A Beginner’s Guide To Web Design And Web Development

A Beginner’s Guide To Web Design And Web Development

So you’re looking for the right person to help establish your company’s web presence, and you keep coming across the terms ‘web designer’ and ‘web developer.’

You might have even seen a few opinions posted online about one or the other. Contrary to what some of these infographics and blog posts may convey, there is no disdain or negative competition between the two camps. In fact, web designers and web developers work together to build powerful and visually stunning websites, and their skill sets often overlap.

However, you still need to know what the differences and similarities they have. If you’re new to the world of web building, you may not know if you need a designer, a developer, or both.

So for those of you wondering whom you need to hire, let’s take a look at what separates the two job titles.

The Web Designer

So what does a web designer do? The short answer is that s/he is the person who is responsible for how a website looks, which includes things like:

  • Color palate
  • Typography
  • Layout
  • User interface
  • Logos
  • Architecture

This job relies heavily on artistic and graphic design skills to make the website look good, but designers also play a big role in making the site easy for people to use, both on a desktop or mobile device.

The web designer uses tools like Adobe’s Dreamweaver for web design, Illustrator for creating graphics, Photoshop for image manipulation, and even Acrobat or InDesign. Think of them as the left-brained creative force behind your web project.

Overlapping Skills

Most web designers are extremely skilled in using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to build websites. It is actually rare to work with a professional web designer who doesn’t know HTML and CSS at a very high level. Some even have a solid understanding of other web programming languages such as PHP, Python, or Ruby. This is especially true if they work on interactive websites.

Programming Skills

The Web Developer

On the other hand, a web developer takes the static design of a website and adds functionality to it. If you think of web designers as the interior decorators of your website, then the developers are the builders. They put all of the pieces together to make things work. For example, they would be the ones who do things like:

  • Build a functional shopping cart for an e-commerce site
  • Create a tool that calculates shipping costs
  • Give a website the ability to collect information from visitors
  • Build a photo gallery on your website
  • Creating the architectural structure of your website

The web developer also has two other important responsibilities when it comes to your website. They are often the ones who test to ensure that everything continues functioning correctly, and they are usually responsible for the security of the website.Web developers are sometimes broken into two subsets: front-end and back-end. The front-end developer works on the user/browser side of the website, while the back-end developer focuses on the server side of things.

Web developers are typically more right-brained and analytical than web designers. As programmers, they use languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Perl, C, C++, Python, PHP, Ruby, SQL, and ASP.Net to get the job done.

Overlapping Skills

Many web developers, especially a front-end one, may have some knowledge about layouts, color schemes, and graphics. While some of them may not have the artistic ability that a web designer possesses, they are usually more than capable of building a clean, well-organized website themselves.

Which Do You Need?

It is not uncommon for someone unfamiliar with this distinction to think that they need to choose one over the other, but this simply isn’t the case. In fact, your website would probably benefit from having a firm that employs both designers and developers to work on your project. If you are thinking, or you are being sold, that one discipline can easily exist without the other, then consider this. Ninety-four percent of first impressions are design-related. If your design doesn’t immediately capture the visitor’s attention and convince them to stay on your site, then your website needs more work. Conversely, if your site doesn’t function properly – if it takes too long to load, some tools/forms don’t work, or if it isn’t secure – your reputation is going to take a hit, and visitors aren’t going to come back.

Another concept that may seem to be a solution is to hire someone who excels at both design and development. As most professionals will tell you, it takes a unique skill set and quite a bit of time to become a really great designer or developer. Finding someone who can do both at an equally high level is extremely rare. That is why most firms are staffed with both designers and developers. This way, they can put the right skill sets to work on the parts of a project that best meet their abilities, without risking a drop in quality in either department.

As a beginner, you have the distinct advantage of not having any preconceived ideas of which is more important. There is nothing swaying you towards one discipline over the other. You have the opportunity to do what is right for your website and to work with a team that dedicates equal time and resources to both; only then can you build a website that both draws visitors in and keeps them coming back.

Post By Ayrald Hubert (1 Posts)

Ayrald Hubert is a Senior Analyst at Clutch responsible for research and analysis of web design and social media marketing agencies. Ayrald is originally from France and regularly returns to his native country during the year. In his free time, he enjoys studying up on marine life and playing soccer with his friends. Ayrald's academic background includes a Bachelor's Degree from Georgetown University.

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  • avatar

    Excellent explanation. Its very informative for me. Thanks

  • avatar

    I find this one very much helpful for the web developers as well. Thanks for sharing.

  • avatar

    Arguably one of the best article i have read for a while. Great job

  • avatar

    This article is very helpful for beginners. I hope many people will be benefitted from this article. Thank you

  • avatar


  • avatar

    I really enjoy reading and also appreciate your work. Pls keep sharing such information.

  • avatar

    You explained the difference between a web designer & web developer really well. Web developers mostly there to put the website alive with their coding skills.

  • avatar

    The quality of your blogs and articles and worth appreciating.

  • avatar

    You have explained everything very well Ayrald.

  • avatar

    This is a very vital argument.

  • avatar

    there is no disdain or negative competition between the two camps. In fact, web designers and web developers work together to build powerful and visually stunning websites, and their skill sets often overlap.

  • avatar

    wow great web design post!

  • avatar

    I’m myself a beginner but this blog taught me many new things. Easy to understand and to apply it!

  • avatar

    I’m having a problem on what should I focus on, being a designer or developer. At first, I thought that being a developer is when constructing the HTML and CSS of the designer’s design. That’s why I thought it’s easy! But I learned that being a developer is to make the site functional. Thanks for the information by the way. Now, I enjoy designing but couldn’t get anything done. I don’t have the artistic sense this article speak of. This article helps me fill my brain with the information I need.

  • avatar

    I’m a web developer and I can say that mastering the technique and frameworks can take years and years to build up, it’s not something that you can learn over night. The truth is that you never stop learning/growing as a web developer, there are always new things to learn and technologies pop up everyday. It’s a tough job but it’s really rewarding.

  • avatar

    Thank you for the post! I’ve been thinking about making a web-app, but was hesitant because I didn’t really understand the difference between web designer and web developer. I can code a bit of Python, so I think I can function as a developer but my design skills aren’t really up to scratch so I might need to hire someone for that.

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