Web Developer vs Web Designer: What’s the Difference?

Diana Ipacs

October 11, 2023

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What does a web developer do? And a web designer? Let's compare responsibilities, skills, career prospects, and salaries. FAQs included!


Despite their similar-sounding titles, Web Developers and Web Designers play very different roles in website and application creation.

Both professionals occupy a distinct space with very specific responsibilities and skill sets. While a Web Developer is responsible for the coding and technical infrastructure of a site, a Web Designer crafts its visual aesthetics and user experience.

In this article, we'll unpack the unique responsibilities, focal areas, and skill requirements of each role to highlight their role in the web development process.

Let's get started!

Web Developer vs Web Designer

Web developer vs web designer: Key Differences

As mentioned above, web Developers and Web Designers play distinct but interconnected roles in crafting a website.

Web Developers primarily deal with the technical construction of websites, focusing on writing and implementing the code that makes a website function as intended. They ensure that the features of the site, like forms and payment systems, operate smoothly and securely. They might work with various programming languages and frameworks, adapting their approach to the specific needs and functionality of the site in question.

Web Designers focus primarily on the aesthetics and user experience of a website. Their primary responsibility is determining the visual appearance of the site, encompassing everything from color schemes and fonts to the layout of various elements. While their work aims to make a site visually captivating, it's also vital for the design to be user-friendly.

(As a sidenote: This aspect often intersects with the field of UI and UX design. Although the lines between Web, UI, and UX Designers can blur, with professionals sometimes wearing multiple hats, each role has a distinct area of specialization, working together to craft a cohesive, visually pleasing, and user-centric digital experience.)

Web Developer

Web Designer

Primary Focus

Functionality and structure of the website.

Aesthetic and user experience of the website.

Main Responsibilities

- Writing and maintaining code for the website.

- Implementing the designed layout and ensuring it functions across different devices and browsers.

- Developing and implementing security measures.

- Designing visual elements, such as layout and color schemes.

- Creating graphics and visual elements.

- Developing user-friendly navigation and interface.

Key Skills

- Proficiency in coding languages (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc.)

- Problem-solving skills.

- Understanding of SEO principles.

- Graphic design skills.

- Understanding of color theory and typography.

- Creativity and attention to detail.

Technologies Used

HTML, CSS, JavaScript, React, Angular, Node.js, etc.

Adobe Creative Cloud (Photoshop, Illustrator), Figma, Sketch, etc.

Interaction with Users

Limited, unless working on user-reported issues or feedback.

Often engaged in user testing to understand user preferences and feedback on designs.

Education & Training

Degrees in Computer Science, Web Development, or related fields, or self-taught with a strong portfolio.

Degrees in Graphic Design, Web Design, or related fields, or equivalent experience and training in design.

While Web Developers bring a website's functionality to life, it’s the Web Designers who sketch out its visual layout and style. Designers often work closely with developers to ensure their designs can be implemented effectively without compromising usability or functionality. Conversely, developers may provide feedback to designers about the feasibility and practicality of their designs in the real-world application.

Although Web Developers and Web Designers have different skill sets and focuses, they need to collaborate closely to produce a cohesive, user-friendly, and engaging website.

Web Developer Responsibilities

Code Development: Web Developers primarily ensure the creation, implementation, and troubleshooting of functional and efficient code that forms the backbone of websites and web applications.

Functionality Implementation: They are tasked with developing features and functionalities that deliver the desired user experience, often translating the web designer’s vision into technical reality.

Performance Optimization: A significant part of their role involves enhancing the speed and efficiency of websites, ensuring they are responsive and load quickly across various devices and browsers.

Security Compliance: Web Developers implement security measures to protect websites and web applications from threats and attacks.

Web Developer: Task Examples

  • Write, test, and debug code for various web applications.

  • Implement responsive design to ensure websites function on desktops, tablets, and smartphones.

  • Develop and utilize APIs to improve functionality and facilitate data exchange between server and user interfaces.

  • Collaborate with web designers to realize visual design intent and ensure accurate display of content.

  • Monitor and improve website performance, optimizing for speed and reliability.

  • Implement security protocols and tools to protect against online threats and vulnerabilities.

Web Designer Responsibilities

Visual Design: Web Designers are primarily responsible for crafting the aesthetic look and feel of websites, from layout design to color scheme selection.

User Experience (UX) Design: They play a pivotal role in creating a user-friendly interface and optimizing the user experience, ensuring the design is intuitive and the navigation is easy to understand.

Graphic and Multimedia Design: A crucial aspect of their role involves developing visual elements, such as images and multimedia content, that are engaging and complementary to the website’s overall design.

Branding: Web Designers often work on aligning the website design with the brand’s identity, ensuring consistency in colors, fonts, and logos.

Web Designer: Task Examples

  • Draft design layouts and templates for websites, ensuring they are visually engaging and aligned with brand identity.

  • Create and optimize visual elements like images, icons, and multimedia content, enhancing the site's aesthetic and user engagement.

  • Develop intuitive navigation structures and layout to facilitate easy user interaction and positive user experience.

  • Collaborate with content creators and marketers to incorporate SEO best practices into the design.

  • Work with developers to ensure the feasibility of designs and fidelity of the final implementation.

  • Stay updated on the latest design trends and technologies, incorporating them into designs to maintain a fresh and modern aesthetic.

Web Developer vs Web Designer: Which Career Path Is for You?

Thinking about becoming a web developer or a web designer? Reflect on what daily work you find more engaging, the skills you either have or are willing to develop, and the type of work environment that suits your personality.

If possible or feasible in your situation, spend some time doing both kinds of work (through internships, projects, or courses) to get a feel for what each role involves on a practical level before making a decision.

Let's take a look at some considerations that might help you decide:

1. Work Focus

Web Development: This role is more technical, revolving around coding and programming. As a web developer, you'll be building and maintaining the functional aspects of websites and applications. If you enjoy problem-solving, logical thinking, and working with code, this might be for you.

Web Design: Web designers are focused on the visual aspect of websites, including layout, visual style, user interface, and user experience. If you have a creative eye, an interest in graphics and visual design, and you like thinking about the user’s experience, consider web design.

2. Skill Requirements

Web Development: Requires proficiency in programming languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and others depending on the development focus (front-end or back-end). Understanding of web frameworks, libraries, and development tools is crucial.

Web Design: Involves expertise in design tools, graphic design, color theory, typography, and an understanding of UX/UI principles.

3. Daily Tasks

Web Development: Involves writing code, testing and debugging, collaborating with team members, integrating media and graphics, and implementing enhancements for better performance.

Web Design: Tasks include creating design prototypes, crafting visual elements, choosing fonts and color palettes, and collaborating with developers to implement designs.

4. Job Environment

Web Development: Often more solitary. However, collaboration is also part of the role, especially in larger teams or projects.

Web Design: More interactive, working closely with clients and team members to bring a visual vision to life, needing good communication and presentation skills.

Web Developer Vs Web Designer: Career Progression

Career Progression for Web Developers

  1. 1
    Entry-Level Roles: Newbies usually begin as Junior Web Developers or Interns, immersing themselves in coding and getting acquainted with various programming languages and frameworks.
  2. 2
    Web Developer: With some experience under their belts, they start handling more significant parts of projects, improving technical skills and understanding the nuances of client and server scripting.
  3. 3
    Senior Web Developer: Here, individuals oversee major sections of project development, making pivotal decisions related to code structure and functionality, often guiding junior developers along the way.
  4. 4
    Lead Developer/Technical Lead: Stepping into leadership, these professionals get involved in planning, strategy, and decision-making concerning web development, also mentoring the newer entrants in the field.
  5. 5
    Development Manager/Director: At this top tier, they not only manage teams but also have a significant say in high-level planning and decision-making within the organization.

Career Progression for Web Designers

  1. 1
    Entry-Level Roles: Beginners might start as Junior Designers or Design Assistants, learning the ropes about layout, color theory, and user experience.
  2. 2
    Web Designer: With a bit of experience, they start taking ownership of designing entire web pages or sites, collaborating closely with developers to bring their visual concepts to life.
  3. 3
    Senior Web Designer: At this stage, designers handle more substantial and complex design projects, making crucial aesthetic and usability decisions, often supervising junior designers.
  4. 4
    Lead Designer/Design Lead: Individuals here lead design projects and play a pivotal role in crafting and executing the visual and interactive elements of a website, guiding and mentoring junior staff.
  5. 5
    Design Manager/Director: The role involves overseeing design teams, contributing to strategic planning, and making vital decisions related to design projects and initiatives.

Keep in mind that career progression in both fields is quite flexible. Professionals might switch between development and design roles or even blend the two as Full Stack Developers or Design & Development hybrids, depending on interests, skill sets, and job market demands. There’s also the possibility of moving into other related areas, like UI/UX design or project management, as one's career unfolds.

Web Developer Vs Web Designer: US Salary Comparison

Before we discuss approximate numbers, it’s crucial to note that these salary estimates can vary widely due to several factors. Geographic location plays a significant role, with higher salaries often found in major tech hubs and large cities that aim to attract top talent.

The size and industry of the employing company also impact salary, with larger firms and high-demand sectors usually offering higher compensation. As always, the individual's specific skill set, certifications, and experience level significantly influence their earning potential.

Web Developers and Web Designers have different salary trajectories due to their distinct skills, industry demand, and the unique requirements associated with each role within organizations.

In the United States, entry-level Web Developers can expect to earn starting salaries between $50,000 to $70,000 annually, with variations depending on factors such as location, company size, and industry. On the flip side, entry-level Web Designers typically see starting salaries from $40,000 to $60,000 per year.

As these professionals gain experience and further develop their skills, their earning potential increases. Mid-level Web Developers can expect salaries ranging from $70,000 to $90,000, while experienced Web Designers might earn between $60,000 and $80,000. For those in senior or lead positions in either field, salaries can often exceed $100,000, with the exact amount varying based on the role’s complexity and level of responsibility.

Web Developer Vs Web Designer: FAQ

Q: What kind of projects do Web Developers and Web Designers typically work on?

Web Developers are usually involved in building and maintaining websites and web applications, focusing on coding, bug fixing, and implementing the functionalities outlined in the project scope.

Web Designers typically work on the visual aesthetics and user interface of websites, crafting engaging layouts, color schemes, and graphic elements to provide an intuitive user experience.

Q: Do Web Designers need to know how to code?

While it's beneficial for Web Designers to understand basic coding, it's not mandatory. Having coding knowledge can improve collaboration with Web Developers and enhance the design process, but many designers excel with just a strong grasp of design principles and tools.

Q: What software tools do Web Developers and Web Designers use?

Web Developers: Commonly use text editors like Visual Studio Code or Sublime Text and frameworks like React or Angular, and often work with databases and server-side languages.

Web Designers: Frequently use design software like Adobe XD, Photoshop, Illustrator, or Sketch to create and optimize visual elements.

Q: Which role has a steeper learning curve?

Both roles have their challenges. Web Development demands proficiency in various programming languages and an understanding of technical concepts. In contrast, Web Design requires a keen eye for aesthetics, mastery of design tools, and an understanding of user behavior. The learning curve ultimately depends on the individual's background, interests, and dedication to continuous learning.

Q: Can one person be both a Web Developer and Web Designer?

Yes, some professionals possess skills in both design and development, occasionally referred to as "unicorns". These individuals can create visually appealing designs and also translate those designs into functioning websites. However, truly excelling in both disciplines is challenging as each requires a distinct set of skills and a different kind of expertise. Typically, professionals might be stronger in one area while having a working knowledge of the other.

Q: How important is collaboration between Web Developers and Web Designers?

Collaboration is crucial for creating cohesive and user-friendly websites. Designers craft the visual aspects and overall user experience, while developers bring those designs to life through coding. Effective communication and collaboration ensure that the final product aligns with the initial vision and functions correctly.

Q: Which career offers more freelance opportunities?

Both fields offer ample freelance opportunities. Freelance Web Designers might work on branding, layout design, and user experience optimization, while Freelance Web Developers typically focus on building, maintaining, or improving the technical aspects of a client’s website. The choice between freelancing in development or design largely depends on your skill set and career preferences.

We hope you enjoyed our article on the differences between the role of a Web Developer and that of a Web Designer.

If your company is looking for IT professionals and you are interested in IT recruitment or IT staff augmentation, please contact us and we will be happy to help you find the right person for the job.

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