Career Insight

Web Designer vs. Web Developer: What’s the Difference?

Web designer vs. web developer… what’s the difference? If you’re new to the tech industry, you might be tempted to think they’re one and the same. Don’t get it twisted: While both jobs are equally important in the process of creating websites, they’re not the same position. 

The most pressing question is: Which career is a better fit for you? 

Let’s take a deep dive into these interaction design roles and investigate the differences (and similarities) between them. 

Here’s what we’ll explore today: 

  • What do web designers do? 
  • What do web developers do? 
  • Web designer vs. web developer: what’s the difference?
  • What tools do web designers and web developers use? 
  • Who earns more: web developers or web designers? 
  • How can I become a web developer or web designer?

What do web designers do? 

A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about the different forms of digital design. Alongside UX and graphic design, web design is a form of digital design. 

A web designer creates the visual elements of a website, designing for both aesthetics and usability. These professionals make sure the site is pleasing to the eye and readable, while also making it easy for the user to find what they’re looking for. Web designers follow classic design principles during the creation of a site design. 

The web designer will include elements like typography, color palettes, and branding in their designs. They’ll also make sure the user experience is up to par. Ultimately, the goal of a web designer is to create a website design that’s both attractive and usable. 

A web designer’s day-to-day tasks might include: 

  • Working with clients to develop design ideas 
  • Prototyping and wireframing 
  • Designing visual imagery for websites based on client standards 
  • Using content management systems to manage site content
  • Communicating design ideas to clients and colleagues using user flows, process flows, sitemaps, and wireframes

Let’s say you’re a web designer at an agency and take on a new client. Your job is to meet with the client and learn all about their brand, their vision for the new website, and any brand guidelines they currently follow. You’d consider their vision, brainstorm some ideas of your own, draw upon mutual inspiration, and create a few mockups. 

The goal: using those ideas and inspirations to create a deliverable for the client and receive their feedback. Next, you’d negotiate with the client until you’re on the same page with the design. Finally, you’d hand off the design to the web developer who helps you bring it to life. 

What do web developers do? 

If a web designer’s job is to make a website beautiful through the use of elements like typography and design principles, a web developer takes the design elements from a web designer and makes them functional. 

Web developers use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to create and structure the website so users can actually see and interact with it. These languages enable a developer to code and build the structure of a site. They may also rely on other tools (more on that below). 

A web developer’s daily tasks might include: 

  • Writing code to develop web applications
  • Quality assurance testing and troubleshooting websites across different browsers
  • Identifying and fixing bugs 
  • Developing and testing new features 
  • Creating Application Program Interfaces (APIs) to ensure performance in data exchange applications

key differences between web developer and web designer infographic

Web designer vs. web developer: what’s the difference?

It’s easiest to think of web design and web development as 2 skill sets that work together to create awesome websites. YouTuber Jesse Showalter breaks it down using an analogy we really vibe with: 

Web design and development are a lot like different parts of a car. A web designer represents all of the elements a user will see. They are the experience, the look, and feel of the car. Meanwhile, a developer represents all of the elements of a car you can’t see that make it function and move, like the engine. 

“An engine is useless without the car and a car is useless without the engine,” Jesse explained. “The two have to go together. Inevitably, they’re going to go together. They’re either going to be the same person or they’re going to be working on the same team, utilizing each other’s strengths and skill sets to accomplish their goal.” 

Web designers and web developers are tasked with using creative problem-solving to tell a brand’s story and guide the user through that story. They’re using a mix of creative and technical skills to tell the story. 

What tools do web developers and web designers use? 

Web designing relies on more visually based tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, Figma, Sketch, and other UI/UX tools. These tools help them create wireframes and prototypes of the website. You’ll find these tools are popular in other forms of design including graphic design, print design, and product design. 

A web developer uses HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to create and structure a site. They’ll also use software like text editors, a command line interface, and version control. These resources help them do things like set up user authentication, databases, email services, and more. 

Who earns more: web designer vs. web developer? 

Salaries are usually dependent upon your location and experience level so be sure to do your own research to get an estimate of how much you could earn in your area for either position. We personally like this salary calculator from Dice. 

Current data shows web developers earn slightly more than web designers. According to Indeed, the average salary for a web designer in the United States is around $45,042 (as of publishing). Meanwhile, the average salary for web developers in the U.S. is $77,975. 

It’s also important to keep other types of digital design work (like UX and UI design) in mind. These designers may have similar skill sets but tend to earn more than web designers. So if money’s on your mind, consider using your digital design skills in these higher paying design positions. You can read about UX designer salaries here

Can you be both a web designer and web developer? 

Yes, of course! Sometimes, these positions will be combined. But it all depends on the company you choose to work for and what their needs are. 

Web designer vs. web developer— Regardless of which position you choose, it’s helpful to have some skills from both roles. Web developers and designers don’t have to share the same skill sets, but oftentimes a designer might know how to code or a developer might know a thing or two about design principles. In fact, designers can enhance their design skills by possessing at least a basic understanding of coding. This will help them know what is and isn’t possible as they create their designs. 

Learning both skill sets makes you more well-rounded and uncovers more work opportunities. So that’s something to keep in mind if you’re considering a career in web development or web design. 

What skills do I need to become a designer or developer? 

Like we said, while designers and developers are working towards a common goal: building an awesome website to help tell a client’s story, they require different traits and skill sets. These are the skills you need to become a web designer or web developer. 

Web Designer Traits & Skills:

  • Communication skills
  • Empathy
  • Creativity
  • Detail-oriented 
  • Experience with design software 
  • Knowledge of SEO and content management systems

Web Developer Traits & Skills:

  • Analytical thinking skills
  • Coding expertise
  • Knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript 
  • Communication skills
  • Collaboration skills
  • Experience with testing and debugging
  • Ability to problem-solve 

How can I become a web designer or web developer? 

Think a career in web design or web development could be for you? Traditional higher education, coding bootcamps, and upskilling programs are all effective ways you can jumpstart your career. 

It’s up to you to decide which educational path makes the most sense for you and we encourage you to do your own research. After all, informed decisions are the best decisions. 

But here’s our 2 cents in the meantime: 

Upskilling programs and bootcamps can be highly effective ways to enter into a new industry, especially if you’re already a working professional. 

At Kenzie Academy, we offer a 6-month, part-time UX Design Career program with job guarantee that will help you grow your career as a UX Designer or web designer. You’ll learn how to solve problems using design principles and turn ideas into beautiful, functional websites and apps. 

Daydreaming about becoming a developer? We’ve got you covered with our Software Engineering program. In it, you’ll learn front-end and back-end programming and graduate with a full-stack development certificate backed by Kenzie and Southern New Hampshire University. You’ll go over various languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python, Django, and SQL. These skills can translate into a software engineering role or a web dev role. 

We prioritize your success at Kenzie. That’s why we’ll do our best to help you feel job-ready through career readiness training. Finally, our Placement Team will connect you with industry contacts and mentors to make your job search process smooth sailing. 

Ready to take the next step in growing your tech career? Apply for our UX Design or Software Engineering programs. Contact us if you have any questions about our programs or just want to chat about tech. 

Enjoyed reading about web designer vs. web developer roles? Check out these blogs to get even more information on jobs in the industry: 

And finally, you can attend one of our upcoming webinars to learn more about our programs and other hot tech topics. 

Ready to jumpstart your career as a UX Designer or Coder? Learn more about our Software Engineering and UX Design programs, or check out our free beginner’s coding program Kenzie Free.

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