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Website designer vs web developer

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Today the terms website designer and website developer are often used interchangeably. But the two roles require very different skills.

A website designer is responsible for the “front end”, the look and feel of your website, how elements are arranged on the webpage and how they relate to another. His/her role requires skills similar to that of a traditional graphic/print designer, and uses similar tools (for example Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign). Though technical skills are required to use these tools, the role itself is not a technical one.

A website developer, on the other hand, determines how a website “works”. They are responsible for the “back end” using modern web languages such as HTML, CSS, PHP and Javascript. This is a skilled technical role requiring good working knowledge of the afore-mentioned coding languages. They control how elements on the webpage function and how they interact with each other. This role is growing in importance with the advent of database driven websites, such as those built around WordPress, Joomla or Drupal.

In reality, many professionals fulfil both of these roles. A website developer may have good insight into the design process, or a website designer may learn how to code to a degree that he/she can create a functional product. Usually one skillset is stronger than the other, but as long as he/she can work competently at both, there is no reason they can’t perform a dual role.

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