Web designer vs. web developer

Drag to rearrange sections
Rich Text Content

You may have once wondered what the difference is between a designer and a web developer. Maybe you have because you are thinking about your professional future, and that you know you want to focus on the digital world, although you are not very clear about all the profiles that are required in this digital world. Maybe you simply have a business, a furniture store in Bilbao, you have finally decided to have your own website (welcome to the 21st century, you are only 20 years late, don't worry), and of course, you don't know if what you need is a web developer in Bilbao (in spanish: desarrollador web Bilbao) or someone to take care of the web design in Bilbao (diseño web Bilbao), because in reality for you it is more or less the same (understandably, don't worry). 

But it's not. Specialization is the order of the day in new technologies, and in this case, there are differences between both professions, which doesn't mean that there isn't some superman, or superwoman, who can combine the two skills in their superperson. Although the easiest thing is that you find everything in a digital marketing and communication agency, in which they will have several profiles at your service, but to the point...


What is the difference between a designer and a web developer? 

In the early days of the web, the answer to that question was simple: designers design and develop code. Today that question requires a little more nuance... it would be hard to find a web designer who didn't know at least a little bit of HTML and CSS, and you wouldn't have to look far for a top-notch web developer who could put together a storyboard. However, if we talk strictly about the general concepts of web design vs. web development, the distinction is a little clearer. Let's take a look at these two concepts and the roles they play in building the websites and applications we know and love.


What is web design?

Web design governs everything related to the visual aesthetics and usability of a website: color matching, design, information flow and everything else related to the visual aspects of the user interface (UI/UX). Some common skills and tools that distinguish the web designer from the web developer are


  • Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator) or other design software
  • Graphic Design
  • Logo design
  • Design/format
  • Placing call to action buttons
  • Brand
  • Frames, models and storyboards...
  • Color Palette
  • Typography

The design of the website is concerned with what the user actually sees on the screen of his computer or mobile device, and less with the mechanisms under the surface that make everything work. Through the use of color, images, typography and design, they give life to a digital experience. That said, many web designers are also familiar with HTML, CSS and JavaScript- it helps to be able to create living mockups of a web application when it comes to launching an idea on the computer or tweaking the user interface of an application. Web designers also often work with template services such as WordPress or Joomla! that allow you to create websites using themes and widgets without writing a single line of code.


What is web development?

Web development governs all the code that makes a website work. It can be divided into two categories: front-end and back-end. The front-end or client side of an application is the code responsible for determining how the website will actually display the designs a designer has created. The back-end or server side of an application is responsible for managing the data within the database and serving that data to the front-end for display. As you may have guessed, it is the work of the front-end developer that tends to share most of the overlap with the web designer. Below are some common skills and tools that are traditionally considered unique to the front-end developer:


  • HTML/CSS/JavaScript
  • CSS (i.e. LESS or Sass) preprocessors
  • Frames (i.e. AngularJS, ReactJS, Ember)
  • Libraries (i.e. jQuery)
  • Git and GitHub

Front-line web developers do not usually create mock-ups, select fonts or choose color palettes, which are usually provided by the designer. The developer's job is to bring those mock-ups to life. That said, understanding what the designer wants requires a knowledge of best practices in UI/UX design so that the developer is able to choose the right technology to deliver the desired look and feel in the final product.


Find the "Unicorn"

What began as a joke in the industry - the designer/developer hybrid that can do it all - is now a viable ending for both web designers and front-end developers, thanks to the increased availability of educational resources on the web. Those developers/designers who have a good understanding of skills on both sides of the spectrum are highly sought after in the industry. The "unicorn" can take your project from the conceptual stage of visual models and storyboards, and take it through the development of the front-end itself. Not that you want them to; the real value of the developers who design and the designers who develop is their ability to speak the languages of others. This not only leads to better team communication and a more fluid workflow, but it also means you get the best possible solution. As a general rule, feel free to rely on the "unicorn" for small projects, where it is feasible for one or two people to take care of both the back and front of an application. For larger projects, even if a few "unicorns" can be hired, more clearly defined functions are required. Or as we have already mentioned, trust the full range of professionals that an agency can provide, where each profile is oriented and specialized to a specific type of work and field that it completely masters, because believe it or not, the work does not end when your website is finished, in fact, it has just begun...

Drag to rearrange sections
Rich Text Content

Page Comments