What are the differences between a web designer and a web developer? And which one should you use?
It’s easy to get web designers and developers mixed up. They both help build websites, but they’re involved in very different areas.
If you need some quick help finding out which web design service is best for you, take one minute to use our web design comparison tool. It’ll ask you four to five easy questions, and use your answers to match you with web design offers which make the most sense.
Or you can read on for more information, starting with the short answer…
Web Designer vs Web Developer: Quick Overview
Developers build a website’s core structure using coding languages, while designers are more visually creative and user-focused. Developers use their programming knowledge to breathe life into the designer’s creative vision. Think of developers as construction workers, and web designers as architects – both necessary, but different, skill sets.
We’ll dive into the details later where we’ll explain the varieties of web designers and web developers you can have, so you’ll have all the information you need to pick the right option for your site.
Find Out More
Already like the sound of that? Read our guide on How to Hire a Web Designer.
A web designer makes your website look good. They focus on the style and overall feel of the page, using software like Photoshop to customize the website’s visual elements. They also use code like HTML and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to create their designs.
But wait – there’s more. Web designers usually have a specialism, which we’ll jump into right now.
User Experience (UX) Designer
A UX web designer’s job is to keep your visitors hooked. They know exactly how to craft a website that your specific audience will enjoy because they’ve carried out thorough research into the users’ demographics and website-needs, not to mention tons of prototype testing and site restructuring.
Just think, if people enjoy using your website, they’re more likely to revisit or recommend. So, you can already see how it can help grow your online community. For some inspiration, check out these excellent UX examples.
User Interface (UI) Designer
A UI web designer helps to improve the way users interact with elements, or the interface, on your website. This is done by translating complex brand ideas and values into a website that’s enjoyable and easy to navigate.
How does it differ to UX? It’s a subtle one, really. UX involves research into building a solid foundation for a positive user experience, while UI focuses on the aesthetics (the look and feel) of the actual website.
A visual designer is a mixture of both UX and UI. It’s their job to not only improve the user journey using their creative and coding skills, but to solve design issues. They also help to conceptualise a brand’s unique style or tone of voice.
In essence, they’re a master of all web design trades and their specific roles can vary hugely depending on what you want.
The Web Design Process
While all web designers will have their own way of doing things, in general web design projects tend to follow a similar process
- Identifying the goals and purpose of the website.
- Determining the scope and timeline of the project.
- Research including audience and competitor analysis.
- Sitemap and wireframe creation.
- Content and visual element creation.
- Testing and tweaks.
- Website launch.
Skills and Software
Web designers have a strong understanding of how visual elements work together and are up to date with the latest web design trends. Most web designers also need to be proficient in using software such as Adobe Dreamweaver and InVision Studio as well as working with relevant website builders such as WordPress.
Part of a web developer’s role is to build the a web designer’s concept. Like we said earlier, web developers are similar to those who build, and web designers like the visionaries. A developer usually specializes in designing website apps – a web designer focuses more on what the user will enjoy doing.
The back-end is where the website’s core structure is designed. These developers are experts in programming and using complex software languages like Java, SQL and C#. The work they do is not seen by users because it involves coding on the web servers and databases, not on the browser (unlike front-end developers, which you’ll soon find out).
In short, their job is to create logical, functional websites using various programmes. They also spend a lot of time testing and fixing bugs.
In summary, like a back-end developer, those developing the front-end have coding skills but they build frameworks the user can actually interact with.
A full-stack developer works across different layers – or stacks – including both the front and back end. It is essentially the full package when it comes to web development, because they are an expert in all areas.
Skills and Software
Like web designers, web developers also need to be proficient at using relevant Content Management Systems (CMS) such as WordPress. The CMS that a developer uses will depend on the website requirements and their own skillset.
A good web developer is also often a great analytical thinker and problem solver, allowing them to find the perfect solutions for any web development project.
Web Development Best Practices
- Write smart codes. The longer your lines of code are, the more room there is for error. Web developers should ensure each piece of code resolves a problem or achieves a specific goal.
- Run compatibility testing. Running cross-device and cross-browser tests helps web developers to find and fix flaws before launch.
There are key differences between web designers and web developers such as:
- Web designers focus on appearance and usability, while web developers focus on structure and functionality.
- Web designers create the idea for the website while web developers will determine if that idea is both functionally and financially viable.
- A web developer role is considerably more technical than a web designer role. While both require a good level of technical knowledge, design skills are much more important for web designers.
While the two roles are fundamentally different, there is some overlap. Both web designers and web developers play a crucial role in building a website from scratch and the two will often work together.
For example, a web designer will often take advice from web developers over what design features will and won’t be possible for the project, while web developers will help designers turn their ideas into a fully-functioning reality.
You now know the differences between a designer and developer. This is important stuff to know because knowing when to hire each one will make your website-related life much easier. For a quick overview on when to choose each one, take a look at our table below.
|Project||Who do you need?|
|Design a new homepage layout||Web Designer|
|Build a new contact form||Web Developer|
|Create a mobile app||Web Developer|
|Conceptualise new website branding||Web Designer|
|Fix server/hosting issues||Web Developer|
|Edit photos and videos||Web Designer|
How Much Does a Web Designer Vs Web Developer Cost?
A freelance web designer usually costs between $10-$50 p/h, while hiring a freelance developer normally costs $30-$65 p/h. A medium sized web design agency (which provides both sides of website construction) will cost between $65-$100 p/h for a basic website.
In a lump sum, you’re probably looking at around $6,000 in total for designing a site if you use both developers and designers.
Find Out More
Want to find a freelancer? Read our helpful guide on Where To Find The Best Web Designers and Developers.
Or, if you just want some more detail on pricing, learn more about How Much it Cost to Build a Website.
Alternatively, you can learn more about Shopify-specific developers – such as where to find them, how to find them, and how much they cost – with our guide to Where to Find the Best Shopify Developers.
As we’ve mentioned, it doesn’t always have to be one or the other. For instance, building a website from scratch requires both a developer and a designer. After all, teamwork makes the website dream work.
Using a web design agency can be really helpful if, like most people, you don’t have time for creating website pages while juggling invoices and client emails. Or, if you need a website with advanced functionality, an agency full of experts is a great solution.
Find Out More
Fancy trying it yourself? Read more about which website builder is right for you:
You should now have a more developed knowledge of web design, but let’s just quickly recap what we’ve learned.
The difference between a web developer and a web designer is bigger than you think. A web designer brings a brand’s idea into an on-screen reality, and knows exactly what the specific audience will enjoy. A web developer builds the site’s core structure, using coding languages to construct logical, programmatic websites.
However, just like mustard and ketchup on a hot dog, sometimes you need both to get the best experience. When building a website from nothing, you need a web developer to build the foundation, and web designers to make it look and feel the way you and – more importantly – your users want.
To ensure you make the right choice when it comes to web design services, use our one-minute, 100% free web design comparison tool. Answering four to five quick and easy questions and you’ll be matched with services and quotes that make sense for what you need in a matter of minutes.