What’s the Difference Between a Web Designer and Web Developer?

There are two terms on the Internet that often get mixed up, used interchangeably, or mistaken to mean one and the same. Those two terms are web designer and web developer.

As a client or creative, you may not worry too much about the difference and just want to get your site up and running, but it’s important to understand the distinctions between the two – it can potentially save you a lot of trouble down the road.

Even the simplest of websites consist of design and code. Though you may only see the design of the website and not the underlying structure of the code, it’s still there, telling your browser how the site should visually render and how it should function.

With that in mind, in today’s post, we’ll go into the differences between those two terms and hopefully clear the confusion once and for all.

What Does a Web Designer Do?

Web designers are best described as creative experts. They are in charge of realizing their clients’ vision and turning it into an aesthetically pleasing design that not only serves to impress website visitors but a design that also provides an enjoyable user experience.

Their specialty lies in finding the perfect color combination and careful font choices. Some of them study user interface design and usability as well. The tools of their trade include Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketch, and other similar programs.

Pantone Palette
Image: aurielaki

Most web designers are also familiar (and some are even quite proficient ) with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Some of them even offer copywriting as part of their services.

They will often showcase their work through their personal website and on sites like Behance and Dribbble. Some of their side projects may include creating various icon sets or website templates for sale on third-party marketplaces like ThemeForest.

What Does a Web Developer Do?

Web developers are the technical experts. They have excellent problem-solving skills and are concerned with taking the creative vision of the designer and turning it into a complete working website. They are also tasked with creating web applications and mobile apps. Their tools of the trade involve a text editor or an IDE, several browsers, an FTP client, a local server, and various browser extensions made for developers.

Image: iunewind
Image: iunewind

Their skill sets include several programming languages such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, Ruby, Python, Perl, and so on. They are also familiar with databases and know how to make use of an API.

Developers will have their personal portfolio website as well, but their work will be visible on platforms like GitHub where they can show their ability to refactor the code and make it easy to understand by other developers. Their side projects may include web apps, mobile apps, or even games.

What About People Who Claim to Be Both?

In some cases, you’ll come across people who claim to be both web designers and web developers. It’s not uncommon for both designers and developers to take on tasks that are outside of their original skill set.

As we mentioned earlier, most web designers nowadays can turn their designs into a static website using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Some developers also cover the design part themselves. However, be aware that just because they can do both, one skill is always going to better than the other and in very rare cases, a person will be equally proficient in both.

Quite often, a person who is skilled in both is often referred to as unicorns because they are so rare.

Job Availability

When it comes to job availability, it seems web developers are more in demand. An interesting infographic by shows web developers having 1,336,300 available jobs compared with a relatively low number of 200,870 open positions for web designers.


Indeed’s statistics goes to show that in terms of salary, web developers win here too, with the median salary being $87,000 for web developers and $66,00 for web designers.

Should You Hire a Web Designer or a Web Developer?

So now that you know what the difference between a web designer and a web developer is, the question that remains is which one should you hire?

In an ideal situation, you’d hire both, especially if your website is extremely complex. A web designer will help you bring your vision to life and incorporate your brand elements into the website’s design to create a seamless branding experience. Depending on their skill set, they will also be able to design a seamless user experience.

A developer, on the other hand, will be in charge of taking the designer’s vision and turning it into a working website no matter the complexity. They will be responsible for creating the database for your website that will hold all your information, they will ensure contact forms are working and sending emails properly, and they will also implement an eCommerce solution or a membership platform.

In most cases, web designers and web developers will work together to ensure your needs are met and that you can walk away happy knowing you have a beautiful, functioning website.

So, What Should I Do?

When it comes to web designers and web developers, the easiest way to quickly remember the difference between the two is to think of them in familiar terms. Web designers are very much the architects with creative vision. Web developers are the builders that will turn the schematics and blueprints into a beautiful house for you to live in.

Knowing the difference is important as placing the design of your website into the wrong hands can lead to more expenses down the road. A web designer might be familiar with the simple coding languages but that doesn’t mean they will be able to implement the custom members area you need. Similarly, a web developer may not know the importance of using your brand colors or styling the text to make it look better.

If you’re just starting out, working with a “unicorn” might be a better choice, provided you can find someone who is truly skilled in both.

If you’re a larger and well-established business, consider hiring both a designer and a developer. It might cost more, but not doing so could prove to be more costly in the long run.


Featured image: gropgrop

About the Author Brenda Stokes Barron

Brenda Stokes Barron is a professional writer and blogger and The Digital Inkwell is her personal brand. You can often find her typing furiously at her local Starbucks.