Team #jmexclusives, Thank you for following now and always, we are always here to update you with useful and most recent content on the world of technology and how you can survive every tide it brings with it. What is the difference between a web designer and a web developer? In the early days of the web, the answer to that question was simple: designers design and developers code. Today that question requires a little more nuance–you’d be hard pressed to find a web designer who didn’t know at least a little HTML and CSS, and you won’t have to look far for a front-end web developer who can whip up a storyboard.
A lot of people learn web coding because they want to create the next Facebook or find a job in the industry. But it’s also a good choice if you just want a general introduction to coding since it’s super easy to get started. No matter whether you’re looking for a career or just want to learn how to code, learning how to develop for the web is for you. It’s one of the smartest decisions you will ever make! If you’re strictly speaking about the general concepts of web design vs. web development, however, the distinction is a little more clear. Let’s take a look at these two concepts and the roles they play in building the websites and apps we know and love.
Website design governs everything involved with the visual aesthetics and usability of a website—color scheme, layout, information flow, and everything else related to the visual aspects of the UI/UX (user interface and user experience). Some common skills and tools that distinguish the web designer from the web developer are:
- Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator) or other design software
- Graphic design
- Logo design
- Placing call-to-action buttons
- Wireframes, mockups, and storyboards
- Color palettes
Web design is concerned with what the user actually sees on their computer screen or mobile device, and less so about the mechanisms beneath the surface that make it all work. Through the use of color, images, typography, and layout, they bring a digital experience to life.
Web development governs all the code that makes a website tick. It can be split into two categories—front-end and back-end. The front-end or client-side of an application is the code responsible for determining how the website will actually display the designs mocked up by a designer. The back-end or server-side of an application is responsible for managing data within the database and serving that data to the front-end to be displayed. As you may have guessed, it’s the front-end developer’s job that tends to share the most overlap with the web designer. Some common skills and tools traditionally viewed as unique to the front-end developer are listed below:
- CSS preprocessors (i.e., LESS or Sass)
- Frameworks (i.e., AngularJS, ReactJS, Ember)
- Libraries (i.e., jQuery)
- Git and GitHub
Front-end web developers don’t usually create mock-ups, select typography, or pick color palettes—these are usually provided by the designer. It’s the developer’s job to bring those mock-ups to life. That said, understanding what the designer wants requires some knowledge of best practices in UI/UX design so that the developer is able to choose the right technology to deliver the desired look and feel and experience in the final product.
Skills to look for as a web developer
It’s easiest to look at a web developer description by splitting the skills into the three areas mentioned above: client-side languages, server-side languages and database technologies.
Here are some examples of client-side languages:
- Microsoft Silverlight
Server-side scripting is a technique used by web developers to build the backend of a website. Why is that so critical for your new site? A web browser’s storage is limited by the end user’s computer (i.e. the person using the website), so websites need to host the files and images that make the site work in a database on a web server. Server-side scripting involves constructing the framework that allows the database on the web server to communicate with the web browser of the end user’s computer. To make it work, the developer embeds scripts in your website so that, when someone using your site takes a particular action, the server can display set images or information. Server-side code is also inherently more secure, as the person using your website has no direct access to source code, proprietary databases or data beyond what’s specifically shown to them.
The following are examples of server-side languages:
The final set of skills to look for in a web developer is the database technologies they are familiar with. In order to work properly, every website needs a database to store its code, images, files and other data. These relational database management systems (RDBMS) are the most popular for web-based applications:
- Microsoft SQL Server
- IBM DB2
Web Designer vs. Web Developer
- A web designer will use graphic design software like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign to create the logos, graphics, and layout that determine the look and feel of a website.
- The web developer will still have to understand the aesthetics and art direction of the web designer if they are handling client-side scripts, but they will be more concerned with functionality and features, like the shopping cart on an e-commerce website.
You need both skill sets in order to build a proper website, and often a designer may not even have to write the code. In this case, a graphic designer will create a visual representation of the website’s layout while the web developer will use code to make the layout a reality. Still, other web professionals have honed their skills in both disciplines:
- For a web designer, knowing how to code can help them communicate better with the web development team.
- For a web developer, understanding the art direction of a website can help them write better code.
Someone who has mastered both can make an excellent project manager, offering a perfect mix of form and function to a web project.
Front-End, Back-End Or Full-Stack?
The backend developer engineers what is going on behind the scenes. This is where the data is stored, and without this data, there would be no frontend. The backend of the web consists of the server that hosts the website, an application for running it and a database to contain the data. The backend dev uses computer programmes to ensure that the server, the application, and the database run smoothly together. They need to analyze what a company’s needs are and provide efficient programming solutions. To do all this amazing stuff they use a variety of server-side languages, like PHP, Ruby, Python, and Java.
If you are undecided, you could consider becoming a full-stack dev. Full-stackers take care of both the frontend and the backend and need to know how the web works on all levels, in order to determine how the client- and server-sides will relate. Naturally working up to this level of expertise will take longer, as there is more to learn.
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