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Web Designers vs. Web Developers: Who Does What?

October 17th, 2016 |

Web Designers vs. Web Developers: Who Does What?

Web designers and web developers work together to create appealing, functional websites. Although there are notable areas of overlap at times between these professions, web designers and web developers possess different skill sets and require different experience and education. Here is a closer look at the different things that web designers and web developers do as they collaborate to bring amazing websites to life.

The basic roles of web designers and web developers

Web designers work on the front end of a site. This is the portion of the website that users see and interact with. Web developers work on the back end of a site. This includes the code that provides the functionality of the site. Sometimes the two roles are further distinguished in terms of thought processes; web design is typically associated with “right-brained” or creative thinkers whereas web development is usually associated with more “left-brained” or logical thinkers.

Think of it like this. If a team was collaborating to design and build the newest space shuttle, one team member might focus on the aesthetics of the shuttle, the ergonomics of the seating, the user experience provided by the control panels, and the overall experience an astronaut would get piloting the shuttle. If the shuttle was a website, this team member would be the web designer.

The other team member might be more focused on using pieces of the shuttle like the parts of the engine and the computer system make the whole shuttle work together and fly without errors and breakdowns. This team member would be the web developer.

Web Designers vs. Web Developers: Who Does What?

Web designers in focus

Web designers are website artists and architects. They focus on the way that websites look and feel. They bring expertise in color scheming, visual arts, information flow, graphic design, and user experience to the table. They are also proficient with software like Adobe Illustrator, Dreamweaver, and Photoshop. Most web designers also know at least some common programming languages, such as CSS, HTML, Javascript, and PHP.

Web designers need to be able to work with clients to translate their needs and wants into a workable information architecture (IA) that can eventually be transformed into wireframes and beta designs. The successful design of websites involves mastery of various design principles, including balance, consistency, contrast, emphasis, and unity.

The bottom line: web design involves planning out everything a website should contain and how it should look and feel. It is not really focused on the how and why of making those goals happen.

Web Designers vs. Web Developers: Who Does What?

Web developers in focus

Web developers are the builders that take the plans created by the web designer architects and bring them to life. They do this by breaking down the design into components and developing each section piece by piece using various programming languages. Web developers are typically skilled in programming languages including ASP, CSS, HTML, PHP, Python, Ruby on Rails, and others.

Web developers focus on how to make the design happen, and how to make it work seamlessly, without bugs. While many web developers do share a great aesthetic sense and eye for design, that isn’t their overall focus.


Although there are certainly people who can do both, in general there is a notable difference between what web designers and web developers do. The career paths for those interested in web design and web development are related and share many of the same touch points, but it’s important to understand the more basic differences in thinking styles and overall job focus that each role plays in the process. Knowing the differences also helps you keep your focus while adding marketable skills; more skills can help you whether web design or web development is your goal.


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About the Author:

Social Media Coordinator, Educational Representative and Platt College VFX Alumni. Likes bunnies, video games, cooking and taking frequent trips to Disneyland.

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