Skip to main content

While some people might think that a website designer and a website developer do the same thing, they are actually quite different. This is important to understand when you are looking to hire one or the other which is why today we will discuss what are the differences between website developers versus website designers?

Being one of the top website designer and website development companies, we have worn both hats ourselves and had to answer that same question for numerous clients of the years. So let’s break it down to help you understand the difference in what each profession does, and doesn’t do.

Don’t website designers do it all?

It happens a lot in this field; people confuse web design with web development and vice-versa. This can happen with newbie’s in the business, clients, and customers or even with auxiliary people like copywriters and graphic designers we work with.

There is a very real difference between web development and web design as it is not just people looking to use a different title for more prestige and income, like you often see with things like Senior Account Manager or other positions with experience layers. The reason the distinction needs to be understood is so that you as a client understand who you are dealing with and what you are getting if you end up hiring one or the other to help with your web needs.

It might be surprising to some people if they hire a web designer to later learn that person outsourced all of the development responsibilities to someone else with limited collaboration or you hire a website developer who has little to no design ability resulting in something that does not look like what you envisioned.

What a Web Designer does

Typically a web designer is the architect of a web project. They consider a client’s needs and objectives and then craft a design based on information hierarchy and the use of wireframes. Often there is a heavy focus on UX/UI design with an interesting and highly functional layout. Advanced designers incorporate branding and story-telling into their overall design.

The areas of typical focus include: balance, consistency, emphasis, contrast and harmony.

Web design is about appearance and functions with the focus on making something that looks great, works well for the end user and meets the business goals for the customer. Most web designers have some programming skills but not to the same degree as a developer because the primary focuses of a designer are visual and organizational.

What a Web Developer does

If the web designer is the architect then the web developer is the general contractor. It is their job to bring to take existing plans and from there use their ability as a programmer to build the project to the existing specifications.

A developer breaks down the plans into smaller functional parts and then builds each one, sometimes from scratch, and then combines them together to make a complete site. Developers often understand multiple programming languages such as HTML, PHP, Java, CSS, Python, Ruby or C++ and typically also have a good understanding of things such as Content Management Systems like WordPress or Joomla.

While the web developer can certainly bring ideas and suggestions to the overall plans, using experience and understanding to add to a project, typically the designer makes the final decision. Sometimes web developers have a good eye for design or at least understand some of the principles as it can make their job easier.

The bottom line

For some projects you might need one or the other, but many times you end up needing both a web designer and web developer. Their roles are symbiotic in nature and work best when collaboration takes place from day one. While there are some hybrid designer-developers, these tend to be rare because each job has a specific skill set that tends to suit either right brain (creativity) or left brain (logic) thinking.

The bottom line is that you should understand what the difference between website developers vs. website designers before you hire either one to help you with your next project. Some firms handle both responsibilities in-house which is practical and functional to get projects completed with a seamless level of collaboration. On the flip side, those businesses that or either one or the other only have a limited scope as to what they can provide which often leads to outsourcing and disharmony with the final product which can be a disappointment to the client.

This article was originally published in 26 September 2016. It was most recently updated in November 28, 2022 by

Leave a Reply