Web Designer and Web Developer – What is the Difference?

It takes just 0.05 seconds for a visitor to form an opinion about your website. If you fail to impress the visitor in this short span of time, there’s a very high chance that they’ll forego your business in favour of another.

Often, brands find it difficult to know why a certain opinion (especially in the case of negative ones) was formed in the first place. Was it the background colour or font size? Maybe it was the page load time or the website glitches.

Even when they identify the problem, companies are unsure who to contact for help. There are, after all, two people responsible for a company’s website – the web designer and the web developer.

Here, we will look at the fundamental differences between the web designer and the web developer and understand what their roles are in an organisation. We’ll also see how companies can find and choose the designer/developer who is right for their needs.

Web designer

FAQ: What is web design?

Websites are like empty shells until you fill them with write-ups, graphics, colours and codes. Website design is the field which pertains to the creation of an aesthetically beautiful website layout and the development of website content.

Here, the focus isn’t on building a website from scratch, but on embellishing an existing website.

FAQ: Who is a web designer?

A web designer is a person who specialises in website design. You can consider a web designer as someone who only designs the outer package of a product, but doesn’t fill the package with anything. Their creation is an empty but beautiful box (of sorts) that still needs to be filled.

The web designer creates a blueprint of how the final website should look and what it should offer visitors in terms of a unique website experience. They choose the aesthetics of the website, like the background colours, font styles & sizes, images, videos, back-links and even creates content (in some cases).

The web designer determines the structure and layout of the website – how pages are placed and connected, to provide a seamless browsing experience.

Types of web designers

Web designers fall into three distinct categories:

  • UI web designers

User interface refers to any element that acts as an interface between the company and the website visitor. The job of the UI web designer is to ensure that each of the website’s tangible elements – font, typography, colours, audio, images, and so on – function correctly, look good and are nice to engage with. These designers also make sure that the buttons, links and forms that are part of the website are located at the right place and are easily accessible to the visitors.

  • Visual web designers

Each brand/company has its own story, and they wish to voice their story through visually appealing and meaningful web design. The task of visual web designers is to create a web design that is in line with the brand’s voice and ethos.

Visual web designers also edit images, videos and infographics. They change the font style and typography, experiment with colour psychology and tweak the templates to make the website more visually appealing. More than this, visual web designers champion the brand’s unique style through the visual elements, design elements and related coding.

  • UX web designers

User experience refers to the overall interaction that the website visitor has with the company’s website. The UX web designer looks at creating a hassle-free and enjoyable website experience throughout. The UX web designer specialises in both UI and visual web design. They also take care of website navigation, search and other related aspects. The objective of UX design is to create a favourable impression (of the website) in the minds of the visitors.

FAQ: When do you need a web designer?

Here are some instances when you need to hire a web designer:

  • You have an existing website whose aesthetics you wish to improve.
  • You want to update the content and tweak the features of your website.
  • You need a complete website redesign. 

Benefits of hiring a professional web designer

Sure, there are many web hosting platforms that provide their own website templates, which you can either use for free or purchase. But there are some inherent benefits of hiring a web designer to custom-design a web template for you. These benefits are:

  • A web designer will create a website that is unique from your competitors.
  • You can get a completely personalised website designed for your brand.
  • Many web design templates don’t offer state-of-the-art features, integration and plugins, but a web designer can include these in your design.
  • Web designers specialise in both responsive and adaptive web designing, which can help you scale your website across devices.
  • Web designers can SEO-optimise your website, making it highly searchable. In fact, many web designers also assist with website branding.
  • The cost of website design & redesign is much lesser when you get everything done through a single web designer.

Web developer

FAQ: What is web development?

Websites need to be developed or created from scratch. The process of developing websites is called web development. This includes everything from creating the site layout to doing back-end coding to client and server-side scripting to taking care of the website networking requirements and even hosting the website online.

FAQ: Who is a web developer?

A web developer is a professional who is skilled and qualified in website development. Their job entails building a functioning website from the ground up, running the website and conducting regular maintenance checks as required.

Remember how we said the web designer only creates the package and not the products in the package? Well, a web developer’s job is to fill the beautifully designed package with top-quality and responsive products – in this case, website features, integration and other technical elements.

The web developer builds the entire architecture of the website. They write the codes, mark-ups and programs for the website. They also take care of web security encryption. Web server operation and maintenance is another area that web developers take care of. 

Web developers use a variety of programming languages like Python, HTML, SQL, and so on to build websites.

Types of web developers

There are three categories of web developers that brands can choose from:

  • Front-end web developers

The job of front-end web developers is very similar to that of web designers – they develop the elements that visitors see and interact with.

But unlike web designers who focus on design elements, front-end developers build and embed technical elements like website navigation, contact buttons, customer/lead forms, back-links, images and videos, and so on. They use various codes like JavaScript, CSS and HTML to convert these elements into a machine-understandable format.

Important features like inter-linking (and fixing of broken links & 404 errors), web application interface, web integration development, removal of glitches, and so on are jobs that front-end developers do.

These developers also develop device-compatible websites by tweaking the desktop version that they build first.

  • Back-end web developers

Back-end web developers build the foundations and frameworks of the website in the back-end. They write the codes and programs, which bring the website to life. These developers use languages like PHP, Rails and Ruby to build the databases; they manage the servers and networks, create the site architecture, build and integrate the plugins and other integration, do the bug fixes, and so on. Page load speed (which leads to a loss of $500 billion in sales when it’s too slow) is a key area where back-end developers assist. Website back-end security issues, regular security updates and other maintenance work is also done by back-end developers.

This facet of web development is never seen by website visitors. But, it helps the visitors have a seamless website usage experience. Back-end developers also work with software engineers for API development & testing. They are also in charge of conducting QA for the websites developed.

  • Full-stack web developers

Full-stack web developers are those people who have extensive knowledge of end-to-end website development. Essentially, they are experts in both front-end and back-end development.

These developers are the best choice if companies have no website to their name, and they wish to have their website built from scratch. They are responsible for creating responsive and cross-platform compatible websites that meet both client and server-side requirements.

FAQ: When do you need a web developer?

The instances when you need to hire website developers are:

  • You don’t have a website and need one built.
  • You have a partially developed website, and you wish to add features.
  • You want to set-up an e-commerce store.
  • You require data management or content management services.
  • You want to scale your existing website to the needs of your growing business.
  • You require technical customisations for your website, which only a professional web developer can help with.

Benefits of hiring a professional web developer

So, what are the advantages of working with a web developer?

  • Your company will have access to best-in-class web development technology.
  • You can get a 100% customised website developed.
  • You will have hundreds of templates, integration and features to choose from.
  • Some web developers also offer web design services.
  • Web developers offer pocket-friendly cross-platform website development packages.
  • There will be greater reliability and higher quality in your website build.
  • You will have more time to focus on your core activities, leaving web development to the experts.
  • You can benefit from website hosting and cloud services as well.

Similarities between web designers and web developers

As we’ve seen, the primary difference between web designers and web developers lies in their responsibilities. While the former focuses on the creation of the website’s design aspects, the latter focuses on the development of the non-design aspects.

However, there are a few minute similarities between the two roles. For one, they both write codes, and they both know programming languages. This is because both jobs – designing and development – can be done only through coding and programming.

Second, both roles focus on UX. While the web designer focuses on the cosmetic UX and designs a website that can assist with the creation of back-end functionality, web developers build the technical features that power the website’s aesthetic elements.

You can say that both roles are interconnected and dependent on each other. So, this brings us to the next question.

FAQ: When to hire the services of both designers and developers?

You will require the services of both a web designer and a web developer when:

  • You don’t know how to design and develop your website – you need external help.
  • You want your website’s cosmetic design and functionality elements to be aligned with each other.
  • You wish to retain the style and ethos of your company branding in both functionality and aesthetics.
  • You want to initiate a website marketing campaign, and you need both the design and developmental features to support you.
  • You wish to redesign large sections of your website.

Tips for selecting a web design/developer who is right for you

Once you identify which professional/s you wish to hire, it’s important to follow certain best practices to ensure that you select someone who is right for your business needs.

  • Take a look at your budget

First and foremost, your budget sets the tone for the type and calibre of web designer and developer you will be able to hire. So, check your budget and filter through service providers whose packages meet your monetary circumstances.

  • Check to see their credentials

Irrespective of whether the designer/developer is a freelancer or part of a company, they will need to have certain academic qualifications and experience to be considered professional web designers and web developers. Visit their websites, speak to your peers and read up on all the reviews that they have received to understand their credentials. Then take a call.

  • Browse through their portfolio

All professional designers/developers showcase their past portfolio on their websites. These portfolios give you a clue about the type of work the individual has done and the response this work has generated from past clients. You can use these portfolios/project details to check if the designer/developer’s skills and expertise are compatible with your requirements or not.

  • Consider the services they offer

Some web developers only provide front-end or back-end services. Others offer full-stack web development. Similarly, some web designers also offer end-to-end website marketing support and content creation service, while others don’t. You need to check whether the companies/people you’re considering working with offer the services you need or not.

But to do this, you need to first consider your own website requirements. What do you want your website to look like and function like – should it be a one-page brochure with limited functionality or do you want a highly responsive and intuitive website that adapts according to visitor usage patterns (?). Answering these questions will help you narrow down the services which are essential for you.

  • Evaluate their ability to support the scope of your project

Finally, you need to check whether the web designer and web developer you plan to hire have the experience to handle a project of this size or not. Will they be able to support the needs of your growing business? Can they customise their services according to your exacting specifications?

All of these considerations matter when you’re making a choice.

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