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  • Writer's pictureTim Buchalka

Difference Between Web Designer and Web Developer and Who Gets Paid More?

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

What are the differences between a web designer role and a web developer role? Let's talk about that today.

Today, we're looking at the differences between a web designer and a web developer because they are very different.

Let's start out by talking first about a web designer. What does a web designer do? Well, they focus more on the design of a particular page or website or whatever it is, things like the layout, the look and feel, the color, the fonts that are employed, the logos, and perhaps they create logos, images, just in general the look and feel of the website. That's what the web designer will focus on.

The web developer, on the other hand, their goal is to take the design that they've got from someone, in this case the web designer, and to make that work. So, basically they focus more on the functionality of the website in terms of getting buttons to do something, getting data saved, basically taking that design as I've said and getting that to actually work so that someone can actually visit that page or website and get it to actually do something productive rather than focusing on how it looks. So, they're basically implementing the web designer's design.

All right. Now that we've done that, let's discuss some of the tools of the trade that a typical web designer will look at. We'll do that first, and then we'll talk about web developers.

For web designers, common tools that you'd use would be Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Sketch is another one, but also Adobe XD is another product, those types of products. So, it's more a graphical product or a prototyping type tool that they can actually take the design and put it into some format, a PDF format or some other format so that they can actually see what their design is going to work with. So, they can do a prototype, if you will, of what the UI is gonna look like. When they're finished and they've got an idea in their head or they've actually put it into one of these tools, they can give that to a web developer who can then try and implement what they've done and actually create a website out of it. All right. So, that's web designer tools.

Let's then look at some typical web developer tools. Well, common things would be an editor for editing HTML or CSS code or JavaScript. Editors like Sublime Text is one, VS Code or Visual Studio Code, Atom, they're common editors, but also full-blown IDEs like IntelliJ IDEA or also Adobe Dreamweaver. They are just two examples of packages that are really designed there for web developers. There's really an abundance of packages. I listed just a couple here, basically a ton more.

Now web developers, in addition to knowing packages and knowing certain packages, need to have a good knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript as an absolute minimum and I've talked about this before in a previous post. So, check that out if you want to find out more about what these tools are and what they look like. They would be the starting point for a typical web developer to understand to those technologies, those languages before they can then move on to other things as well.

Web designers, on the other hand, they need obvious good graphical skills, they need to have the skills to be able to design and create these things. But very importantly here, basically a web developer can go through his or her entire career with zero artistic abilities and yes, I'm actually proof of that because I'm in that scenario. I've been a web developer basically in previous jobs that I've actually had, and I've got zero artistic skills. As much as I would love to have them, my skill is more coding, and that's my forte and I've gone through my entire career without having any artistic abilities.

So, if you're thinking as a web developer that you may need to have some sort of artistic skills, yes, they'd probably be a bonus, but you certainly don't need them because traditionally you find in a lot of cases, particularly when you start working for larger companies, there's a segregation of duties. So, there's a specific web design section or department or a person depending on how big the company and the role is, how big the jobs that need to be fixed or were actually created, compared to a web developer who's just like a separate role.

So, usually there's two separate roles and there's actually a hand-off. So, the web designer is more engaging with the end user to try and get an idea on what they're trying to achieve and they'll create the design. Then, they'll actually bring it to the web developers to actually implement. So, completely separate.

It's fairly rare for someone to be a web designer and web developer. It's normally a focused one or the other. But if you're a rare person who's got good artistic skills and good web developer skills, that's probably a big bonus for you.

All right. So, another question that I get asked a lot is in terms of web designers and web developers, who gets paid more? Well, in general, web developers will get paid more because rightly or wrongly they're seen as more valuable in general than a web designer. Now that's obviously not the case. The specific cases will override these generalizations. But in general, web development will be seen as a skill that's more in demand and basically paid more as a result.

So, in my opinion, it's actually harder in many aspects to be a good web developer and that's because with web design, if you've got good artistic skills, you can keep those skills up. There's not really a lot of packages you need to continually relearn. But as a web developer, technology is changing so fast, new versions or packages are coming out, and you need to be on top of things like HTML specifications and all those sorts of things, specification for JavaScript, you need to be on top of those as a developer and be ahead of the pack so that you're constantly there wherever the market's going, and it is changing really, really quickly.

Contrast that to a web designer, once you've got your basic skills and you've got your basic skills and packages like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or Adobe XD or whatever it is, then you can maintain those and make a good living without having to continually reinvest in learning new packages. Now it's not to say you won't have to do some relearning.

My point is that in general, in my experience, having seen both sides of it working with web designs and so forth, they tend to be a bit more static. Basically they don't need to update their skills as often and as much, in my opinion, as web developers need to. So, basically there's a lot more to learn and keep up to date with as a web developer is what I'm trying to say and that's probably the reason for the extra dollars that typically a web developer will actually get compared to a web designer.

All right. So, I hope that helped. If you've got any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I'll get back to you.

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