July 20th 2012

Web Designer or Web Developer?

What is the difference?

Following on from our article written about web design, we thought we would create a useful article on what is the difference between a designer and developer.

Web designer

Web design is a broad term covering many different skills and disciplines that are used in the production and maintenance of websites.  Often there is a slight confusion about how this differs from a developer.

A web designer is someone who is very creative, both graphically and technically minded.  A designer would not only take a brief and create a wonderful looking design, but they should also understand the user experience and functionality of the site.  They will also possibly understand the fundamentals of Search Engine Optimisation, but don’t get confused that a web designer will know how to get your site to the top of the search engines.

This is another skill altogether and sits between a designer and a developer and this is more of a marketing role.  Often or not you will find a web designer will use a developer to build the backend of the site and make the functionality work and their ideas come to life.

Often or not a web designer will use an off-the-shelf system such as Wordpress, Typo3 or a static basic HTML site but the designer would not get involved to the server side scripts or heavily into code to change the functionality of the off-the-shelf system.

Web developer

However, the web developer is more the back of house; highly skilled, highly analytical and very structured. Normally there experts in three tiers of programming, where upon they will take a look at the design and the brief provided and build the desired functionality and either hand code the site from scratch using HTML5, CSS, MySQL, PHP, JQuery or another programming language.  A web developer will also be an expert in server side technology like SQL or MySQL.  A developer will also understand the indepth knowledge of how to shape a site to work with the search engines.  This is a key difference to a web designer who would be more proficient in a graphic design suit like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop but have an understanding in HTML and CSS.

A developer will also be able to problem-solve existing sites by looking at how the site is structured and analyse  where the site can be improved to increase the speed and the functionality of the site. They will also be able to look at taking an existing site and add functionality to the core workings of a website.

A web developer will understand how data works, how it has to be structured to give a desired result.  Often this baffles web designers and also baffles non-technical minds.  Often, programmers work with such terms as Unions, Left and right joins, Containers, Variables, Functions, Parameters, Booleans, Integars... the list goes on.  They will talk about tables, products, beta and alpha.

Often, a developer will not be concerned with the look and feel of a site/project and will just concentrate on making the site work. They will also possibly develop applications which can be plugged in to existing sites such as mobile versions of websites or smart phone applications.

An average salary for a web developer can be between £32,000 to £35,000+ per year. For a web designer it is on average between £27,000 to £31,000.  It is often or not that both roles are undervalued and misunderstood. It takes years of devotion to become a good developer and a designer.  A freelance developer could earn ten times that amount and the same with a designer and often or not they will become key to the success of which ever project they work on.

Cocoonfxmedia Ltd - James Blackman

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