Web Designer Vs. Web Developer

What is the difference between a web designer and a web developer?

I have been asked this question by clients on numerous occasions. The short answer that I would give is a web designer is skilled at creating the visual appearance of the website. The designer creates a custom theme using sound layout practices, color theory, usability, and branding. A web developer is more involved in the actual building of the functioning website or web application using programming and scripting. So if you were building a custom car, the designer would do the body detailing and paint job, while the developer would be tinkering with all the components under the hood.

This of course is really putting the two disciplines of design and development in a vacuum. While it is true that web designers may tend to be less savvy in programming, and web developers less aesthetically-oriented, it is hardly this black and white in the real world.

Many designers and developers can both program, code, and design to varying degrees. It is very rare to find an individual who can design like Michelangelo and code back-end systems like a mad scientist. It truly is a left-brain, right-brain split.

Most people bearing the title of web designer are more on the graphic design path, creating entire layouts and themes in Photoshop. But they also have the ability to take their composition, chop it up and code it into a functioning (albeit, mostly static) web page using xhtml and css. Familiarity with JavaScript, PHP (or other) server side scripting is very important, but proficiency isn’t a must. Web designers rarely go far on the other side of the fence into heavy-duty programming realm.

As you can probably tell, this post was written by a web designer aspiring to go for the gold and dive into programming. It is tough, but very satisfying and rewarding.

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