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

Web designer and web developer working together at a computer

Hiring for a web designer or web developer position can be daunting—especially if you’re not sure which role you truly need on your team. A lot of people are confused about the difference between the two positions, and sometimes it can be tough to tell them apart.

Let’s start by defining what each role typically focuses on, then break down the key differences between web designers and web developers to help you figure out which one is the best fit for your team.

What is a web designer?

Web designers focus on creating the visual, user-friendly elements of a website. Their role is to make sure that when you visit a web page, everything you see looks great, and everything you experience feels great.

There are two primary types of web designer:

  • UX designer
  • UI designer

And this is different from a web developer who typically is a front-end, back-end, or full stack developer—but we’ll get to that in a minute.

While UX designers and UI designers often work together on projects, they do different things.

Here’s a quick comparison.

What is a UX designer?

A UX designer, or user experience designer, works on the overall experience of a website. They are responsible for understanding how users navigate a site and use its features, as well as studying how different design elements affect those behaviors.

One common UX design task is user research, which involves conducting interviews, surveys, and other forms of data collection to understand the needs and behaviors of website visitors.

From this research, the UX designer creates wireframes that represent how the site will be laid out and how people will interact with it. They then work with UI designers to translate these wireframes into the actual website.

What is a UI designer?

A UI designer, or user interface designer, is responsible for creating the look and feel of a website. They are tasked with making sure that all the visual elements on a web page follow certain design principles, such as consistency, simplicity, and readability.

One UI design task might be the creation of brand style guidelines to maintain consistency throughout the website.

UI designers typically work closely with the UX designers to ensure that their designs are in line with user needs and expectations.

Man sitting at desk, working on website

What is a web developer?

Web developers are responsible for making sure that websites function properly and perform optimally. They write the code that powers websites, and they work closely with designers to ensure that their designs can be properly implemented on a site.

There are three primary types of web developer:

  • front-end developer
  • back-end developer
  • full-stack developer

Each of these web developers has a different area of expertise.

What is a front-end developer?

A front-end developer is responsible for coding the “front end,” or visible “client” side, of a website, which includes everything you see and interact with on a site. This includes things like buttons, menus, images, and other interactive elements.

One common task for front-end developers is to create HTML markup, a type of code used to create and display web content. Front-end developers must also be familiar with CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, a type of code used to style elements in a web page’s design.

What is a back-end developer?

A back-end developer focuses on the “back end” of a website including all the behind-the-scenes functionality that powers a site. This includes things like data storage, information retrieval and processing, and application logic.

One common task for back-end developers is to write server-side code, which is a type of code used to create websites’ databases and to manage their interactions with users.

Back-end developers often work closely with front-end developers, as the two roles are needed to build and maintain a website. A web developer who can work on the front end and the back end of a website is a full-stack developer.

RELATED: How to Write a Web Developer Job Description

What is a full-stack developer?

A full-stack developer is someone who has expertise in both the front end and the back end of a website. They must be familiar with both the design and functionality of a website, as well as how these elements interact with each other.

One common task for full-stack developers is to create prototypes that represent how a site will function from both a visual and technical standpoint. This allows them to work closely with designers and other web developers on projects.

In many cases, full-stack developers work as part of a development team, where they are responsible for managing different parts of the web development process.

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What’s the difference between web designers and web developers?

Web designers and web developers serve two different roles, and both are essential to the creation and maintenance of websites.

Web designers are responsible for the visual appearance, layout, and user experience of a website. They focus on things like page layouts, typography, color schemes, navigation menus, buttons, and other design elements that give websites their visual appearance.

Web developers, on the other hand, are responsible for the technical aspects of a website. They create and maintain the underlying code that powers websites, working closely with designers to ensure that their designs can be properly implemented on a site. This includes tasks like coding in HTML and CSS, writing server-side scripts, managing databases, and troubleshooting bugs and other issues.

Despite the different roles that web designers and web developers play, it is important to remember that these two groups work closely together to create beautiful, functional websites.

How do web designers and web developers work together?

Web designers and web developers often work closely together to create and maintain websites.

One of the main ways that these two roles collaborate is by sharing feedback on design prototypes. Web designers typically create early versions of site designs in the form of wireframes, which are rough sketches of a site’s layout and content. These designs are then shared with web developers, who may offer their input on things like site navigation and usability.

Web designers and web developers also work together to implement front-end code on websites. This involves tasks such as writing HTML, defining CSS stylesheets, adding JavaScript functionality, and styling visual elements.

In addition to these direct collaborations, many web designers and developers work as part of a larger development team. This typically includes project managers, quality assurance analysts, and other roles that help to ensure the smooth operation of a website.

Whether they are working independently or as part of a team, web designers and web developers must have strong technical skills, attention to detail, and the ability to collaborate effectively with others. Without these key skills, websites simply would not be able to function as they do today.

Should I hire a web designer or a web developer?

There is no definitive answer to this question, as the best choice will depend on your specific needs and preferences.

If you are looking for someone to reimagine your website, then a web designer may be a better fit for you. This person should have strong design skills and experience working with visual elements like color and typography.

If, on the other hand, you are looking for someone with strong technical skills who can help you implement and maintain a website, then a web developer may be a better choice. This person should have experience working with coding languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and SQL.

Often you will need to hire both—especially if you’re building a robust website from scratch. If you partner with an agency to build your website, they will often have both on their team to build things out.

Ultimately, the best way to decide whether to hire a web designer or a web developer is to consider your specific needs and goals for your website. If you are not sure which role would be the best fit, it may be helpful to consult with an IT staffing expert who can help guide you in your decision-making process. Get started today with Insight Global!