Should You Hire a Web Designer or a Web Developer for Your Website?

People use the terms “web designer” and “web developer” interchangeably. When creating a new website or upgrading a current site, who should you hire?

This article will explain the difference in the two disciplines of a web designer and a web developer.

Websites contain different elements, including appearance, content, functionality, and usability. Each requires a different set of skills. A web designer focuses on what you see on a web page. A web developer focuses on what you can do on the website. Let’s look at the different properties.


The appearance is a first impression of a website. It is the overall look and feel of the website… graphics, color scheme, page layout, and site navigation design. The appearance determines whether the site looks professional, warm, edgy, or even retro.

Because the appearance is the first element the user is exposed to when visiting your site, it can make or break your website, so finding a skilled web designer is crucial. If a site design is unprofessional or unattractive, visitors will most likely move onto the next website.

A web designer must have an eye for aesthetics and possess superior graphic design skills to create unique and appealing sites. The web designer on a project needs expertise and creativity to produce the correct look for your website based on your industry and target audience.


Content is everything you see on a website, including text, pictures, audio files, background music, and videos. From product descriptions to privacy policies, content is the meat of a website.

A typical web designer or web developer does not create the text for a website, but takes the content you provide and adds it to the design they’ve created. Because content is crucial to retaining your visitors’ interest and ultimately their purchases, awebsite copywriter is highly recommended to assist you with your written content.

Music, audio, and video files will have to be created in the proper format for use on the web. The web designer on the project should have enough knowledge to be able to format these files in the proper way. To tie all the content elements together, you need a good page layout.

A web designer can organize and layout your content so it is appealing and user-friendly.


Functionality includes all the interactive parts of the web site, such as a sign-up form, clickable order buttons, animation, online games, currency converters, search engines, etc.

A web developer is needed to create these interactive parts. PHP, Perl, ASP, JavaScript, Java, and .Net are just some of the programming languages employed by a web developer.

Flash is another programming device used by a web developer. It can be used for animations and swapping pages.

A web developer should also have extensive knowledge in PHP, ASP, Perl, Java and .Net, which are used on the web server to create the interactive features we have come to expect from a website. JavaScript, a programming language typically used by both a web developer and web designer, works in the user’s web browser and creates cool features like the mouse over appearance changes, drop down menus, ticker tapes, etc.

The role of the web developer is to integrate the functioning elements of a website into the HTML for the interactive features to work together properly and seamlessly.


Usability is a measure of how easy the site is to navigate, obtain desired info, or perform other actions, from the point-of-view of the website visitor. By working together, a web designer and web developer will test the site based on different criteria. When checking the usability of a website, the web designer and the web developer should be asking specific questions to determine if the site is meeting the objectives.

Is the design attractive and appropriate for the topic of the website? Skulls and crossed bones are perfect for a punk rocker’s website but would be a disaster for a pediatrician. Is it easy to navigate? If users can’t quickly find the info, product, or services they are looking for, they’ll move onto another site that has better navigation.

Does the site load quickly? In this fast-paced culture, visitors won’t wait around for page elements and graphics to download. Do all the features work properly? If features don’t work properly, then you’re wasting your visitor’s time.

In other words, will the visitor stay and explore the website or get frustrated or annoyed and click away, never to return.

Design versus Development

There is a considerable amount of overlap in the roles of a web designer and web developer. While a particular web designer may have the ability to perform some of the programming needs a web developer would fulfill, a typical web designer will focus on the actual appearance and layout.

A good web designer should know HTML and JavaScript and be able to use Photoshop, flash, and other graphics software. A skilled web designer can also do light backend programming (PHP, ASP and Perl). You may even find a web designer gifted at copywriting.

However, if your site features program-intensive elements, such as a search engine or website call tracking, you’ll need a web developer to do the job correctly. In a typical scenario the web designer and the web developer work together to create the website.

Then together they perform the usability testing. When everything looks great and works properly, the website owner supplies the content, which the web designer adds to the web pages.


When creating a web site, you’ll want to find the best web designer and web developer you can. Most likely, these roles will be performed by two different people. While both should know enough about the other’s role to effectively communicate and produce the results you’re looking for, each should be highly specialized in their craft.

You may find a web designer who is good at the programming side of a website, but you’re taking the chance of receiving a site that a web developer could have programmed to function better, more efficiently and within a quicker turnaround time.

And if you want people to find your site, hire a great internet marketing firm.

6 thoughts on “Should You Hire a Web Designer or a Web Developer for Your Website?

  1. If you know already to design, as well as to develop your site, it’s not necessary for you to hire a professional graphic designer and web developer for your site. Especially, your good or knowledgeable enough to handle a web site maintenance.

  2. While it is ideal to find a designer who can also develop, it’s not too realistic. When hiring a web designer try to find someone with some knowledge of development, or at least a desire to learn about it. Understanding the nuts and bolts of how a web site is developed can really help a web designer excel.

  3. Hey,

    The above posted information explain the difference in the two disciplines of a web designer and a web developer. If you have knowledge at design and develop side no need to hire.Really it helps to me a lot when i am going to hire designers and developers.

  4. Folks sure love their regular expressions…

    The question was whether “every developer should know ___”. Notice that all of us said no on RIA platforms like Silverlight, despite the fact that some of us are really into Silverlight.

    Also – why would you assume that we don’t know regular expressions? That’s a pretty condescending assumption. We’ve put the time into learning regular expressions, see that they’re a useful tool, and didn’t think that they made the cut for required, basic knowledge that every single web developer should know. Would every developer benefit from knowing assembly language? Sure! Is assembly language core, basic knowledge that every developer should put time into learning? Not in my book.

    I’d rather web developers put that time into learning the HTML/CSS platform better. I’ve worked with a lot of web developers who were handy with a regex but couldn’t write cross-browser code or table-less layouts. That’s a mistake.

    I do think people overrate the utility of regex’s. Having used regular expressions extensively in a custom CMS application, my personal experience is that they’re easy enough when you’re writing the application, but the maintenance and edge cases kill you. So in my opinion, they’re fine for things like e-mail validation, but pretty error prone for things like HTML manipulation (c.f. all the security vulnerabilities Jeff Atwood hit with StackOverflow’s HTML manipulation).

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