What is the Difference Between Web Developer and Web Designer?

Web DeveloperThe work of web developers and designers are clearly demonstrated through today’s interactive websites, but many people are not aware that there is a distinct difference between web developer and web design activities. The key difference between the two functions is that web developers are responsible for creating the code and scripts that actually make the website operate based on specified requirements, and web designers must create the website’s graphics, layout and overall look for which site visitors are attracted. Here are some specific skills that are needed by web developers and designers that highlight the difference between the two job categories.

Technical Skills

Web developers who are responsible for the back end functionality of websites must primarily have knowledge of software development principles to tackle the challenges that arise during the creation of most websites. When good foundational software development principles are mastered and put into practice, web developers are able to use industry standard techniques while coding in a variety of computer languages. Additionally, web developers must have working knowledge of programming languages like hypertext markup language (HTML), Java Script, Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX), PHP Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP), Structured Query Language (SQL) and MySQL. Knowledge of these languages allow web developers to build the interactive webpages that integrate with undetected databases to seamlessly provide site visitors with the information that they seek while on the site.

Web designers receive work products from web developers and use them to create the overall front end appearance of websites. They must apply industry standard design principles and knowledge of cascading style sheet (CSS) to create the eye catching layouts of today’s websites. CSS is a design programming language that allows designers to write instructions about the appearance and layout of a webpage; web browsers interpret designers’ instructions and display the resulting webpages that are seen by site visitors. Although it is not necessary for web designers to have working knowledge of Java Script, AJAX, PHP, SQL and MySQL, they should understand code written in HTML and how that code integrates into their designs.

Interpersonal and Communication Skills

During the planning stages of any web development project, web developers and web designers must use good communication skills to adequately identify their clients’ requirements and translate them into technical performance specifications for use by project teams. This ability is highly emphasized in large software development organizations; they want any one of their developers to be able to pick up a project, understand the performance specifications and complete the project without having to rely on the availability of a single developer. Web designers must also ask the right questions and listen carefully to clients to get ideas about the type of experience that they ultimately want for their site visitors.

Project Management Skills

Many professional software development operations assign a dedicated project manager for development projects. However, developers and designers still must utilize the elements of project management to produce their particular parts of the project, successfully integrate those parts and adequately conduct tests on the final product. Developers and designers that are knowledgeable of industry standard project management principles can perform these activities within cost, schedule and performance constraints.

Related Resource: E-Commerce Partner


The lure of lower overhead costs and opportunities to reach more customers attract many traditional brick and mortar businesses to sell their products or services through online venues. As a result, the skills of both web designers and developers are in great demand globally. With the exception of freelance web professionals who tend to function as developers, designers and project managers, industry experts prefer to maintain the distinguishing difference between web developer and web design functions.