Web Designer vs Web Developer - What's the Difference?

Web Designer vs Web Developer - What's the Difference?

The difference between web designers vs web developers is much more significant. Here’s everything you need to know about both roles.

It’s natural to get confused between web designers and developers since they both work on websites and these days, the two positions are used interchangeably. However, the work they do is quite different.

Many people have this misconception of the two roles meaning the same thing and use them interchangeably. Let’s try to understand why and what separates a developer from a designer.

Contribution to the Product

Whenever there is a project for a product or an application being developed, there are many stages and phases through which the product goes, mainly consisting of Planning, Designing, Implementation, Testing, and Deployment.

First, the idea is conceptualized, then requirements are analyzed - what should be included and what should not be included in the product - then the product is designed, implemented by developers, tested by test engineers, and then finally deployed by DevOps professionals.

Naturally, website and web application projects also follow a similar flow of development, with people specializing in specific fields working on the project during the different phases.

A Web Designer is a person who works on creating the graphical designs, the mock-ups of the web app, what should be the layout, what would happen with the click or hovering over that particular button, and so on.

So, these guys are responsible for designing what the product should look like.

Whereas, a Web Developer is someone who refers to the designs provided by the designer and then implements them using programming and markup languages like HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, etc.

A web developer, however, is not only limited to just developing the frontend of a web app but also responsible for backend development.

So as it’s evident, these are two different job profiles. Let’s dig deeper into these concepts.

Web Designer

You might’ve visited many websites and used many applications, on any device, be it your mobile, laptop, or even tablet. There must be an application which you prefer over the others, based on how easy it is to find what you want to do, or how intuitive and user-friendly the application is, or even what kind of cool colors and amazing graphics they have used.

This is the role of a web designer.

They design and create the look and feel of the application, like the layout, where and how the content should be placed for a better user experience, which colors should be used together, and so on.

A lot of research also goes into the designing phase, as various marketing techniques are adopted after looking at the analytics, user heat maps, or even looking at what the current trends are, for better conversion rates, i.e more profits or more engagements.

The designs can vary from a very simple wireframe defining the basic placement and layout of the contents, to a full-fledged prototype that can be used to demonstrate the basic flows of the application.

Web designers use tools used by graphic designers as well like Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and Sketch, and wireframing and prototyping tools like Adobe XD and Figma.

You can have a look and get inspired by all the amazing wireframes and prototypes from sites like Dribbble.

The designing part can be roughly split into further 2 specializations: User Interface Designer (UI), and User Experience Designer (UX).

UI Designers create graphics, illustrations, and the most appropriate form of typography to go with the visuals, to create a visually pleasing interface for the users.

UX Designers research and create how and where they can place the contents for a better user experience, like placing a sign-up button in the middle of the page, where it is easily locatable by the users. They aim for the users to have a great experience while using the application, fulfilling every requirement and demand of the user.

Web Developer

Now, after the designers have created the wireframes and prototypes, they are not yet ready to be used, right?

The designs are just graphics and visuals, which you can’t interact with, so they need to be implemented in markup languages (HTML), style sheets(CSS), and programming/scripting languages (Javascript, PHP).

Here comes the contribution of the programmers - the Web Developers.

Web Developers refer to the designs and mockups given by the designers and convert them into code so that applications can be used.

A loose analogy - it’s like the architect draws the blueprint and the civil engineers, contractors, and construction workers implement those blueprints to finally build the building. Here the architect is the designer and the engineers are the developers.

Developers need to follow good coding practices, make the applications responsive for all devices, and also need to check for cross-browser compatibility so that anyone and everyone can access the website or the application.

These guys implement all the functionalities end-to-end for the proper functioning of the application.

Based on their roles Web Developers can be divided into 3 categories - Frontend Developers, Backend Developers, and Full-Stack Developers.

Frontend Developers are responsible for writing all the code for implementing the user interface from the wireframes, that is, all the user-facing screens and pages of the application.

Backend Developers work on the server-side of the applications. All the data flow, extracting data from the database, storing it in the database, sending data to the frontend, or even sending the complete webpage to the client (server-side rendering) are done by the backend developers.

Full-Stack Developers are the developers which can work on both ends of the application proficiently, they have the capability of building the whole application from end-to-end, the frontend user interfaces, and the flow of data and interaction with the database.

Full-Stack developers are in a lot of demand these days, and if you’re looking to become one, here is an extensive roadmap to guide you on that path.

Tools used by web developers are text editors like Visual Studio Code, Sublime Text, Vim, etc, and technologies used are HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, Python, Ruby, Java, and many more.

Also, Web Designers need to be careful about whether the designs created by them can be implemented or not.

That’s why the designers and developers work together closely to build amazing user interfaces and great experiences.

Web Designer

Web Developer

Create the designs and wireframes for what the end product should look like.

Implement the designs using programming languages

Convert ideas into design

Implement the functionalities from the ideas

More inclined towards research and creativity 

More technical

Work in the Designing Phase of the SDLC

Work in the Implementation Phase of the SDLC

Use tools like Adobe XD, Figma, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Sketch, etc

Use technologies like HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, Python, etc.


As we can see, both the web designers and developers work on websites and web applications, but contribute differently and have different roles, and also work in the different phases of the software development lifecycle.

Hope you had a great read and can now distinguish between the two!

Jaidev Singh Bhui is a Software Engineer at Udyogyantra Technologies, an IoT-based startup in the food sector. Loves creating user-friendly applications always while listening to some music. Also, a technical writer at Crio Blog.



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