What are the differences between a web designer and a web developer? And which one should you use?

It’s easy to get web designers and developers mixed up. They both help build websites, but they’re involved in very different areas.

Web designer vs web developer: quick overview

Developers build a website’s core structure using coding languages, while designers are more visually creative and user-focused. Developers use their programming knowledge to breathe life into the designer’s creative vision. Think of developers as construction workers, and web designers as architects – both necessary, but different, skill sets.

We’ll dive into the details later where we’ll explain the varieties of web designers and web developers you can have, so you’ll have all the information you need to pick the right option for your site.

Table of content:

  1. What is a web designer?
  2. What is a web developer?
  3. Do you need a web designer or a web developer?
  4. When do you need a web designer and web developer?
  5. Web designer vs web developer: Summary

What is web designer?

A web designer makes your website look good. They focus on the style and overall feel of the page, using software like Photoshop to customize the website’s visual elements. They also use code like HTML and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to create their designs.

But wait – there’s more. Web designers usually have a specialism, which we’ll jump into right now.

The specialism are:

User Experience (UX) designer

A UX web designer’s job is to keep your visitors hooked. They know exactly how to craft a website that your specific audience will enjoy because they’ve carried out thorough research into the users’ demographics and website-needs, not to mention tons of prototype testing and site restructuring.

Just think, if people enjoy using your website, they’re more likely to revisit or recommend. So, you can already see how it can help grow your online community. For some inspiration, check out these excellent UX examples.

User Interface (UI) designer

A UI web designer helps to improve the way users interact with elements, or the interface, on your website. This is done by translating complex brand ideas and values into a website that’s enjoyable and easy to navigate.

How does it differ to UX? It’s a subtle one, really. UX involves research into building a solid foundation for a positive user experience, while UI focuses on the aesthetics (the look and feel) of the actual website.

Visual designer

A visual designer is a mixture of both UX and UI. It’s their job to not only improve the user journey using their creative and coding skills, but to solve design issues. They also help to conceptualise a brand’s unique style or tone of voice.

In essence, they’re a master of all web design trades and their specific roles can vary hugely depending on what you want.


2. What is a web developer?

Part of a web developer’s role is to build the a web designer’s concept. Like we said earlier, web developers are similar to those who build, and web designers like the visionaries. A developer usually specialises in designing website apps – a web designer focuses more on what the user will enjoy doing.

How does the relationship between developers and designers work? A web developer builds a website’s framework using software like Javascript and JQuery, aiming to craft a smooth-running website, which web designers then pour their creative juices onto. Like designers, there are specific roles for web developers, which we’ll highlight below.

Back-end developer

The back-end is where the website’s core structure is designed. These developers are experts in programming and using complex software languages like Java, SQL and C#. The work they do is not seen by users because it involves coding on the web servers and databases, not on the browser (unlike front-end developers, which you’ll soon find out).

In short, their job is to create logical, functional websites using various programmes. They also spend a lot of time testing and fixing bugs.

Front-end developer*

This is also known as client-side development. It’s more connected to web design than back-end development because it involves using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to create things the user can see, like client lead forms.

In summary, like a back-end developer, those developing the front-end have coding skills but they build frameworks the user can actually interact with.

Full-stack developer

A full-stack developer works across different layers — or stacks – including both the front and back end. It is essentially the full package when it comes to web development, because they are an expert in all areas.


3. Do you need a web designer or a web developer

You now know the differences between a designer and developer. This is important stuff to know because knowing when to hire each one will make your website-related life much easier. For a quick overview on when to choose each one, take a look at our table below.

Project Who do you need?
Design a new homepage layout Web Designer
Build a new contact form Web Developer
Create a mobile app Web Developer
Conceptualise new website branding Web Designer
Fix server/hosting issues Web Developer
Edit photos and videos Web Designer

How much does a web designer vs web developer cost?

A freelance web designer usually costs between $10-$50 p/h, while hiring a freelance developer normally costs $30-$65 p/h. A medium sized web design agency (which provides both sides of website construction) will cost between $65-$100 p/h for a basic website.

In a lump sum, you’re probably looking at around USD6,000 in total for designing a site if you use both developers and designers.


4. When do you need a web designer and web developer?

As we’ve mentioned, it doesn’t always have to be one or the other. For instance, building a website from scratch requires both a developer and a designer. After all, teamwork makes the website dream work.

Using a web design agency can be really helpful if, like most people, you don’t have time for creating website pages while juggling invoices and client emails. Or, if you need a website with advanced functionality, an agency full of experts is a great solution.


5. Web designer vs web developer: Summary

You should now have a more developed knowledge of web design, but let’s just quickly recap what we’ve learned.

The difference between a web developer and a web designer is bigger than you think. A web designer brings a brand’s idea into an on-screen reality, and knows exactly what the specific audience will enjoy. A web developer builds the site’s core structure, using coding languages to construct logical, programmatic websites.

However, just like mustard and ketchup on a hot dog, sometimes you need both to get the best experience. When building a website from nothing, you need a web developer to build the foundation, and web designers to make it look and feel the way you and – more importantly – your users want.

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