Web maintenance can be tricky, especially if you’re not very familiar with the particular terminology or technical skills behind it. One common misconception, however, is that “web designer” and “web developer” are interchangeable terms. This mistake is understandable, given how similar they sound, but it’s important to understand the difference between the two.
They represent very different skillsets, training, and jobs. Whether you’re planning on getting into web design or development yourself, or if you’re just looking for someone to do a particular kind of job, it’s important to know the difference so that you’re better informed when hiring people or talking to someone you want to do a job for you. This article is an overview of what each job does and what you might hire each one for.
What’s the difference?
In general, web designers and web developers work on different ends of a website. Web designers work on the front end of a website. That is, aesthetics, user interface, formatting, and layout. Web developers, on the other hand, work on a website’s back end. That is, network administration, coding, and understanding language and systems structure.
Web designers are artists first and foremost. They will probably have training in traditional illustration as well as graphic design. They are responsible for a website’s aesthetic appeal. They use design principles, color theory and psychology, and carefully selected graphical elements including images and video. Essentially, they are in charge of creating a website that is appealing and attracts a particular kind of user. They also work on making a website easy to navigate and think about things like white space, font sizes, and other practical considerations.
Web developers are technicians, first and foremost. Rather than working on the part of the website that users visit, developers are concerned with the behind-the-scenes stuff. They work on coding, implementing technical features like feeds, embedded video, special hardcoded features, and many more things. In general, if you want a website to work differently from other websites you’ve seen before, a web developer is who you’ll want to hire.
How to choose
Obviously, web designers and developers have very different skillsets. Who you’ll choose you hire depends on what you want. Do you want to give your website a makeover or try to attract a different kind of user? A web designer will be your best bet. Do you want to implement a new feature to your website or fundamentally change how it functions? If you do, then a web developer is who you’ll need to hire.
Ultimately, the difference is in what you want, what will complement your own skillset, and what you need done to your website.