The Difference Between Web Designer and a Web Developer

Before we start what will likely become a debate let’s get a few definitions down so when I use a term you understand what I am talking about or referring to.


Web developer
A web developer is a person who develops websites from the ground up. They know the languages (given that HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language we will classify it a language) they are using (including, but not limited to HTML, Javascript), as well as the style sheets. They may use fancy syntax highlighters, but they don’t require them to successfully create a site.
Web designer
A web designer is a person who uses graphics programs such as Photoshop, Gimp, Fireworks and the like to create website skins (layouts) and then use another program (such as Dreamweaver or Visual Web Developer) to make their design come to life for the web. They almost solely rely on the design views the program they use provides.

Why do we need to address the difference?

While the difference between web designer and web developer may not be overly significant to many it becomes one of the most frustrating things webmasters have to worry about, especially if they are attempting to get a job as a freelance professional or from someone without the knowledge of a difference.

This may not appear to be that big of a deal, but when you are talking pay it becomes important. The high end salary for a web designer is between $52,000 and $85,000. Now, again we have defined a web designer as someone who uses programs like Dreamweaver in design view to put together a skin they created in a program like Photoshop, but the real-world defines their job as the following:

“A web designer usually has some experience with graphic design and with actually building a web page; research into user experience and effective testing strategies can also be beneficial to the art of web design.”

Now, look at the pay grade for a web developer. They earn (on the high end again) between $76,000 and $104,000, and their real-world definition looks like so:
“ Write, modify, and debug software for web sites. Write code to generate web pages, access databases and business logic servers. Work with designers and content producers. Test and document software for web sites.”

Now, don’t try to tell me there isn’t a difference between a web designer and a web developer. They are completely different jobs!

The common webmaster

Just because web developer and web designer is defined as different jobs and has a different pay grade really doesn’t tell us what we want to know: Which category do I fall into? There is a simple answer to that, you either fall clearly into one of the definitions I placed above, or you are a hybrid of the two. The latter is becoming more and more common in today’s age as people need to be able to offer their employer more than the next guy to get a job.

I, for instance, love programming (as you may have noticed if you look at some of my work), but that isn’t to say I dislike designing website skins. On the contrary, I design only in the prospect of programming the backend of a site. I understand, as a web user, what I like and don’t like when I go to a site, and I attempt to pass that on in my work (though, like everything, having an outside opinion is invaluable – if only to make sure you are accomplishing what you set out to do).

So, what is wrong with being a web designer?

In short, nothing is wrong with being a web designer. The problem lies with those people who say they are that which they aren’t. I am talking about people claiming to be web developers who don’t know any backend (server side) programming languages and have never had to deal with modifying a database in their careers. These are the people who drive down the pay the real web developers can expect for their toils.

Relying on a program is something that should never happen to a web developer; they should use what is available, but accomplish their task no matter the programs available.

Wrapping Up

Now, I understand that this definition is a little short, but I think I have got the point across. Know what you need and choose the right person to accomplish it.

Choose a Web Developer to get a site Up and Functional. This Developer must have a good sense of the asthetics of what you want to convey to your users. Once the site is up and running and you find there is a need to further the design, then hire a designer who can "Skin" the site.

Or Better Yet, look at us to provide both services for the price of ONE and Contact us for Free No Obligation Quote