the constant collaborations, front-end and web engineers frequently overlap their tasks and often cooperate.

Back-end Developers

The maintenance of a real database and a web server is being handled by back-end developers that utilize complex programming languages (it can be, for example, C#, PHP, Java, Ruby, SQL) and other server-side frameworks. Back-end development alternatively is called server-side development, which mostly involves the work with the components of the website that occur behind the scenes and are completely transparent to users on the front-end part.

Full-stack Developers

Finally, full-stack developers construct a website's front and back ends. They have a firm knowledge and experience of how both components of a website work and interact with each other. Along with producing simple web application development projects, full-stack developers configure servers, write APIs, and configure the databases, among their main duties.

Tools & Technologies of Web Developers

Front-end developers construct the visual appearance of the web application that a user typically sees on his screen. What begins as a design software mockup must be turned into a scrollable, clickable website, which is precisely what a front-end developer accomplishes.

On the other hand, the back-end developer produces an ecosystem that powers the website. You may even compare it to the small website brain, that is seamlessly connecting the hosting server, the main database, and the back-end code. Thus, to create a well-balanced environment that covers all of the back-end development phases below is an excellent list of the most trending and modern technologies/tools that a web developer should have.

  • AngularJS
  • Chrome DevTools
  • GitHub
  • Ruby on Rails
  • MySQL
  • MongoDB
  • Postman
  • TypeScript
  • Lighthouse

They frequently meet with clients before even starting to work on a website. It is done to discuss the type of online platform they want to envision and the features they wish to include. Next, all of the necessary data is collected, web designers construct an interface and user experience that is simple to navigate and enjoyable for the user.

To ensure that all of the design assets are both stunning and user-appealing, web designers undertake usability studies and carefully examine the behavior of potential users. Moreover, they'll always keep up with the latest website trends and technologies to ensure they're developing a modern and interactive experience for potential users. Both web developers and web designers are also working on the overall feeling of a website’s visuals.

What are the major skills of a web designer?

The skills required by web designers differ according to the nature of the web app project they are doing and the client’s requirements. However, some of the critical abilities include:

  • Knowledge of HTML/CSS
  • Principles of website design
  • Responsive design
  • Conversion Rate Optimization
  • User Story Maps
  • Wireframing
  • Branding & color theory
  • Design tools

There are also a variety of non-technical skills that a web designer should possess. For instance, good communication skills are required to communicate effectively with clients to establish and manage the right expectations. Additionally, the capacity to collaborate with other team members, such as web developers, is critical for the success of each web application project.

What kind of opportunities are there for a web designer?

UI Designer

A UI designer is creating simple and yet stunning design assets for product UI according to the information acquired from UX designers. These designers are also involved in analyzing and researching every interaction between a user and a web platform. But, what kind of skills should a UI designer have in his pocket? The list includes the following:

  • Color theory
  • Typography
  • UI design patterns
  • Design approaches
  • Prototyping tools
  • Fundamentals of responsive design
  • UI elements design
  • Style guide

UX Designer

While there is a direct overlap among the tasks of both UI and UX designers, the latter role is responsible for determining the future users of the company’s website and their needs. Additionally, they are responsible for crafting user stories, implementing prototypes, and conducting user tests. A designer who is involved in UX development must guarantee that the website structure is logical and that all interactions are intuitive and match user needs. Apart from that, there are other responsibilities of a UX designer. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • User behavior analysis
  • Psychological profile of users
  • Information architecture design
  • Creation of user flows and wireframes
  • Experience in Figma or Sketch
  • Prototyping
  • User testing

Visual Designers

A visual designer career path is responsible for the development of concepts and various layouts for digital projects based on the clients’ briefs. Few core abilities are included for a visual designer. For starters, they are often experienced in graphic design and branding, as well as producing a visual message for a company brand. They are primarily responsible for typography, layout, spacing, images, and color palettes. As for the other essential skills of a visual designer, the list includes the following:

  • Strong basics of graphic design
  • Color theory
  • Design patterns
  • Adobe Creative Cloud
  • Experience in animation, dynamic interaction, and motion design
  • Conceptualization of brand elements
  • Responsive design fundamentals

Tools & Technologies of Web Designers

A well-balanced, practical toolkit is extremely valuable for any web designer. The time saved with these technologies can be invested in more critical duties that result in high-quality results. The issue is that there are a lot of different tools for web designers on the market. Unless you are certain of your project requirements, selecting the proper instrument for the job might not be a wise choice. So, to cast this uncertainty away, here are some of the most trending tools that all web designers are utilizing:

  • Figma
  • Sketch
  • Adobe Creative Cloud
  • Miro
  • MockFlow
  • InVision
  • Zeplin
  • Material Design

Web designer vs web developer: Compensation

In general, surveys indicate that on average web developers are earning more than web designers, however, this is very variable depending on how the data is sliced. Salary disparities exist even across the various sorts of developer employment. The income will be determined more by your abilities than by the working title. So let’s take a close look at the compensation comparison in the United States.

Web Designer Salaries

The majority of web designers can earn a very generous wage. The compensation itself varies by the job position, location, and seniority of employment. The web developer’s annual average salary located in the United States is around $57,000. It's worth mentioning that the salary ranges vary greatly between different sources. When considering the salary ranges for various design positions, it's clear that a UI/UX designer tends to make the most out of it. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at the compensation breakdown below.

  • UI designers make on average from $79,000 per year to $87,000 per year.
  • UX designers are getting from $74,000 per year to $87,000 per year.
  • UI/UX designers have the highest salary bid which on average goes to $89,000 per year.

Web Developer Salaries

Even though a web developer’s salary is a bit higher than a web designer’s, their income varies according to their specialization. This fact is mostly due to the ability to write code in multiple languages. While coding is a highly regarded ability in today's technologically advanced society, not all programming skills are equally recognized. On average a web developer located in the United States earns between $65,000 to $75,000 per year. Let's examine the average salary for each role in detail.

  • Front-end developers on average earn from $70,000 to $117,000 per year (highest peak).
  • Back-end developers earn on average $100,000 per year.
  • Full-stack developers who are located in the US tend to have an average salary range from $91,000 to $111,000 per year.

Naturally, the more skilled you are at your work, the more you can earn. With technology advancing at a breakneck pace and new programming languages are being released, web developers must constantly expand their skills to maintain an upward trajectory in their salaries.

Difference between web designer and web developer

After venturing deep inside web design and web development, one can now fully understand the critical difference between a web designer and web developer. To compare both of these careers, let’s have a closer look at the distinctions between the two IT roles.

  • Web designers are concerned with the aesthetics and usability of the website while developers are concerned with functionality and their architecture.
  • Web designers create the appearance of a website with the help of mockups (wireframes, UI elements, etc). Web developers, on the other hand, have few core abilities to ascertain whether the project is financially and technically feasible and only then programs and codes the website.
  • Web developers require a high level of technical expertise, which includes a working knowledge of programming languages and frameworks. At the same time, while some research and analysis are required, the function of a web designer is less technical and more focused on the visual and creative aspects of a website.
  • Web developers frequently make use of coding libraries and frameworks, CVS systems, and software development platforms such as GitHub and Jira. Additionally, they may be required to host control panels and FTP clients, along with content management systems. Web designers, on the other hand, frequently employ design editing software such as Photoshop, CMS, and a website builder (Wix, for example), which does not include wireframing and prototyping tools.

Both of these professions do play a critical role in building, constructing, and maintaining websites. Ultimately, both of them depend on each other to deliver a quality online product.

Web designer vs. web developer: What lies in the future

As the digital environment for various tools and technologies (dedicated to web-related jobs) are constantly getting polished to do tasks, the tasks themselves change. Thus, web designers and web developers will almost certainly have different job requirements in the future years. The required skills of a web designer have drastically changed and are still changing and shaping their form, but as of right now they start from an emphasis on design assets and may end on a more functional and holistic approach (usability, information architecture, research, etc.) that connects a larger experience. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that a web developer can’t do the same tasks that a web designer does. Numerous tasks can be performed by either a designer or a developer utilizing no-code tools such as Webflow, like:

  • Project scoping
  • Bug fixes
  • Static content updates
  • Content Linking

And what if the roles of designers and developers eventually intersect, creating a hybrid role? Numerous occupations will emerge as no-code technology advances. Nontechnical users will be able to self-serve formerly specialist-required jobs. Creating digital experiences will only become easier, which is why curiosity and adaptability will remain a defining characteristic of workers across all industries. And designers will need to change as well in such an environment.

So how do you choose the right career path?

If you are reading this article, as a student or a person who seeks to find a new job, then remember the following. With so many firms now operating online, it is an excellent time to pursue a career in web app development. The first step is deciding what kind of career you want to pursue.

Consider which areas of website building you are most drawn to. For instance, do you enjoy visual design or are you drawn to the thought of website coding? If the last point is what rings a bell inside of you, then a position of a web developer is likely to be more gratifying.

If you're just getting started, there are numerous tools available to help you develop and enhance your skills. For instance, web design books, online courses, and development resources are all available to assist you to hone your talents and progress your profession.

It may be beneficial to begin exploring some of the online resources to gain a good insight into web developer and web designer portfolios. Then you may begin pursuing the chances that will provide you with the most satisfaction, both personally and financially. Who knows - perhaps one day you'll be ready to launch your web design agency!

Another thing is to research the career advancement prospects, industry demand, and potential for growth that each profession offers. If one were to google “web design and web development”, this query will reveal a bunch of opportunities for both freelancers and agencies.

On the other hand, if you are an employer seeking to understand the clash between web developer vs web designer and hire the most relevant role, then a tactical approach here would be to consider the abilities and skills required for each role. Compare those to the skills you now possess or wish to acquire. Bear in mind that a lack of expertise in one area does not necessarily rule out the possibility of a career in that field.

In Conclusion

All in all, both web design and web development processes do have a lot of things in common. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are executing the same job that you want to do. If you just want to build a website with a good budget on your hands, you may wish to hire both back and front-end engineers. However, in all other instances, a full-stack engineer will be enough to build an excellent website.

On the other hand, if you're considering creating a full-fledged design of not only your website and brand identity, then, in that case, you may wish to hire a web designer. However, before that, you must ensure that you get the correct individual for the job. With that in mind, do follow through this article once again and highlight all of the skills that you require and find which do you need in the rivalry of a web developer vs web designer.