301 Redirect: Designer vs. developer

Products mentioned
Understanding the difference

Building a website is more work than it may appear. In many ways, it is like building a house. When you build a house, you want it to be beautiful while also being able to stand the test of time. The same is true for a site.

To achieve this goal, structure and design are both paramount. You don’t want a house that is solid but hideous. Or something that looks amazing but is structurally unsound.

For a well-rounded creation, you want professionals with mastery in each specific discipline needed to bring it to life. You wouldn’t hire an interior designer to lay your foundation or a roofer to choose your kitchen layout.

Building a site is no different. Much like all the myriad parties come to build a house, web designers and developers work hand-in-hand to create a website, each with a different focus.

The role of designers

As the name suggests, web designers are responsible for the design and appearance of the website. It is the more creative of the two roles as the designer’s focus is on making the site both visually appealing and user-friendly.

Web designers work with clients to understand their vision and what they want to include for the site.

Once they’ve gathered all the essential details, they create an attractive and seamless experience for users to enjoy. This involves making wireframes, mockups, templates, design systems, and color palettes. Each of these is critical to helping the developer build the final product.

Because a smooth user experience is essential to a great website, web designers perform frequent usability tests. By doing so, they can closely review how potential users are interacting with their designs.

Some of the most important skills for a web designer include:

  • Principles of website design
  • Wireframing
  • HTML and CSS
  • Branding
  • Color theory
  • Responsive design

Most web designers have a unique specialization that allows them to focus their talent on a particular aspect of web design.

UX Designer

User experience (UX) designers work to make the website as engaging as possible. To do so, the usability and interactive design elements need to draw a positive emotional response from visitors. UX designers conduct frequent tests to analyze user behavior. Once they understand how the audience responds, they can tweak the designs to create an optimal user experience.

UI Designer

User interface (UI) design can be considered a subset of UX design. While UX focuses on the big picture impact of a design, UI focuses on the specific elements that help to craft the user experience. A UI designer works to build buttons, menus, pages, and other elements to help guide the audience through the design.

Visual Designers

Visual designers can be viewed as a hybrid of UI and UX designers. They focus on the aesthetics of the website and often have experience in branding and graphic design. A visual designer will work to align the colors, typography, and images with the company’s voice while also ensuring that the user interface is convenient to use.

Tools used by designers

To create visually appealing user experiences, designers are frequent users of various graphic design software. Some of the most popular tools include:

  • Photoshop
  • Figma
  • Sketch
  • Illustrator
  • Miro
  • Material Design
  • MockFlow
  • InVision

The role of developers

Web developers take the design concepts and use them to create a plan for the web development process. Their job is to create everything needed for a functional and interactive website including the front-end user interfaces and configuring the databases and servers.

Developers code the designs using programming languages like HTML, JavaScript, or PHP.

The developer’s work doesn’t end once the site is up and running. It is important to provide ongoing monitoring and support to ensure that the website stays fully functional. This can include finding bugs missed during development and regular site maintenance.

In addition to technical skills, developers can benefit from honing their analytical abilities as they are needed during the debugging process and solving coding errors.

Like designers, web developers also tend to follow a specialization.

Front-end developers

Front-end developers program the visual elements that customers see when interacting with the website. They collaborate closely with designers to turn the design mockup into an interactive site. Front-end developers must have strong programming skills in languages like JavaScript as these are used to create the elements that are visible to the users.

Back-end developers 

Back-end developers work on the underlying infrastructure of a site or web application. In addition to knowledge of server-side frameworks like NodeJS, they rely on programming languages such as C#, Python, and Ruby to create a sound site architecture.

Full-stack developers

A full-stack developer has a strong understanding of all the aspects of development. They can work on both front-end and back-end projects whether it’s building a webpage or querying a database.

Tools and technologies used by developers

To build functional and reliable websites, developers work extensively with numerous programming languages and frameworks. Below are some of the commonly used technologies:

  • AngularJS
  • JavaScript
  • Python
  • GitHub
  • Ruby on Rails
  • MySQL
  • MongoDB
  • Postman
  • Lighthouse
  • TypeScript
  • Chrome DevTools

How designers and developers can work together

Leveraging both a web developer and a web designer can help take your website projects to the next level. That said, not all projects necessarily need both a designer and a developer. Depending on your project, you may only need one or the other.

For example, if you only wanted to build a basic website, you could just get a designer to create a simple layout and design and test the site’s usability. Conversely, if you want to leave your site design unchanged but want to add some new features, you will only need a developer.

It is the more complex, comprehensive projects where we can see the true power of collaboration  between designers and developers.

By working together, designers can understand what the developer is capable of creating before making their designs. In turn, developers can ensure there are no technical complications with the designer’s concept.

When designers and developers embrace end-to-end collaboration, the final result is a cohesive web project with a clean interface, great user experience, and stunning aesthetics to tie it all together.

Here are some ways that developers and designers can work together:

Involve developers when ideating designs

Designers and developers work best when they collaborate from the start. By including both parties in the initial kickoff discussion and any planning meetings, you can ensure that everyone avoids any confusion around the project.

In the initial meeting, designers and developers can both get an understanding of the goals for the project and the state of the current website. They can see what is working well and what is not to begin creating a unified idea of how to achieve the project’s objective.

Keep development posted on deliverables

During the design process, the design team will share a high number of deliverables with the client. This inevitably leads to a back and forth of changes and small edits that need to be made. Keeping the developer up to speed with any and all changes helps ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Quality assurance

Quality assurance is an important step to making sure that a project is ready to launch. While the process is typically performed by developers, it is helpful to include designers in the process to ensure that the final product mirrors the mockups they created. A designer will naturally see things differently than the developer and will be better equipped to pick up on small issues that would otherwise be missed.

Incorporating these steps into the site creation process helps produce a final product that is both aesthetically pleasing and functional. Designers and developers are aligned with a common understanding of the end result, allowing the team to work with greater efficiency.

Bridging the gap between designers and developers

Designers and developers can work together more efficiently by bridging the gap that exists between the two positions. To do so, each role needs to speak the language of the other. Designers can benefit from basic knowledge of programming languages the same way developers can gain from knowing typography, color, spacing, and basic design principles.

In time, it is not unlikely for the roles of developer and designer to begin to intersect. As no-coding technology advances, new roles requiring skills from both positions will emerge. Users with less technical skills will have the ability to create their intended designs with greater ease.

Until then, designers and developers will continue to serve as two sides of the same coin — each working in its own way to create an awesome website.