The difference between web designers and web developers

Two Roles, One Outcome 

When you’re looking to set up a new website for your small business, you might come across companies referring to themselves as web designers and some as web developers. While those two titles or roles might sound very close and similar, there is actually a significant difference in what they each do. 

As a small business owner looking to establish a strong online presence, understanding the roles of web designers and web developers is essential. These two professionals play distinct but equally important roles in creating a successful website. Let’s delve into what sets them apart in a way that’s easy to grasp.

Web Designers

A web designer’s main focus on a website project is to create visually appealing and user-friendly designs that will connect with the businesses brand and their target audience. The look and feel and color palette that a user first sees when visiting a website all fall under the roles of the web designer.

For website designers, there are three key focuses that they must keep in mind throughout the design process:

  1. Visual Asthetics: The web designer on a project will use design programs such as Adobe XD to create the layout, color palette, typography, and other visual components of the website AND combine all of those in a way that makes the website unique and appealing. 
  2. User Experience (UX): Designers are also responsible for making sure the website is designed to be easy to navigate with clear and easy to use navigation and clear and effective call-to-action graphics.
  3. Branding: Designers will also take the time to learn the brand of a business and incorporate that through logo placement, images, and maintain a consistent visual feel throughout the website.

Web Designers vs Graphic Designers

Oftentimes, web designers and graphic designers can get grouped together. In my career, I have seen many great graphic designers attempt website design thinking that it is all the same. Just because someone is a great graphic designer does not mean that they are going to be able to create amazing website designs. Conversely, just because a design is capable of creating amazing website designs does not mean that they will be an expert at graphic design such as logos and flyers. 

Web Developers

While the web designer is in charge of the looks of the site, the web developer is the programmer behind the scenes who bring the website design to life (digitally speaking). Web developers are experts in coding and technical aspects to ensure that the website functions flawlessly. 

For website developers, their focus and skill tends to be on three areas that make and keep a website running smooth:

  1. Coding Skills: Website developers must be proficient in many programming languages from basics like HTML and CSS to advanced languages like JavaScript and PHP. These languages will be used to build the structure and interactivity of the website.
  2. Functionality: Developers will also handle backend or server-side or admin-side processes such as database management, server-side scripting, and must make sure that all forms, buttons, and interactive features work flawlessly. 
  3. Cross-Device Compatibility: Developers will also test a website to make sure it looks and works well across various devices, browsers, and screen sizes. 

Web Developers vs Software Developers

Similar to web developers are software developers. While programming languages may differ, many of the fundamentals remain the same. While web developers mainly work on websites and check for their working in web browsers, software developers can have a broader scope and work on various types of software applications, including desktop applications, mobile apps, and backend systems.

Collaboration is Key

It is impossible to have a modern, fresh, responsive, effective, powerful, and lasting website that doesn’t beautifully meld the design and development needs together. The two roles are very much two sides of the same coin. The designer and the developer must work together and converse regularly to translate a business’s goals in a visually appealing and successful website. Far too often, web designers and web developers might only meet a time or two on a project and only do a simple handoff when one is done with their job. 

Ideally, the two should be in regular communication with a developer being able to give feedback to a designer on what is or isn’t a realistic option. And designers should be able to easily communicate back to a developer that the site isn’t working quite right or a color is off brand. 

Why You Need Both

Knowing the roles of a web designer and a web developer can help a small business owner make the best choices for their website. If you’re interviewing a company to build your website, and that company only has designers and no developers (or vice versa), that is likely a company to shy away from for website design.

If your website is designed by a skilled and talented web designer and programmed by a knowledgeable and experienced web developer, your website will be able to provide for your business over and over again. With the right pairing of design and development, you will be able to easily move into things like search engine optimization, online sales, marketing, and more. 

Integral to the success of a website

Both web designers and web developers are integral to the success of your website. By appreciating their unique contributions, you can create a website that not only looks great but also functions flawlessly to meet your business objectives.

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