Web Designers vs Web Developers: Difference Between Web Designers and Web Developers

In various blogs, the web designer vs web developer story has been written multiple times.

There was a clear difference between a web designer and a web developer, and the unique skills they brought to the table while doing a website development project.

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The Responsibilities of Web Designers Included

  • Designing the landing page or the home page 
  • Extending the company’s branding to the webpages 
  • Conceptualizing how many clicks are needed to go from the landing page to the transactional pages
  • Deciding what pictures to be uploaded for the best viewing

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Types of Web Designers

You must have come across the various types of web designers, each with their own unique skill set working on the visual aspect of the webpage. To understand web designers vs web developers better, here is an overview of the different types of web designers.

  • UX Designers

A User Experience (UX) designer’s main job is to ensure the website’s structure is engaging for the visitors and that they leave the website with a positive experience. They aim to create user-centric designs supported by decisions based on relevant data. They start with in-depth research of their target audience and continuously test their models to ensure the final design can sustain and boost views.

  • UI Designers

A User Interface (UI) Designer collaborates with the UX designer to make the website much more visually appealing and intuitive. They prioritise easy user interaction and navigation. Their main goal is to improve the website’s usability and optimize it to increase user interaction and boost conversions.

  • Visual Designers

The visual designers look after the visual layout of the website. They blend the job of a UX and UI designer to ensure the website and its interface are aesthetically coordinated, easy to navigate, and easy on the eyes by using a mix of software, tools, and programs. This is the main difference between web designer and web developer.

Some important design software includes WordPress, Adobe Dreamweaver, and more. They use content management systems (CMS) like WordPress and a website builder to create the website layout and framework. They then create models and mockups to test them and finalize the best website design.

Meanwhile, the Responsibilities of Web Developers Included

  • Connecting the landing page to various databases and tables 
  • How to understand the number of people who visited your website and their details 
  • Linking the website to a payment gateway (incase its an e-commerce platform) 
  • Optimize the page for viewing on mobile 
  • Server hosting and network connectivity issues

Types of Web Developers

You must already be aware web developers use programming languages to establish and improve the website’s performance, capacity, design, and visual elements. But what is the difference between web design and web development? Let’s take a look at the three types of web developers and find out:

  • Front-End Web Developers

Also known as client-side development, these web developers use CSS, JavaScript, HTML and other languages to code the interactive part of the website. Their job involves coding the visual aspects of the website that visitors will see and use. They also use CMS like WordPress to manage the layout. As you can see, the job of a front-end developer overlaps to a great extent with a web designer, which leads to regular collaboration between the two.

  • Back-End Web Developers

Also known as server-side development, the back-end developers work on the server and the database. They ensure everything on the client side works as it should and indirectly work on elements that make user interaction smoother. They use programming languages like SQL, Java, Ruby, C#, PHP, NodeJS and more to develop the website’s back end. They create libraries, write Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), work on system components and do more behind the scenes.

  • Full-Stack Web Developers

A full-stack developer is an all-rounder who can work on the front as well as the back end of the website. They have in-depth knowledge of how these parts function together and code to make them operate smoothly. They can design the entire website and web applications. They use JavaScript, CSS, HTML and other programming languages to manage the database, set up servers, code APIs, debug the application, and more.

Modern Developments of the Roles

The other factor that led to the difference between a web designer and a web developer was the belief that different personality traits were needed for the two functions. A web designer was perceived to be a creative person while a web developer was a pure “techie” armed with analytical and technical skills.

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This also led to stereotyping these two fields. People chose a career in any of these based on their personal inclination of aligning themselves with any of the traits. However, formal Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) training offered by various career institutes is helping in blurring this gap and we are witnessing an increasing overlap of the roles.

Similar research was done on bringing out the differences between the two trades by studying the salaries that web designers and web developers commanded in the market. This showed that a web developer commanded a premium of about 10% over the web designer.  On the other hand, a web designer was usually connected to advertisement agencies and was difficult to get.

However, with increased supply and competition of web designer vs web developer and increased automation and lesser budget allocations for upgrading/launching new websites, the salaries were stagnating.

The present situation has helped in changing the demand scenario for vs web designers web developers. However, along with this, the client’s expectations of them have changed, which leads to more differences between web designers and web developers. It is now expected that one person needs to transform the concept into reality. This needs new-age skills.

Read: Web Developer Project Ideas

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Let us discuss some of the developments in the market

  • Increased Digital Transformation in the Company: More and more companies are focusing on contactless touchpoints between the company and its customers. Companies are also demanding for increased digital interaction between their employees and resources. This is leading to an exponential demand for redesigning the websites.
  • Digital Storytelling: Companies traditionally had a lot of text and white papers on their websites, which were used as marketing communication. To differentiate over the clutter, companies are focusing on videos and pictures of how customers are using their products, uploading videos that tell about companies’ culture and their customer’s service history. This leads to a need to revamp the website, create content by hearing from various stakeholders, and convert the Top Management ideas into reality.

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  • Data Analytics: Increasingly, the web developer and web designer have to coordinate with data engineers to create digital data lakes for the customer. There is an increased need to integrate the data of customer journey from companies’ web touchpoints of mobile, desktop, and also other social websites where the webpage is tagged.
  • Government Digitization: Increasingly, the Government is digitizing services. There is a need for designing websites that are scalable, secure, and multilingual. This needs advanced skills in web designing and web development.
  • Online Skill Development: Governments and companies as well as employees are focusing on up-skilling and reskilling themselves. They achieve this through online classes from government-authorized skill development facilities, specialized technical and management institutes, and specialized higher education e-learning platforms like upGrad.
  • E-commerce Platform: The government has mandated e-commerce platforms for small-scale and medium-scale industries. There is a need for website designers and website developers, with specialized skills and understanding of this sector.

Given this scenario, it is estimated that there will be a 30% year-on-year growth in demand of web developers and web designers. However, a survey of the industry experts shows that web developers and web designers need to up-skill themselves to capture this increased demand.

There was a survey done among CIO level persons in various industries and the Consulting Agencies who advise on the Digital Transformation of Government.

In-Demand Software Development Skills

These are aggregated pointers from their feedbacks

  • In the web designers vs web developers competition, they need to be certified in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) skills.
  • Web developers need not only be proficient in coding skills like HTML, CSS, Javascript, Microsoft .NET, and Visual Studio but also need to know how to connect with various API in data visualization tools (e.g. Tableau, Qlickview) and coding skills in Python and R.
  • With the scalability of websites becoming an issue, the difference between web designers and web developers should minimize and they should research the number of concurrent users based on actual circumstances and optimize the website for that. The crashing of websites during high demand affects the adoption and needs to be stopped at all costs.
  • Web developers should understand the latest cybersecurity standards and update the webpages accordingly. Small and midscale industries and various institutions do not have the resources to invest in cybersecurity experts.
  • Web developers should be aware of the low bandwidth in the interior of the country. As those regions are increasingly demanding online presence, particularly mobile-enabled websites, web designers and web developers should optimize the webpages for low bandwidth, asynchronous operations, and minimize the number of trips the webpage has to do to the central server.

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The future does not lie in the differences between web designers and web developers, but in creating unified skills between the two. In this VUCA world (Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity), the customer does not have time to talk separately to each of them to develop a website and to understand customer feedback to make the webpage more interactive and useful.

This creates the demand for a new breed of web designers and web developers who can combine the skills. The starting point, however, is that rather than technical skills, a thorough understanding of Human-Computer Interface (HCI) is needed to develop and improve websites that operate on scale and influence day to day working of the customer.

This skill gap is present in the industry as we have traditionally looked at web designers and web developers as two separate skill sets. It is time to up-skill and be a part of the digital opportunity, which the current times have presented.

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What is the difference between software development and web development?

Software development and web development are highly correlated due to their programming background. However, the tools and applications vary vastly. Web development entails website and web-based application development. Software development focuses on building applications compatible with various operating systems, testing and refining programs, etc. Web developers utilize tools like HTML, JavaScript, CSS, React, Node, etc., and have a comparatively more straightforward learning curve. Meanwhile, software development requires one to learn Python, Java, C#, C++ to start with. Therefore, web development is a much more accessible field when compared to software development.

Is it essential for web developers to have a degree in computer science?

Web development is about building an efficient website and web-based applications to ensure smooth functionality. Web developers are skilled and trained in the basic programming languages CSS, HTML, and JavaScript. A degree in computer science or any related field would assist one's career in web development, but it’s not necessarily essential. The amount of self-learned developers is increasing; employers value the skill and expertise of a developer. There are numerous online courses and tutorials on web development that can support a web developer’s growth. Hence, a career in web development is possible without a computer science degree.

How can coding skills facilitate a web designer’s career growth?

Web designers create websites that appeal to the eye of the user. They integrate their knowledge of graphic design software and user experience to design user-focused web-based applications. Knowledge of programming languages can facilitate a web designer’s understanding of how the website development process works. This will enable smoother, interactive, and more efficient web designs, thus further improving the website’s structure. Plus, coding skills can also help designers combine their roles with web development. Therefore, learning the primary programming languages like HTML, JavaScript and CSS will make the web designer’s portfolio stronger, more versatile, and favorable.

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