What's the Difference?
Designing a website is a lot like making a movie. It is an ensemble effort of cast and crew, working together to create something that appeals to an audience and will turn a profit. Everyone is working toward the same goal, but they all do very different things.
As you consider a career in web design and development, think about where your interests lie.
If you admire the costumes or cinematography in a movie, you'd probably be suited for a career in web design. If you wonder how a stunt was executed or how a set was built, then you may be interested in web development.
Defining the Terms
- Web Designer: Generally, a web designer focuses on answering "what" questions, such as, "What will the interface look like?" and "What happens when 'Button A' is pressed?" A web designer comes up with the visual concepts of a webpage. They work with print, color and graphics to create works of art on the web. Web designers are concerned with whether a page's font is edgy but still readable and if the artwork will appeal to the right audience.
- Web Developer: Web page development involves the "hows." For instance, "How will the code work?" "How do we process the data entered?" or "How do we send information back to the user?" Web developers build the foundation of a website. They design internal databases that store information and create tools that can track which pages a user visits on their site. Web developers work with web designers to make sure that a website is functional, as well as engaging.
Bridging the Gap
Despite all that firmly separates web developers and web designers, there is quite a bit of gray area. According to Julie Gau, a graphic web designer, "the knowledge that a web designer and a web developer need to create a website usually overlaps." Roger Braunstein, a senior web developer, agrees, adding that developers and designers in small companies in particular "end up doing everything—web development and design."
Certain companies will have "designer" requirements in their web development positions, requiring that the developer know HTML and CSS. This, according to Gau, is because "a good web developer will know what a web designer needs to do for a website and vice versa."
The most successful designers have the characteristics and skills of a developer, just as a good developer should have some characteristics of a designer. The two, after all, go hand in hand. Gau sums up the roles most accurately, "Designers make what developers create look good and simple to use. Developers make what designers create work better."