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General Discussion

Roxanna Gilland-Rothe
Roxanna Gilland-Rothe
2,967 Points

Web Design vs Web Development

As I understand it, a web designer is charged with conceptualizing an aesthetically pleasing, well organized layout for content. While a web developer is primarily concerned with creating the code to make those concepts function.

  • Is that correct?
  • If that is correct I'm having a difficult time understanding why a web designer need have any knowledge of code whatsoever in order to preform their job duties. If that's all they're doing why not just sketch it out? If they're expected to know how to build it, then what's the developer doing again?
  • And if developers know how to put everything in its place and make sure it's running smoothly, why wouldn't they just decide how it should look while they're at it?

In other words, why isn't this just one job?

I'm pretty sure I'm misunderstanding something fundamental here. Help?

5 Answers

Hi Roxanna,

  1. Yes you are correct, as a developer myself I don't really focus on design what so ever, In fact where I work there is a designer who works with me who focuses on designing the sites for me.
  2. Well mostly because developers take time on overcoming obstacles. Which is why most of us need great problem solving skills. It also helps to lighten the load.
  3. Personally and as well as most of the team I work with, we are great coders and developers but we don't have the eye for design, and as I said before it is just so that we can focus on other important things.

P.S. Also it is good for a designer to know the basics of HTML & CSS to know the limitations of their work. I am constantly telling the designer what we can/cannot do,

Personally, I think the term web developer should contain both the graphic design, and coding aspect. I would then consider a person who only codes to be more towards the line of web programmer, implying they'd only focus on the programming aspect of the site development. Because, technically, CSS is designing, and if we split the two terms web developer and designer, what is one who does both design and code (I enjoy both)? I would then term a graphic designer, specializing in web design layout, to be a "web graphic designer", assuming they only design, and not code.

In reality, I truly think it's just all semantics, and you can use whatever title you'd like, as long as it gets the point across in a professional manner...

Design vs. Development is a continuum, or a spectrum rather than having a firm point at which the task changes. In the most specialized cases it could be pure concept and wireframing at one end, through to deep computer science work at the development end within the same project.

Deciding what is what also depends on the context.

Design usually covers styling & aesthetics and should also involve deliberately working towards the business and user goals of the product. Designers need to be at least familiar with the medium for which they are designing. For the Web that means HTML and CSS. For furniture design it's probably wood and metal. Depending on the workflow & team "design" could mean concept only, concept and visual design, or HTML & CSS too. In some cases it will blend into front end development (more JavaScript) and even theming a CMS.

Development is code-focused but tasks that are considered design in one business might be development somewhere else.

Many websites & apps are complex enough that they warrant specialists. It's simply not practical to have enough people good enough at such a wide range of skills to fill a team with generalists.

Roxanna Gilland-Rothe
Roxanna Gilland-Rothe
2,967 Points

It makes much more sense to me now. I found Mike's comment that it's a spectrum to be especially helpful. I'm still a bit confused about what employers will be looking for and expecting, but what else is new :D

Thanks for all the great answers everyone!