Web Designers vs Web Developers
From conceptualization and mockups, to functionality and UX optimizations, these professionals play a pivotal role throughout the website creation process.
We know how valuable they are, but why is it so hard to differentiate them? What does a web designer do compared to a web developer, and vice versa?
This is a question that befuddles a lot of business owners when they go to build a website. If you don’t understand the role of a designer or developer then you won’t know what to look for when hiring them.
By learning the differences between web design vs web development, you’ll be able to recognize the utility in designers versus developers and recognize how their separate but equal roles can enhance your brand’s digital footprint.
What is Web Design?
Web design pertains to the layout and graphic aesthetics of your webpages. Within this discipline you’ll find a skillset that includes user experience design (known as UX), user interface (UI) design, and visual/graphic design.
Web designers are the ones responsible for giving your site the right look and feel. They are typically creative types, many of whom have a background in digital art and graphic design.
User Experience (UX) Design
You want your website visitors to love your pages and blog posts. To do this, you must provide a compelling web browsing experience that is user friendly across devices.
You can easily check if your site has any mobile-friendliness issues. If so, it’s time to rethink your UX pronto.
User Interface (UI) Design
User experience is taken a step further with user interface (UI) design. This discipline anticipates the steps a user will take as they navigate through a website.
It ensures that all visual elements are easy to access and positioned properly, while helping to guide users seamlessly from page-to-page through the sales funnel. Here we have a confluence of creativity and basic programming skill sets.
Graphic design encompasses everything visual, from logos to infographics. It’s this visual content that helps form the identity of your website and face of your brand.
As creative as it sounds, there’s a programmatic logic behind a graphic designer’s work. Their goal is to tie images, text, and other elements with the needs of the site’s end users in order to contribute to a better overall UX.
Graphic Design vs Web Design
The main difference between graphic design and web design is interactivity. Graphics are static images, illustrations, or logos that don’t require any clicks or interactions from the user.
Web design is the process of putting these graphics into motion, so to speak. A web designer will grab the static visual elements from a graphic designer and implement them into the website, creating motion graphics, button click effects, or videos on the webpage.
Oftentimes, your graphic designer and web designer are the same person. Both are heavily visual skill sets that require an understanding of user behavior.
What is Web Development?
If your website is a fine-tuned sports car, web developers are the mechanics who make it run fast and efficiently.
The web development process is intricate and ongoing. A new website begins by creating mock-ups of the prospective design, then it eventually moves into the coding and programming phase.
Even after the staging site goes live, there are many considerations to be made for maximizing performance. It’s critical for business owners to keep a developer close by when tweaks and alterations need to be made.
Types of Developers
Web developers are proficient in several programming languages and will often need to make specific considerations depending on the client’s needs.
Back-end developers are the ones who tell the server what content is meant to go on the website.
They typically create web services and APIs which are used by front-end developers, as well as being tasked with managing databases and other critical components to keep a website functioning efficiently.
Back to our car analogy. If back-end developers are fixing a transmission, front-end developers are the ones giving us a fresh coat of paint and repairing any body damage.
They are proficient at converting data into a visual form, which means there’s an element of graphic design skill needed for this profession.
Full-stack developers can change a transmission while giving the car a fresh coat of paint. They have the skill set to create entire web applications.
Their abilities include designing for user interactions and behaviors on a site, while developing the database infrastructure to enable functionality.
How are Web Design & Development Different?
Though web design and development have a fair amount of crossover, there are also some key differences to recognize.
Navigation and UX
Web design is more about aesthetics than web development. Designers are concerned with how users navigate a website, whether they take certain actions (i.e. clicking on a banner or button), and how often they convert or make a purchasing decision.
Process and Application
Development is more concerned with the nuts and bolts of website creation and maintenance, plus keeping a site’s database organized and preventing any downtime.
How are Web Design & Development Similar?
Although there are many distinct tasks performed by web designers and developers, there are many instances where the two professions intertwine.
Focus on the End User
Ultimately, these disciplines aim to please the end user. Without a positive user experience, the website will have a higher bounce rate and its rankings will ultimately suffer.
Every development and design decision needs to put the end user top of mind. There can be some choices made based on SEO best practices, but the user experience needs to come first.
Programming and Coding Skills
Web designers are synonymous with graphic designers and other “creatives.” However, it turns out that web design involves at least a basic understanding of how to create and implement code.
Developers will produce code more days than not, but designers still need the baseline knowledge to program when necessary.
Web Design vs. Web Development: Which Projects Require Which Skill?
If we break things down into individual tasks, it becomes obvious when you’ll need a designer versus a developer.
Image & Video Editing
Web designers are your go-to source for most visual elements including image and video editing. Most designers are also able to post this content onto your website with proper formatting, text, and other appropriate elements.
New Page Layouts
Drafting a new webpage or wireframe is normally done by a web designer. They will produce the necessary mockups to be handed over to a developer at a later stage.
Logo & Branding Adjustments
Whether you need a new logo or want to pivot your branding strategy, web designers can help you on a variety of fronts. They can enhance your visual across your website as well as on your social media channels to ensure that the right messaging is being articulated to the masses.
Website Performance Optimizations
Mobile usability, webpage speed, plugin usage, and other vital performance metrics are measured by web developers. They are able to make necessary changes to the front-end or back-end that will make a website run faster, appease Google’s search engine, and give users a better experience.
Progressive Web Apps
Server & Hosting Issues
This kind of back-end stuff is handled by a web developer. They are charged with making sure your servers stay live, your hosting is efficient, and your website is secure (HTTPS).
This includes working within your site’s file manager, and facilitating file transfers as needed.
New Website Form
Looking to create a contact form? Hire a web developer. Their programming skills will help you create a form that collects information from your website visitors, including the usage of proper security measures like CAPTCHA.
The advantage of using a developer over a plugin is so the form will be lightweight and not slow down your website.
Benefits of Hiring a Web Design and Development Agency
By now it should be clear that hiring a skilled web designer and developer is critical to improving your website and digital presence. The next question is, how do I go about finding them?
While there may be some attractive qualities to hiring a freelance designer or developer, this approach is very hit and miss. There are some definite downsides that can hinder your website from the start.
Instead, here’s why your brand will benefit from hiring a full-service web design or web development agency.
Few freelancers can give you the same level of customer service that you’ll receive from an experienced digital agency. Talented freelancers work with many clients, which means there’s a good chance it could take them hours or days to return your emails or phone calls.
Every second that your website is down, you’re losing money. An agency will get to your inquiries right away and address problems swiftly.
Experts in Many Fields
Most agencies have multiple types of designers and developers who can address a wide-range of website needs.
If you need an image edited they can assign one of their own graphic designers to it. If your site uses a specific type of code, like Python, they can assign their developer who is an expert with that language.
It’s all about SOPs. A successful agency will have standard operating procedures in place to ensure that you get your deliverables completed on-time and in the highest quality.
Are you ready to bolster your web design and development today?