Web Design vs. Web Development: What is the Difference?

Web designers versus web developers
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Have you ever heard the terms "web designer" and  "web developer" and thought:

"What does each mean? What do they entail?" 

Below I will elaborate on each, discussing what each role incorporates, how they are alike, and how they differ.

What Is a Web Designer?

A web designer focuses on the appearance of a website or web application. 

Web designers are familiar with color theory, graphic design, and information flow. Certain aspects of web design, like information flow, touch upon user experience (UX). Moreover, tools like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and other wireframing software are in the web designer's toolkit. 

As a web designer, it is good to know HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. However, there are certain web designer positions where these coding skills are not mandatory. 

Nonetheless, as a web designer, it is important to be digitally savvy — even if you can't "code". 

What Is a Web Developer?

Compared to web designers, web developers must know how to code and work on making websites/applications working. In general, web developers are concerned with functionality — not the appearance — of websites and applications. 

There are two different types of web developers: front end and backend.

Front end developers must know HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Also, realize that web designers and front-end developers have a good deal in common.

Backend developers typically work with a particular programming language and framework — like Ruby on Rails or Python and Django. They also have an understanding of databases, such as MySQL.

There is also a third type of web developer called a "full stack developer". This means that this individual is familiar with both the front end and backend. Or as it is commonly called, "client side" and "server side".  

How Are the Two Roles Alike?

Web design and web development can both require some level of programming knowledge. Of course, developers rely on programming much more. And some designers will not be required to write a line of code. 

Furthermore, web designers and web developer are similar because both focus on customer interaction or the end user.

The designer looks at how the end user will view the process of navigating the site or web application. On the other hand, a developer will focus more so on how the customer will be able to get things done.

In the end, both make the internet a better place. 

How Do Web Designers and Web Developers Differ?

Here are three ways in which the two differ.

1. Compensation:

On the whole, web designers tend to earn less than web developers. 

According to PayScale, the median web designer salary in the US is $48,474 (as of late 2016). Also found on PayScale, the median web developer salary in the US is $57,662 (as of late 2016). 

2. When it comes to finding work:

For web designers, your portfolio of work matters most. Hiring managers may want to look at your Dribbble or Behance profile. 

For web developers, hiring managers want to see your code. Typically this is done by looking at your Github profile. 

3. As far as personality goes:

Web designers tend to me more creative and artistic, while web developers are more analytical. 


With the ever-changing web landscape, these roles oftentimes become blurred nowadays.

Many designers understand core web development concepts and vice versa. However, most companies and organizations will have dedicated team members on both sides.