Web designer vs web developer: how to decide?


Web designer vs web developer: how to decide?

Web designer vs web developer, how to decide? So, you’re thinking of a career in the web industry but you can’t decide what to chose between becoming a web designer, or a web developer. So which one should you chose? Let’s find out!

Hello, Im your host Kaycinho, I’m a digital alchemist and today I want to talk about whether you should become a web designer or a web developer, and at the end of this post I will share resources that can help you speed up the decision process.

Disclaimer: this article contains an affiliate link

Web designer vs web developer: some definitions

web designer vs web developer: some definitions

So, first of all let’s define what a web designer and a web developers are. Because behind the meaning, many people use the terms to describe the same profiles, or overlapping profiles, and with the addition of UI and UX designers, it all adds to the confusion.

And don’t forget, that the web evolves, just like a person, and the meaning of certain terms evolves as well.

So for the sake of this post let’s define those frontiers by looking at the usual ways a web projects is managed.

The wonderful world of Web Land

Web designer vs web developer in a perfect world… A web designer, in a perfect world, is the person that designs the design of a website, yeah for real! And they do that in apps like Sketch, Photoshop or similar and could also document the interactions of the various elements in apps like Invision Studio or Sketch.

Still in that perfect world, the designer then passes on its designs to a front-end web developer that will transform the designs into code that a web browser can read so that visually, it looks like the initial visual creation but tailored for the web. That’s also the moment when the interactions are coded, most likely using a language like Javascript.
Then, the front-end web developer passes on its prototype to a back-end web developer that will make the prototype dynamic, which means that it will connect it to a database, and use a scripting or programming language to make the website perform specific actions, like: creating a user, changing a password and so on.

So strictly speaking, the web designer only designs, in the wonderful world of web land.


The specialized world of U

But this magic land tends to disappear.

Because now, before the coders ever get their hands on coding, we find new categories of professionals that get onboard:

– User Interface or UI Designers (also called UI developers)
– User Interaction or UX Designers (also called UX Developers)

The UI designer will design the layout based on storytelling, the industry, the target market and actions intended, while the UX designer will focus on the user’s journey to solve a particular problem.

So, even though, UI and UX designers are designers at core, they are expected to have knowledge in coding, but also in psychology and sociology because instead of just throwing a nice design for a new website or application, they are expected to base their decisions on a mix of variables like human interaction science, design trends and platform user behaviors.

So if I could make an analogy, I’d say that the design of a car and of all the parts composing it would be UI, while the way the parts interact and the experience it creates for the driver would be the UX.

What about Web Developers?

That’s where the antique world of Web designer vs web developer overlap. Because where we used to have strictly front-end developers and back-end developers, now the limit is getting thinner between the UX designer and the Front-end developer, although the latter one tends to specialize more in the likes of Angular, React and a bunch of other ones that you probably have no clue about if you are a designer, but that speaks to your heart if you are a developer.

The back-end developer remains a category of its own, taking care of developing the core logical and computational logic of an application, whether we are talking about a website, an app, or a full blown software. He maintains the applications, makes sure they are secured and up to date with other systems, ensures compatibility and connectivity with databases.


The reality of the market


web designer vs web developer: the reality of the market

With the digital age we live in, and the myriad of startups popping up every day, there are definitely opportunities for both designers and developers, whether as generalist web designers, front-end and back-end developers, or as specialists like UI and UX designers / developers.

Why is that?

Because the reality of the market is that not everyone can afford applications designed from scratch, and that’s when generalists come into play.

Let’s face it, Mom and Pops stores may have a $2000 budget for designing their website, but not the $20000 it would take to design it with specialist UI, UX, front and back developers. And I’m just stating random prices here because it may as well be $1000 and $100000 or more depending on how you price your services.

So, as you can see, it doesn’t really make sense for very small businesses, unless they have a substantial budget to start with.

So if that’s your target market, and you want to be able to still make a profit while limiting the production costs, you have to make the web designer and web developer frontiers blend. And today with tools like WordPress, which at the time of recording this video fuels about 1 website out of three in the world (!), it is completely possible for a web designer with little to no coding experience to offer website creation services, and the same is also true for a web developer that can’t even make a drawing of the sun without sucking at it.

And that is now possible with page and theme builders that come on top of wordpress, as well as the gazilion of professional plugins that are developed for the platform. So today you can deliver a website that used to cost $10000 for $2000.

So in this case, web designer vs web developer becomes web designer + web developer.

Does that mean that it’s the end of web designers vs web developer?

Not at all! Because:

1 – some applications need to be designed from scratch in order to achieve results that generic designs and plugins can never replicate

2 – the designs and plugins that you can use for your own projects at a fraction of the cost must be designed and developed in the first place, and their creators, get even more money on a global scale because they are not limited by the number of copies they can sell, whereas when they sell their skills as employees or on a per project basis, they can only make that much of money.

Now even if you decide to be a generalist, you can set yourself apart from the competition, by specializing along the way.

So you could be a web designer, but learn about UI or UX along the way, and integrate your new knowledge project after project even if it’s for Mom and Pop shops.


So, which one should you choose?



First of all, it depends on your sensitivity

Web designer vs web developer can be chosen depending on your sensitivity.

What do you love doing for hours, even if you’re not getting paid? Do you love materializing your ideas in Illustrator or Photoshop for hours in the evenings or on weekends?

Then of course you already know that you’re more of a designer, but that doesn’t mean that you should be exclusively that.

Get passed your fears of learning to code, try learning the basics like html and css which can be learned really fast, and javascript if you want to master slick interactions. Once you’ve tried for a few days or weeks, you will know if this is something for you or not.

And then can you decide whether you want to exclusively design, or if you want to specialize in UI or UX.

Or do you love thinking about how an app works, the logic behind it, and how you would have created it? How you would have made it better? Do you love understanding how things work in general? Are you intrigued by the world of coding, when your fellow designers friends faint at staring at a Sublime Text window?

If that’s you, then you got answer. This is what excites you.

What’s left for you to do is to get started, get your hands dirty and find out whether your are more of a front-end or a back-end developer.

It depends on your career end goal

Web designer vs web developer can be chosen depending on your career path.

Are you trying to make that decision in order to get a job, or in order to start your own business?

If you are looking to get a job, I’d say start with what you are already good at, reasearch and study job offers and make a plan to complement your skills with the most demanded skills.

So for example, if you have already created some nice websites for friends and family for example, and you love doing that, then get some more training and try to add what is most demanded on the market. If you notice that a lot of UI designers positions are open, then go get some UI knowledge and make a couple of project integrating your new knowledge and make sure you outline it in your portfolio.

Then, once you’re employed, you can always get further education because in the digital age, things evolve so fast that in my opinion, spending years studying about web design or web development can be risky because by the time you finish, it may be a totally different game. So, personally, I much prefer ongoing learning. I’m still learning today, and I love it.

If your goal is to start your own business, then, unless you already have partnerships with other professionals, (like multiple web agencies), I would focus on being able to deliver to my target market without involving a lot of production costs.

So if my target market is solopreneurs and small businesses, I would focus on learning web design as well as WordPress and the tools that are built on top of it.

Now if my target market was agencies that are looking for native app developers, then of course, I’d choose the back-end developer route and would learn the languages most demanded on the market.

But you have to start somewhere so I would try learning a couple of languages and see which one I resonate most with but would also base my decision on market demand.

It depends on your financial goals

Web designer vs web developer can be chosen depending on your financial goal.

One thing is for sure: specialists get paid more than generalists. Or is it?

Well it depends, of course, at core, a specialist will be paid more, but who makes more money between a specialist employed with a salary cap, and a generalist being his own boss, and with great commercial skills?

You are free to make your own choices, and I’m not judging anyone, but life is too short to learn and work in a field you don’t love, just for the sake of money. In my humble opinion.

Because what you will gain in financial terms, you may lose in quality of life, stress and energy.

Of course, if your passion is chewing bubble gum all day long, unless you managed to become an influencer at chewing bubble gum, I’d tell you: be smart, go and get a job even if you don’t like it. Because you need money to live and pay the bills before you can figure out what to do in your life. But if you are privileged enough that you get to decide what you want to do with your life, then act on it, and choose something that you are excited about.

Now if you love equally design and code, and your aim is to be employed, web developers tend to get paid more than web designers.

But as we’ve seen, that’s changing if you go deeper in the design field with UI and UX.



Resources to help you speed up your decision


web designer vs web developer: resources to help you decide

The web designer vs web developer decision can be sped up with the right resources.

Whether you’ve already made a decision or are just in the decision-making process, I’d like to share resources that can help you make a decision faster:

So on the free side:

Codeacademy, where you can learn html, css, python, php, javascript and Angular JS.

Free Code Camp, wher you can learn html; css; javascript, devtools, node.js, React, jQuery and more

Khan Academy, where you can learn pretty much anything about computer programming.

Udemy, which offer both free and paid courses, but watch out for the reviews because pretty much anyone can create a course on that platform.

And … Youtube!

Channels like Learn Code Academy, Derek Bannas and The New Boston focus on development, whereas channels like The Futur focus more on design, and a channel like DesignCourse blends it all together, talking about Design and Development in order to go a full stack.

There are many more free resources, but my goal here is not to overwhelm you and I’m pretty confident that if you start with those ones, you will know fast enough whether you are tailored for the design or the development side of the force.



On the premium side


web designer vs web developer: Team Treehouse

There are even more resources, and the advantage is that you really get to the point, efficiency focused courses that can help you develop skills faster than on some of the previously shared resources.

And on this channel, we’ll review a few, but today I’d like to talk about Team TreeHouse (affiliate link), that I’ve personally used a few years a go, and that really did help me build up some skills.

Also, because this post targets both people who are looking for a job, and people who are looking to start a business, I think TreeHouse is perfect, because they offer various tracks as well as services to help you find a job, if that’s your aim. Also, they have different price points depending on whether you want to be certified or not, so you can get started as low as 25$/month, and in my opinion, in 6 months or less, if you really want it bad enough, you can start your career from there.

Also, the good news is that you can start testing the platform for free for 7 full days!

By the way, this post is not sponsored by Treehouse, but I love the experienced I’ve had with it, and I believe it can be of a real value to you, so here is my affiliate link to Team Tree House, this means that if you do enroll with them I will get a commission that in turn helps my support this website and keep producing free content for you.

The good news is that whether you have no money or instead have a budget to invest in your own education, you can get where you want to be, sooner or later, depending on your motivation and the time you can allocate to it.

So, I hope that this post gave you solid hints to decide whether you should pursue a web designer or a web developer career, and if it did, let me know in the comments. I’d also like to know if you’ve already chosen a path, and if so, what was the deciding factor?

If you watch the companion video and if you liked it, please give it a thumbs up, as it really helps growing the channel and if you know someone that could benefit from it, I’m going to ask you if you’d like to share it now, because let’s face it, there are so many things to do in a day that if you don’t do it now you’ll probably forget.

Now if you want to brand, market and grow your business it in the Digital Age make sure you subscribe to my email newsletter so that you never miss your share of digital alchemy and tips, tools, services and case studies that can help you grow your business online.

So I hope to see you around here or on the Youtube channel, and in the meantime, do you know what time it is? I think you do, it’s time to invest in your success!

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