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Web Designer vs. Web Developer: The Difference Explained

Preparing to launch your first business website or blog?

If you are, should you hire a web designer or a developer? What’s the difference between a web designer vs web developer in the first place?

They both help build a website but their roles focus on different aspects. One focuses on visuals and the user experience while the other prioritizes a website’s function. Which site builder job does which task?

Read our guide below to learn more about their differences — and similarities — so you can hire the right team for your needs:

What is a Web Designer?

To understand a web designer vs web developer, let’s begin by dissecting their roles and tools.

Web designing focuses on the visuals. Designers, like the folks at Earth Web Technologies, work on the aspects of a website that people can see and interact with. Their work affects visual impact and navigation.

In many ways, you can consider a web designer more like an architect. They design how websites look and how people walk through them. If people leave a website without performing a positive action, like purchasing or registering to the mail list, there’s likely something wrong with the design.

Some of the main tasks of a web designer include the following:

UX Design

UX stands for User Experience. Web designers have to make sure that a website is a breeze to navigate and explore.

For example, if you have trouble scrolling back to the top of a page after reading a long blog post then there’s something wrong with the UX. It means the designer didn’t think about it and didn’t include a “back to top” option.

They’re also responsible for making sure you don’t have to look far for the menu options. They make sure you can easily search a website for specific content or information. It’s also their job to make sure the web design doesn’t slow your browsing experience by compressing images and reducing things that slow down a site, such as Flash animation or background elements.

UI Design

The next time you visit a website you love, take a moment to consider the reasons why it got your attention. Is it the color scheme or the neat layout? Did you like the website because everything is clear and easy to read?

That all ties into a good User Interface. Everything should be easy to read, easy to find, and pleasing to the eye. In many ways, a good UI helps improve the overall user experience (UX).

Designers have to make sure people can identify which buttons they can click, which are links, and which elements are part of the menu.

Branding Presentation

Not everything is easy to spot at first glance. Some design philosophies work behind the scenes.

For example, a business focusing on themes of joy and warmth might need to implement splashes of yellow and orange into their website. This follows basic color psychology tenets, wherein certain colors can evoke specific emotional responses.

Designers also have to choose the right font and typeface. People might assume a company is too formal or a bit casual based on the text they read. After all, you wouldn’t mistake the font of something casual like 7-Eleven with the monotone business attitude of the Wall Street Journal.

This all ties back to a company’s brand. The moment someone visits a website, the visuals can tell them what to expect from the brand.

It’s a web designer’s job to make sure the visuals set the right tone and tell the right story. Without their expertise, a website might completely misrepresent a business.

Media Management

Ever visited a website that loads too slowly? The problem might come from too many pictures on the page or there might be audio automatically playing in the background. It’s a web designer’s responsibility to fix these issues.

Designers use tools to compress images, reducing their size while maintaining their quality. They can also cut out elements that feel outdated, such as Flash animation or splash pages loaded with music or introductory videos. Without designers, images on a web page might not scale properly or load quickly.

Tools of a Web Designer

What tools does a web designer utilize?

Since they prioritize on a website’s visuals and layout, their primary tools include Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. They can craft a website’s menu and visuals entirely on these platforms. They can then implement these designs to work as a website with a bit of coding, using HTML or CSS, for example.

However, they also need tools to optimize a website’s presentation too. WP Smush is an important tool since it compresses images. Designers can also take advantage of tools like Google Analytics or Optimizely to test a landing page’s design.

What is a Web Developer

If a web designer works on the visuals, what does a web developer do? Developers build the site from the ground up. If designers are architects, developers are construction workers.

Instead of hammers, developers use programming languages. They take the design from the web designer and then make it work, otherwise, the design will stay as a static Photoshop project. The buttons won’t work and the pages won’t link to each other.

Let’s take a look into the typical roles of a developer:

Back-End Coding

This is the most important job of a developer. As mentioned, they have to make a website function. This means coding how pages load, how links lead to new pages, and how all the elements function together.

When someone visits a page, the code has to figure out which elements to show and how to arrange them. The code has to determine which elements people can click, which ones are static, and which ones perform certain actions.

It’s their job to program how media players function and what the mouse does when hovering over text, images, and links. Without developers, a website is nothing but a still image that you can’t interact with.

All of this works in the background. You can get the gist of the code of the pages you visit by right-clicking and then selecting “view page source.”

Database Management

Ever wondered where your information goes when you fill up a registration form? Ever asked how a website pulls your information back when you log back in? Did you ever question how a site knows which product details to showcase when you click on an item listed on their shop?

The website communicates with a large database. The database contains all the information. Developers have to program how a website links to that database, how it retrieves data, and then how it presents the collected data to the user.

Mobile Development

Did you know a majority of people accessing the Internet do so on a mobile device? This means developers need to make sure websites look great not only desktop computers and laptops but also on tablets and phones. When clients ask for a responsive website, it’s the developer’s job to make it so.

This is a case when a developer and a designer need to work together. Developers do the coding and the designer has to make sure the mobile layout and presentation are still clear and readable.

Hosting Management

Where does a website “live” if you don’t keep it operating in your server? It’s more likely you’ll have to use a hosting service and use their servers instead. Web developers also have to make sure that there’s nothing wrong with the hosting service, otherwise, a website might not load properly.

Developers have to plan in case the hosting service shuts down for maintenance. They have to know how to get a site back working in case there are communication errors between the server and the site.

Tools of a Web Developer

What tools do developers need? They rely heavily on their skills and capabilities with different programming languages. The most common ones they have to practice include:

  • CSS
  • HTML
  • JavaScript
  • PHP
  • Python
  • C, C#, and C++
  • Ruby
  • Java
  • Swift

They’ll also need to know how to use different databases, like Oracle or MySQL. If a site runs on a platform like WordPress, the developer needs to know how to read and edit CSS and HTML to customize themes or plugins.

Who to Hire? Web Designer vs Web Developer

At the end of the day, it’s not about deciding between a web designer vs web developer. You need both to get a professional website down and running.

Fortunately, many designers are also developers or vice versa. You may find a small team of designers who have their developers with them. This ensures they can work in tandem with each other.

Of course, designing and developing is only the beginning. Fortunately, we’ve got more guides to walk you through the process of maintaining a profitable site and more. Why not check out our other posts today and discover more tips?

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