What is the difference between a web designer and a web developer?

If building a website was like doing renovations on your home, then a web designer would be like the interior decorator and the web developer would be the contractor: the former focuses on the vision and the latter on the actual implementation. Also, just like with renovations, there can be some overlap in roles.

Generally, web designers are graphic artists who have gone to a community college or university for training. Some may even have a fine art background. Their services are ideal for organizations looking for some very specific branding.

Web developers are more likely to either have done community college or are self-trained. And even those with an education in the field will likely have learned much of what they do on their own. This is the reality of technology as it is always changing.

They are complementary

As you can see, the roles complement each other very well. But, out of the two, the developer is the one usually needed for an actual website build. In returning to our renovations example, many people hire a contractor without involving an interior decorator, with beautiful results. But, someone wealthier might be looking for something a little more unique so they would want the interior decorator’s feedback.

Now, as previously noted, there is overlap and there are designers who are very skilled developers as well, and vice-versa. However, the general distinction between the two remains.

Software bridges some of the gaps

There are tools that are helping each side of the website creation process, making the distinction perhaps even blurrier. For example, there are many visual web page builders that don’t require much technical ability to be able to build a website. This is great for designers, because they can keep their focus on their strengths and then let these builders handle the tricky stuff. Similarly, there are tools to help developers create beautiful graphics quickly without having to spend too much time mulling over design subtleties.

Which professional do you need?

If you need a website that handles shopping, users/memberships or content management, then you will need a web developer. If you have the budget for it, you may want to meet with a designer as well, but the site isn’t getting built without the developer.

But, if your concern is branding and its intricacies (like the psychology of colour) and the site is purely informational, then you might be able to get away with only using a designer. However, you run the chance of perhaps needing more functionality than you first envisioned, and you’ll need to bring a developer on board anyway.


Web designers and web developers provide necessary, and often complementary, services. If you have the budget for it then you might opt to hire both. However, regardless of your budget, nine out of ten websites will need to be built by an actual web developer; even small ones.

If you’re still not sure, feel free to contact us and we’ll do our best to determine the best choice for your particular project.