Guide


Web Designer vs Web Developer

By Jess Feldman
Last Updated July 22, 2021

So much goes into building a successful website, and it requires the efforts of both web designers and web developers. But what exactly are the differences between these two tech roles? We dive into the typical responsibilities and average salaries of today’s web designers and web developers, plus the languages and tools that web developers and web designers rely on. Plus, find out how to learn web development and web design, whether you’re upskilling or making a career pivot!

What is Web Design?

A lot of work goes into building a website and how a website looks is one of the most important aspects. Web designers are responsible for the visual aspects of a website. 

Design is more than just deciding what looks “good!” It’s a web designer’s job to ensure the product is designed well while also being functional. For instance, web designers understand that some colors make it harder to focus; or that fonts can make a difference in readability; or that cluttered layouts can be confusing. 

What types of projects do Web Designers work on?

A web designer’s responsibilities can vary widely depending on where they work. At minimum, web designers will be responsible for deciding:

  • Fonts
  • Layouts
  • Colors
  • Graphics

Typically, web designers will be creating a finished product for an already existing framework.

You may have noticed that many modern websites have a similar layout and feel. Design theory is a subtle yet important aspect of anything visual. It’s easy to ignore when designers do their job correctly, but a poorly designed website tends to stand out. 

Building a website is a team effort! Web designers often work alongside other team members to ensure that they’re producing the best possible product. Designers play an important role by following current trends, and they may be responsible for updating an already existing website. Web designers may also work on web applications. While a website is a connected set of pages, a web app provides a service, such as Gmail or Spotify. 

Web designers aren’t just responsible for making decisions about visual aspects of a website — They can also be responsible for coding. Not every web designer is a coder, but plenty of people have the skills to handle more responsibilities. 

Web Design vs UX Design

Web design is often compared to user experience (UX) design and they may be treated the same depending on who you talk to. However, where web designers are responsible for creating an aesthetically pleasing final product, UX designers are generally responsible for user flows and creating frameworks that reflect users’ needs. UX designers prioritize the habits and needs of users in their design process whereas web designers are first concerned about how a website looks. 

It’s important to remember that there’s a lot of overlap between roles and someone could easily have the responsibilities of both a web designer and a UX designer, depending on the employer or client.

Typical Web Designer Salary

  • Entry-level - $43,000 
  • Mid-level - $57,000 
  • Senior-level - $72,000 

What is Web Development?

Where a web designer will be focusing more on the visual aspects of a website, a web developer will be handling the technical side of a website. Web developers are split into three different categories.

  • Front end web development - These developers are responsible for the user or client-side of a website. 
  • Back end web development - These developers are responsible for the behind-the-scenes work or server-side of a website.
  • Full stack web development - These developers can do it all. They work on both the front end and the back end of a website.

What are the main responsibilities of Web Developers?

Web developers are responsible for the nuts and bolts of a website. They build the interactive components on both sides of websites and web apps to create a functioning end product for users. Like designers, they work alongside a team of other experts to create a product. 

A front end developer builds the interactive parts of a website on the client-side. They take the framework that a UX designer creates and bring it to life by programming things, like buttons and navigation. Front end developers use coding languages, like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to make sure these functions work smoothly for users.

Back end developers are responsible for the parts of a website that interact with databases and servers.They build the parts of a website that communicate with a remote server that houses and stores the site’s information, such as user information like passwords, addresses, phone numbers, and similar data. A back end developer is responsible for making sure a website can communicate effectively and securely with these components.

Full stack developers can perform the responsibilities of both front end and back end developers to create a functioning website. This is a valuable service and full stack developers are generally paid more than their counterparts.

Typical Web Developer Salaries

  • Front End Developer Salary Range
    • Entry-level - $61,000 
    • Mid-level - $75,000 
    • Senior-level - $114,000 
  • Back End Developer Salary Range
    • Entry-level - $74,000 
    • Mid-level - $91,000 
    • Senior-level - $120,000 
  • Full Stack Developer Salary Range
    • Entry-level - $86,000 
    • Mid-level - $97,000 
    • Senior-level - $120,000 

Web Designer vs Web Developer

The responsibilities of web designers and web developers can overlap, especially when it comes to working on the front end of a website. Front end and full stack developers are partially responsible for visual components and making sure the website’s colors, typography, and layout are all consistent.

There are also distinct differences in overall responsibilities between web designers and developers. While a web designer may know how to code HTML and CSS and have some coding responsibilities, they will generally leave this task to developers. Coding is generally not included in the tasks assigned to web designers and many don’t know how to code at all. On the developer side, a back end developer will likely have no part in designing or programming visual components of a website.

The Tools: Web Designer vs Web Developer

Which tools do web designers rely on? 

Web designers rely on a variety of tools to create the visual aspects of a website. These web design tools may include:

  • Adobe products, such as Photoshop, InDesign, Dreamweaver, and XD
  • WordPress
  • Sketch
  • Google Web Designer
  • Figma

Which coding languages do web designers use?

While coding is not a required skill for many web designers, those web designers that do code focus on front end programming languages and libraries. Web designers may use HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Sass, jQuery, or Bootstrap. As a designer, understanding some programming will definitely make you more attractive to employers. 

Are there certain methodologies that web designers today rely on?

Over the past decade, there has been a large push to practice responsive web design (RWD). There are many different devices out there and no standard screen size or resolution. Practicing RWD allows users with different types of devices to view the same product whether they’re viewing it on a phone, tablet, or computer. RWD has become a crucial approach to building a successful website. Many websites now have a desktop and mobile version, which involves fluid grids and flexible visuals, so it’s important to ensure they’re both functional. 

Which programming languages do web developers rely on?

When building out the front end of a website, web developers rely on HTML, CSS, jQuery, JavaScript, and Angular. Web developers may use Java, Python, Ruby on Rails, and PHP for the back end development.

Which tools do web developers use?

There are all kinds of tools and libraries available for web developers to use. These tools may include: 

  • Chrome DevTools
  • Visual Studio Code
  • MySQL
  • WordPress
  • Bootstrap
  • Sublime Text

Who Belongs in Web Development vs Web Design?

There is plenty of overlap for soft skills when it comes to web development and web design. These professionals will often be working on a team together and it’s necessary for them to be goal-oriented. Building a product often involves deadlines and it’s not unusual for both designers and developers to work hard to fix bugs and to ensure a product launch goes smoothly. Clients aren’t known for being technically savvy, so developers and designers are often required to interpret what they’re required to do. They may even need to rework something several times to get it just right. Patience is a necessity for web designers and web developers.

Do web designers need to know how to code?

While designers aren’t strictly required to know how to code, it may be necessary for a specific job. Many employers have different definitions of web design and they may want someone with front end coding knowledge. At the very least, a designer should be familiar with basic technical concepts so they can communicate with a team effectively about how to build a product.

Do web developers need to understand design?

When it comes to front end development, it’s important to have a basic understanding of design concepts and theories. Even if a developer isn’t responsible for the overall design, they will still need to understand what a designer is talking about. Design is not a requirement for anyone working in back end development. 

How to Learn Web Development + Web Design

Whether you’re upskilling or making a career change, there are so many ways to learn web development and web design! For those upskilling, a short course or workshop may be the best way to gain a new skill set. For those making a career change, enrolling in a part-time or full-time bootcamp may give you the structure, support, and skill set you need to launch a new career in either web development or web design. 

If you’re interested in learning web development, check out these coding bootcamps:

If you’re interested in learning web design, check out these resources:

About The Author

Jess is the Content Manager for Course Report as well as a writer and poet. As a lifelong learner, Jess is passionate about education, and loves learning and sharing content about tech bootcamps. Jess received a M.F.A. in Writing from the University of New Hampshire, and now lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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