Kyle van Niekerk

10 min read | Updated: 4 December 2020.

In recent years the line between a web designer and a frontend web developer has become blurred. Many people actually use the terms designer and developer interchangeably, but they are actually two different positions. This is partly because the modern workforce requires designers to learn some code and developers to learn some design techniques. So, what is a web designer and what is a web developer?

Ipad 2 layout web design

What’s the fuss?

First, you get three different kinds of web developers. A frontend, backend and a full-stack developer. Frontend developers build everything we can see, like the layout and style of the website. Backend developers build everything that we cannot see, like databases. And finally, a full-stack developer does both. For this blog post I will just write about frontend developers and designers, as they both work on the front side of a web application.

Simply put, a web designer is responsible for designing the aesthetics of a web application, and a web developer is responsible for writing the code that will turn the aesthetics into an application that works on the web. To explain the difference between a web designer and a web developer, I have created this table below:

Web code on laptop

Web code on a laptop.

Photo by Tracy Adams on Unsplash.

Web design:

· Works with colours, typography, spatial relations and the UI experience. Web designers are usually very creative.

· They use software and tools specifically built for design, such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

· They are typically trained to understand the client’s requirement and grasp their style.

· They eventually pass the finished design to a developer to code.

· Designers mostly care about the look and feel of the web app and creating a positive user experience.

We discuss the 5Ws and 1H of web design.

Web development:

· They typically use their left part of the brain to develop applications and are usually more analytical.

· They use technologies and frameworks such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript and jQuery to build on the web.

· They are typically trained to use different technologies to build applications on the web and make it functional across different browsers and platforms.

· They receive the finished design from the designer and then write the code to “bring the web app to life”.

· Developers mostly care about the code being clean, well-organised, reusable and effectively run. 

Website code and design on a split screen.

Photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash.

The bottom line:

I like to think of the process of building a web application as being the same as building a house. You have an architect who creates the plan (design) and a builder who builds it (development).

As you can see in the table above, they are actually very different positions with different skills, responsibilities and personalities, but it is quite common to have someone do both, especially in smaller teams. This is exactly what I do, being trained in both fields allows me to use my creative bones (we all have them somewhere!) to design web applications and my tech skills to develop them. For those who are considering going into this industry, but not quite sure which direction to go into, I hope I have managed to explain the difference clearly. Just remember: having both these skills can go a long way!

User experiencing frontend web design.

Photo by Cottonbro on Pexels.

Kyle, Nu Outline's Developer

Kyle van Niekerk


I build custom websites from scratch using different programming languages such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript and PHP. This approach allows me to completely customise your website and make it functional. I write clean code that makes your website run smoothly and quickly with a big focus on security. I also use WordPress, which is the most popular CMS, to build custom themes and websites. I am also able to organise and execute a successful business marketing strategy.


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