Difference between web designer and web developer

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My classmates and I were having a friendly argument on the difference between a web designer and a web developer… or are they the same? Which according to you is a better bet for the future? Could you also let us know is the average salaries of web designers and web developers?
Matthew Richardson

You know, I’ve never given this much of thought. I’ve spent years in the web business and all what I know is self taught. I still buy tons of books and magazines (you should see the monthly bill), read thousands of blogs, forums, newsletters etc. but have never attended a formal web design or a web development class.

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So what I tell you in this post is primarily shooting from the hip except for the web designer and web developer salary information which has been gleaned off the web (where else?).

Difference between web designer and a web developer

In brief, a web designer is someone who is involved in ‘designing’ a web site while the web developer does the ‘code’. Thus, the former is responsible for the visual aspects while the latter works backstage, so to speak.

In certain aspects, this distinction between the two is actually quite vague because, ideally, the designer should have a good working knowledge of HTML and CSS and a web developer should have a decent knowhow of web usability. The simple table and the Venn diagram below delineate what I think.

Difference between web designer and web developer - Venn diagram

Web Designer Web Developer
Photoshop (image editor), Flash (web animation), Illustrator (or equivalent vector drawing program), Web accessibility and web standards, color theory and typography. JavaScript (client-side language), Server-side programming language (such as PHP, Perl, Ruby, ASP, .NET etc.), database application and SQL (such as MySQL), AJAX, XML.

I strongly believe that both the web design and web developer should be competent in HTML and CSS. They also need to be well-versed in web usability and keep themselves updated with the changing standards.

There are obviously other fields such as Search Engine Optimization (very important), Flash development (goes much beyond simple animations), Java, C#, Coldfusion (very specific) and, yes, WordPress, Joomla etc.

So you see, whether you are a web developer or a web design, there is much to learn!

Web developer : a humorous look at the differences- thumbnailIn a related blog post, I put up a humorous graphic with a tongue-in-cheek take on web developer vs. web designer issue. Click the thumbnail to check it out.

Average salary: Web designer vs. Web developer

There are a lot of web related jobs. SimplyHired lists the average salaries in this industry along with the job titles. I would also like to add Web Master to this list. Though purists may refer to web masters as those who run their own web sites, this job title can also be applied to the individuals employed by small and medium sized firms that have (or want to have) a significant presence on the Internet.

Average salary of web designer and web developer

Image Source: SimplyHired – average salaries of web designers and web developers

In his blog, Oskar Smith explains why web design as an industry is dying. Though I didn’t like the idea of using a Google trends image to bolster his claim, he does have a point. My opinions are also equally biased and I believe that one needs to be a decent ‘Jack-of-all-trade’ to be prepared for the future. For instance, a web designer can always strengthen her resume with PHP, MySQL or SEO skills.

So which is better: Web design or web development?

This is really hard to say. It all depends on your aptitude and whether you are left brained or right brained – check out quick and dirty list at Funderstanding.com. So I suppose, web development is primarily a left brain attribute while design that involves a little more ‘holistic’ approach is governed by your right brain.

My sincere advice is not to be swayed by the salary figures or the job numbers but rather look at what you are good at. Remember, if you do something well and continue to learn in your chosen field, you will surely rise and be successful.

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