Web Designers vs Web Developers

Author By Adam Wells

Last updated: 12/16/2021

Web Design vs Web Development

The Difference Between Website Designers & Website Developers

We often see that the terms Web Designer and Web Developer are being used interchangeably. Even when you go to a lot of local directories for business listings and search for “web development,” web design will be the only option to show.

What if I told you that our website developer does not do web design?

These two roles are very different and require different skillsets (and I am going to jump out on a limb and say that most of the time someone is either going to be good at one or the other).

What Does A Web Designer Do?

A web designer provides designs for what a website should look like. But it would not be efficient for a web designer to create his/her designs through web development.

Having to code every design into a website just to get your ideas out there for the client to approve them or disapprove them would be a huge waste of time.

The designer’s job is to “design,” and then hand that design off to the developer for the developer to incorporate the design into the website and handle all of the code-related things that come with that part of the process (aka the development process).

A web designer needs to have specific skillsets to work best with a client and developer, which include the following:

  • Skilled with a design software such as: Figma, Invision, Adobe XD etc.
  • Must understand how the design impacts the developer’s job & development time (which there is a lot to that bullet point by itself)
  • Must understand what technical specs / information a developer needs to be able to get from the design in order to ensure accuracy & efficiency in the development process (these are things such as spacing between every single object on the page, font heights, widths, types, etc.)
  • Should be able to create designs with consistency across the website
  • SHOULD be designing mobile mock ups first, then should be expanding that mockup to a tablet & desktop version while remaining as consistent as possible with assets being used to make the Developer’s job more efficient (and to reduce code needed for proper scaling of the website design from mobile, to tablet, to desktop)
  • Understand user experience and how design and site architecture impact the user experience
  • Understand how to utilize conversion rate optimization best practices within the design
  • Must be able to work well with website owners and marketers to incorporate their ideas into the design
  • Must be willing to learn how his/her job impacts the Developer’s job. The designer needs to care about how clean vs unclean the code on the website will be based on his/her design when the Developer goes to incorporate the designs

What Does A Website Developer Do?

As mentioned earlier, a website developer takes designs from a website designer and “codes / develops” them into the website. But this is not the only thing a website developer does, and seeing the design on your actual website should only be a fraction of the value you are getting from hiring a website developer.

Let’s go over some things that a website developer can give your business.

Blocks / Sections In The Backend Of Your Website / Your Admin Panel

True Developers develop the blocks that are used to build websites.

These blocks can be found in the backend of your website platform / content management system.

So if you’re using WordPress and you’ve ever created a page inside of the WordPress Admin Panel, a developer is responsible for the things you see and the things you are able to use in your WordPress Admin Panel.

WordPress does come with certain things out-of-the-box, but a developer is responsible for extending upon what is already there and for giving you additional functionality, efficiency, improving performance and SEO etc.

Page Speed & Search Engine Optimization

Developers are closely tied to page speed and search engine optimization.

A good developer will be in control of choosing how your website loads code from the order in which the code is loaded to the optimization of the code itself.

A developer can ensure you are not being penalized by Google for having unused CSS and JavaScript on your pages as well as the developer can ensure your code is minified along with a handful of other things.

If you’re interested in knowing more about how a developer can influence website speed, check out our blog post on “Improving Website Speed The Right Way.”

Data Handling & Data Relationships

This relates to data associated with customers, products, services, categories amongst other things.

Developers can also be very handy in setting up APIs, handling data in form submissions and helping make data more accessible to be sent to other platforms such as Google Analytics.

Create Unique User Experiences

Developers control how users are able to interact with your website on a page by page basis.

This includes things such as buttons lighting up or changing colors when someone’s mouse cursor scrolls over them (this is called hover effects), or objects and text moving on and off the page when a user is scrolling via scrolling effects & animations.

Adding Many Other Desired Functionalities

It is very hard to summarize what all a developer can do. It really depends on how much a developer knows. I could not imagine running our business without a developer. I often find myself needing help from my brother Jon and because the two of us have such a wide range of capabilities, we typically never run into situations where we cannot solve complex problems when we work together.

I kid you not when I say that not having a good developer to work with would be crippling for me and for our clients.

I am truly fortunate that my business partner is not only my brother, but he is honestly an exceptional developer. Jon has educated me so much on things that I did not know, or that I did not fully understand when it comes to how development and websites work.

Common Misconceptions

  1. A web designer and web developer are the same thing
    • A web designer designs using design software, a developer develops and incorporates functionality into the website to support the design and needed / desired functionalities
  2. A person that knows code (HTML, CSS and/or JavaScript) is a developer
    • While a person that knows code can be a developer, this does not mean that he/she is doing real development. Many “developers” are hardcoding inside of theme files which leads to many many issues, and it keeps your website from being able to be managed without paying a web developer to make updates.
    • A real developer will be developing blocks so that someone like me (who doesn’t know much code) can go into website admins like WordPress and Shopify and use the theme to customize the website while maintaining a professional look and without sacrificing performance.
  3. A person that sets up your website is a developer
    • This goes back to the last point. Just because someone sets up your website does not mean he/she is a developer. They may just be using what already exists in a pre-built theme or he/she may be using a page builder plugin / app like Divi or Elementor (which typically have very negative impacts on site speed).

Key Takeaway

Understanding the specific skillsets a talented web designer can bring to the table vs what skillsets a talented web developer can offer is crucial for website owners to make good investment decisions on who to hire and work with. Keep in mind that these are two entirely different roles and that it is rare to find one person that is truly expert-level at both of them. Keeping up with these fields while they are rapidly changing typically requires specializing in one or the other.

Are You Ready To Go All In?

If you are looking for help with Google Ads, Google Merchant Center, Data Tracking, or you’re looking for development of a Powerful Custom Website Theme, we really believe we are among some of the best companies out there to deliver your business the best results.

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