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

While the roles of web developers and web designers are interdependent, they are also very different in terms of their required skill sets and duties.  

Web designers create the aesthetic elements of a site, including all visuals, graphics and imagery. The use of image editing software such as Photoshop is key to their role.  

Web developers take the website design created by a web designer, then make a functioning website from it.

Web developers can be split into two different areas of responsibilities and skills – frontend and backend. Frontend developers focus on programming languages such as HTML, CSS and Javascript to create the visual and interactive parts of a website – essentially the parts you can see.

Backend developers are responsible for creating the logic that runs on a server which typically involves communicating with a database and manipulating data, before passing it back to the browser and presenting to the user. Typical programming languages used are PHP, Ruby, ASP are SQL.

Within an agency, the roles tend to follow a framework:

  • Creatives – also known as web designers, responsible for design work, using software such as Photoshop and Sketch
  • UID – User Interface developers – also known as frontend developers. Using HTML, CSS and Javascript, they will create interactivity including mouseovers, on screen validation and interactivity
  • Backend developers – write code which interprets user input and either stores it to a database or performs functions on the input such as calculation libraries or templating systems
  • Most modern sites will require both backend and frontend development. Backend technologies consist of languages like C# and sit in frameworks like the .Net framework

Web developers do not need to be designers and vice versa, however by getting to grips with user experience design, you’ll understand how a website is supposed to work in order to function properly.

While it may seem like the code languages are more difficult to get to grips with than French, German or Spanish, once you have mastered the basics they become much more accessible.

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