Web Designer vs Web Developer: Understanding the Difference

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 6 October 2022 | Published 29 September 2021

Updated 6 October 2022

Published 29 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Web designers and web developers are two key roles that are critical to the production and ongoing maintenance of a website. Though they are similarly named, web developers and web designers perform different functions in the process of producing fully functional websites that are easy to use. If you're seeking to pursue a career in the technology sector, you'll need to understand these different roles and their key differences. This article explains the essential differences between web designers and web developers, what they do and the differences in their salary expectations and career progression.

Related: 20 In-Demand Skills in Today's Workforce

What's the difference between web designer vs. web developer?

Some may misunderstand the difference between a web designer vs. web developer as they work so closely together, and in certain places, skill sets overlap and both work on building, maintaining or updating websites and optimising the performance and ease of use by the public.

A simple difference between these two types of technology sector professionals is that a web designer primarily focuses on the front-end of the website, the part with which users interact, while a web developer is concerned with the back-end structure and functionality of the site at a code level.

Web developers often lead a website build by creating the core files from which the website is composed, with the web designer following with the visual arrangement, information architecture, and creation and population of web pages.

What is a web designer?

A web designer is a professional who is responsible for creating the user-facing aspects of a website. A website designer organises the structure of the website that users navigate via a menu, creating pages that display the information contained within the website in an attractive and accessible manner. The web designer also arranges the content that fills web pages, whether images, text or video.

Related: What does a web designer do? (Skills and responsibilities)

What does a web designer do?

Here are some of the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of a web designer:

  • Holding meetings with clients to find out what they want their website to look like and how they want it to function

  • Project managing a web build and liaising with the client on its progress

  • Interpreting client briefs for building a new website

  • Creating the visual aspects of a website

  • Building individual web pages and arranging the content within them

  • Working with graphic designers to create images for the website including logos, buttons and icons

  • Adding the visual elements once created by the graphic designer

  • Working with web developers and software developers to add specialised functionality to the website and troubleshoot problems with the user experience and the speed of the website

  • Coordinating copywriters and other content producers and inserting and formatting text content within web pages

  • Undertaking testing of the website to ensure that the appearance and functionality of the website are suitable for public use

Related: 12 Essential Web Designer Skills

What is a web developer?

Web developers are a type of programmer who focuses on creating applications that are published as websites on the world wide web. They undertake both client-side and server-side development, creating and maintaining a web content management system that a web designer can work with. A web developer is responsible for authoring the code that dictates how a website functions. They require knowledge and expertise in multiple programming languages to achieve this.

Related: What does a web developer do? (Plus salary)

What does a web developer do?

Here are some of the routine tasks and responsibilities that make up a web developer role:

  • Web developers also have client-facing interactions where they can establish how a website needs to function and the coding that is required

  • Authoring the code that underpins both the front-end and back-end of the website

  • Supporting the web designer in creating a specific appearance and handling of the website

  • Implementing, testing and enhancing security features of the website. Implementation of firewalls and the encryption necessary to keep the site and its communications secure

  • Completing maintenance of the site, installing necessary upgrades and upgrading the function according to feedback from the web designer or users

  • Promptly troubleshooting problems with the website

Related: 10 Essential Web Developer Skills

Example web designer jobs

Web designer roles have a variety of terms and titles depending on the specific skills and experience required. Here are some example job titles for web designer jobs:

  • User experience (UX) designer: This type of web designer focuses on the overall experience of using a website, implementing the changes that make a website highly usable and desirable to its users.

  • User interface (UI) designer: This type of web designer is primarily concerned with the layout and aesthetics of a website. They create a look for the website that is acceptable from a user's point of view.

  • Interaction designer (IxD): This type of website designer is concerned with enhancing or optimising how users interact with the website, developing solutions that create a responsive and engaging experience.

  • Visual designer: This is another term for a web designer with a strong aesthetic focus in their work.

Related: How to write a web designer CV (with template and example)

Example web developer jobs

Within web development, there are a variety of roles that have a specific focus or expertise as part of the web development process. These are some commonly used web developer job titles:

  • Client-side developer: These are web developers who focus on using code to build the elements of a website that users interact with, including custom web applications to perform specific functions in the website.

  • Server-side developer: These web developers primarily work by writing code and transferring data and files for a website at a server level. They are adept in specific server-side languages such as Python or Ruby on Rails.

  • Application developer: These web developers are primarily concerned with the coding and creation of custom web applications.

  • Front-end developer: Just like client-side developers, a front-end developer builds user-facing aspects of a website including applications from code.

  • Back-end developer: This is another term for a web developer who works server-side.

  • Full-stack developer: These developers are skilled engineers who can work from both the front- and back-ends of a website. They handle not only the servers and databases but also build applications and support client and user-facing work. The stack they provide may vary from project to project.

Related: How To Become a Mobile App Developer

Key differences between web designers vs web developers

Though website designers and developers may be simultaneously working on the same website, the type and scope of the project work they undertake, the tools and programming languages they use differ:

Web designer projects versus web developer projects

Web designers and web developers work as part of a multidisciplinary team to fulfil the work required for a live website. The web designers are focused on perfecting the layout of the site and the visual and text content including the homepage, navigation, headers and footers. Web designers often coordinate the entire project by undertaking a project management role and overseeing the work of a graphic designer and content writer. They must ensure that the branding and appearance of the site remain consistent throughout, paying great attention to detail.

Website engineering responsibilities

Web developer's project work is concerned with the engineering required to give the website the functionality the client and user demand. Web developers may be responsible for the creation of mail applications that can handle user enquiries or e-commerce or subscription areas or the website. These web applications are built from scratch. Web developers also oversee site security and responses to server or search engine issues that need to be promptly addressed to maintain the proper performance of a website.

Related: 29 website features to impress your audience

Programming languages used by web designers and web developers

Web designers and web developers use a range of programming languages that are specific to the work tasks they undertake. As web designers are concerned with the styling and formatting of web content, they have a high proficiency in HTML and CSS, which they use to complete these tasks.

Web developers use languages that are focused on function, including jQuery and JavaScript. They also need to be able to utilise key web applications and database software like Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP. They are known as the LAMP stack and are critical to building properly performing websites.

Related: A guide to programming language popularity (With definition)

Salary expectations of web designers vs web developers

Web designers and developers differ in the typical salary earned. According to Indeed Salaries, the national average salary for a web designer is £30,966 per year, while the national average salary for a web developer is £37,267 per year.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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