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Web designer Vs. Web developer - What’s the difference?

“So you write the code?”
“Well some of it… HTML/CSS, the way the webpage looks.”
“What did you major in again?”

Going home for the holidays inevitably results in explaining my role at Visionary to my family. Many are still unfamiliar with the labels of a developer versus a designer.

Generally, a web designer’s focus is the look and feel of a website, while a web developer focuses on the technical side.

A web designer often uses graphics and graphic design software (think Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign) to create a look for the web. This design is then married with coding to bring it to life online.

The best designers have a strong grasp on a variety of concepts including color, typography, spacial relationships, audience, and user experience.

The designer may not always be the person writing the code, and in some cases, he or she can work independently of the team who will take a website design live.

A web developer builds the backbone of websites and knows languages specific to the web. Developers, historically, don’t focus on making something look visually appealing but create websites with clean code that are technically sound.

At the end of the day, both web designers and web developers are working toward a singular goal - to create a website that entices and attracts users.

To do this, both the design and development must be sound. A site needs to look good and function properly. The colors and imagery need to reflect the brand and the interface needs to encourage visitors to take a desired action.

User experience is the end game. Designs should enable users to reach their goals with speed, effectiveness, and pleasure. The designer shouldn’t have to shoulder all of the user experience responsibilities.

Not only do developers know their limits better, but they also have a clearer idea of all possibilities.

You may have also heard the terms Front End Development or Back End Development.

Front end development is done in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, while back end development normally uses PHP, Ruby, Python, Java, SQL, or .Net.

To truly master the art of web design, it is important to understand the medium. The medium of web, is code. Therefore, many designers are also knowledgeable of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

In college I made the choice to supplement my design classes with web development classes to learn HTML and CSS. At the time, this decision was mainly so I could enter the job market with a wider skillset. Later I found that possessing a knowledge of both development and design has helped me tremendously, communication-wise, when creating a website.  

 The defined lines between developers and designers are becoming more blurred as more designers are learning to code and more developers are paying close attention to design theory. We are beginning to see that the future of the field includes the title web designer/developer.

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