Web Design vs. Web Development: What’s the Difference?

Do you want to become a web designer or a web developer?

It’s a big question website beginners ask themselves because you aren’t sure which direction to specialize.

When I decided to start freelancing, I bought business cards and didn’t know which title to assign myself.

Let’s consider the requirements and how websites operate.

In the simplest form, viewing a site is an interaction between:

Browser <—> Web Server

The browser renders HTML and runs Javascript code. The web server stores HTML & Javascript code.

The big difference is web servers allow you to set up databases and execute “scripting” programming languages like PHP, which is how WordPress works.

Many web apps use Javascript to send data back-and-forth to the web server in real-time without refreshing the page.

Web Designer

  • Creates website layout in the browser
  • Must know HTML/CSS, WordPress or another website builder platform
  • Must know basic image editing
  • Must understand mobile-first design & testing
  • May handle content creation or SEO
  • In-depth code knowledge is a plus, but not essential

Web Developer

  • Must know code language (PHP, Python, Ruby, MySQL)
  • Implements custom functionality
  • Takes existing code and builds on it
  • Simplifies existing code
  • Documents existing code for easier management
  • Design knowledge is a plus, but not essential

Does Your Title Matter?

When it comes to freelancing, it doesn’t. Your main title is business owner, and you solve individual problems from scratch. Most solutions come in unique ways – code, software, outsourcing, etc.

It’s an entirely different story if your goal is to get a job at a mid-to-large company that already has systems in place. In that case, the requirements of your knowledge will be a bit more stringent.

I recommend starting your own business. Your limitation isn’t your skillset; it’s your creativity.

Do you want tools, training, & advice to guide you along the process of working for yourself?

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