Differences Between Web Development and Design

Are you right for a web development or web design kind of career?

Very beginning of a web address on blue background on a screenUnderstanding Web Development and Design

Web development and design are often used as interchangeable terms, but although some of their duties overlap, web designers and web developers work in two distinct spheres of website production.

While different, both web designers and web developers work hand in hand to create a visually pleasing and structurally sound website. It might help to picture a Venn diagram—in one circle are web designers, who are experts in the graphics and layout of a web page, and in the other circle are developers, who build and program the technical aspects of the site.

Where the Overlap Happens

You can usually be a great designer or developer, but it’s rare to find one person who excels at both. However, there are a few overlaps.

  • Most developers and designers are familiar with HTML, CSS and JavaScript.
  • WordPress and other content management systems allow someone to do both design by selecting themes and development by adding widgets and plug-ins.
  • Designers and developers have the common goal of websites that have good usability and accessibility.
  • Both work with content producers.

If you’re looking at web development and design careers but aren’t sure which direction to focus on, take a look at the following chart for a side-by-side comparison.

Career Comparison Chart

Web Development Web Design
Sample Job Titles Web Programmer, Web Developer, Information Architect, System Administrator, Project Manager Web Graphic Designer, User Interface Designer, Webmaster, Content Developer
Job Duties
  • Writes the code to implement the design of a page or an entire site
  • Builds and maintains databases and other tools needed to operate the site
  • May oversee a site’s servers, hardware or software, or assist with website security
  • May supervise other web developers as part of a team
  • Creates web page content such as text, audio and video
  • Designs the visual look and feel of websites, from layout to color to graphics
  • Assists with the navigation and usability of a website
  • Helps maintain and update site content
Skills Needed
  • Knowledge of website building languages like HTML and CSS as well as scripting languages
  • Knowledge of programming languages for more complex, database-driven content, such as Perl, ASP, PHP and Java
  • Basic business and communication skills to collaborate with designers, marketing and others
  • Solid training in art and design fundamentals
  • Basic knowledge of web programming languages such as HTML and CSS
  • Knowledge of graphics software such as Adobe Photoshop
  • Business and communication skills to work with developers and/or clients
Education
  • Certificate, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in web development or web programming, OR
  • Associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in computer science
  • Certificate or associate’s degree in web design or interactive design
  • More advanced positions may require a bachelor’s degree
Median Annual Salary* $63,490 $45,900

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition; Web Developers; Graphic Designers.

*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

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