A common misconception to those outside the IT world is thinking Developers and Designers are the same thing. Because this is another common question I get asked, I wanted to take the time to explain what is the difference between a web developer & web designer?

In my other article 4 Reasons to Choose a Web Developer Over a Website Builder I explain that building a website is like building a house. Using that same analogy I’ll explain the differences and similarities to give you a better understanding.

What Are The Differences?


A Web Designer

If you’re looking to build a house the first thing you need is a design. Thus the first person you go to is a designer or an architect to draw up the designs. However once the drawings are done you can’t simply start building your house. More is required. Similarly when you’re looking to build a website the first thing you need is a design. This is where web designers come in.

A Web Designer is like your Interior/Exterior Designer of a house. They have the skill to design visually stunning websites that are eye catching and will keep users coming back. Web designers usually also do graphic design so if you need logos or other graphics made up they can provide that too.

This is a key difference though, a web designer doesn’t necessarily build the website. Now you maybe thinking, Hold on! I just had my website built or know someone who had their website built by a web designer. While it’s true web designers can build websites their main focus is on design not the coding.

To help you understand the difference, here’s an example. In a big business where they have an IT department, web designers focus solely on creating web designs that are user friendly, eye catching and interactive. Once a design is agreed upon then it goes to the web developers who take care of bringing the design to life. Now in most cases the web designer is on his own doing freelance, so what does he do then? In this situation he has a couple of options, either learn some web development (which many do) or sub contract a web developer. But why?

A Web Developer

As we learned, in a big business the web developers take care of bringing the design to life. What does this mean though? Going back to the illustration of building a house, once you have your design drawn out you need a contractor to turn those drawings into an actual house. Comparably the role of the developer is to code the features of a website like layout, links, forms and validation, buttons, calendars, count downs, blogs, live chat, elements that auto update, communication between website and server, and much more function and display the way they’re supposed to.

Here’s another key difference. Have you ever been to a website and you think “This website works very well and I have no problems with the links or filling out forms but it look ugly and feels old?” Most likely it was built by one or a team of developers. How can we conclude this? Because of his role, a developer focuses on delivering a website that will function properly, similar to how an engineer will design a house so it doesn’t cave in on you. However the side that users see and interact with is not necessarily the most appealing because web design is not always a developers forte.

Concluding Thoughts

To put simply the key differences between a web developer and web designer is, a designers main focus is on the design aspect of a website, the part you and everyone else sees and interacts with. The developers main focus is taking said design and coding it into a website that actually works. Just like how an architect will design a house but it’s the contractor who actually builds the house.

So you maybe thinking now “Great! Does this mean now I have to hire a web developer & web designer if I want a proper website?” No. Today many people do both. While both have their advantages and disadvantages, with new technology emerging it’s easier for a web developer or designer to create a website that is both functional and visually appealing.

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