Many of those who are going to create a digital product for the first time may be confused about the names of the specialists they will need to involve in this process. Most often, this happens with web designers and front-end developers. Let’s find out the differences between these two professions engaged in website development and designing and compare their average salaries.
What Is a Web Designer?
Let’s start our web design vs web development comparison with a web designer position.
A web designer is a specialist who works on the appearance and layout of websites and applications. They determine which elements will be on a web page and in what order they will be displayed on users’ monitors. Also, they decide how different parts of the website or app will fit together and what logic will work between them. Unlike developers who write code, web designers focus their efforts on creating a new visual or optimizing an existing one.
Many mistakenly believe that a web designer is a front end developer. But the first one doesn’t write software code. They only create the website or app visual part using drawing programs.
What does a web designer do?
A web designer creates layouts for web pages and builds user interfaces for online services and applications. They can also develop templates for email newsletters and draw website banners. The final result of their work is a completed design, which is passed to front-end software engineers who will make it interactive and attach it to the rest of the project, especially, to the user part.
Usually, the web designer’s workflow looks like this:
- first, the web designer receives the client’s requirements: why the product is needed, what tasks it should solve, how it has to work, and what types of users will visit it. Also, this expert asks the client about their specific responsibilities to understand exactly what they must do;
- after that, the web designer creates a layout of the future solution. At this stage, they build diagrams that indicate the location of the main elements on the pages and create user scenarios;
- at this stage, they enrich layouts with details and build a website prototype. In particular, the designer works on aesthetics, finalizes user scenarios, and aligns the obtained results with the client;
- as the last step, the specialist prepares the finalized layout for development and writes a detailed technical task to help developers understand how the future solution should work. After software engineers start writing code, this IT specialist stays in touch with them by answering their questions and checking the final results.
Web designer skills
As for skills for a web designer, they, like in any other profession, can be divided into hard and soft ones. Below we provide average lists for each of these two skill types.
Technical (hard) skills:
- experience in Adobe Photoshop or similar graphic editors;
- understanding of UI/UX principles;
- experience in building layout;
- experience in work with Google Analytics;
- understanding of web design principles and web accessibility standards;
- understanding responsive and interactive frontend design fundamentals;
- experience in user journey mapping;
- experience in wireframing, prototyping;
- understanding branding, color theory, and typography.
An average set of soft skills looks like this:
- ability to effectively cooperate both with clients and the development team, as well as understand their needs;
- aesthetic taste;
- logical, analytical, and figurative thinking;
What Is Front-End Development?
Front-end development is the creation of a user interface on the client side of a website or application, i.e., everything that users see when they open the page and what they interact with: buttons, forms, fields, banners, animations, and so on. However, unlike web design, frontend is about “how it should work” rather than “how it should look”.
What does a frontend developer do?
A frontend developer is a specialist who creates the user interface, that is, the part of the website or application that page visitors see. The main task of a front-end developer is to translate the ready-made design layout into program code so that everything works as intended.
The main responsibilities of a front-end developer include:
- creating HTML pages of the website or an app based on design layouts created by a front end designer;
- binding scripts that provide visualization and animation of the pages to the user interface;
- linking the user interface to the business logic of the website and/or application;
- writing autotests to detect bugs in the user part of a website or application;
- editing program code based on bug tracking reports compiled by QA specialists.
- However, they can differ from project to project, and sometimes front-end software engineers take on some of the responsibilities of designers, especially when the project does not involve any non-standard visual techniques.
Frontend developer skills
Here is an average set of hard skills typical for a frontend developer job position:
- programming using HTML and CSS;
- understanding of CSS preprocessing;
- experience in working with version control tools;
- understanding of how to create adaptive and responsible designs;
- experience in testing and debugging;
- experience in working with development browser tools;
- experience in working with CLI tools.
However, from project to project, this list of requirements can vary significantly, so above, we have provided you with only a basic understanding of the technical skills that need to be checked.
As for the soft skills, the basic list includes the following:
- communication skills;
- adaptability to quick changes in the project development direction.
Difference Between Web Designer and Front-End Developer
The web development & design process begins with building prototypes using graphic editors. First, these prototypes describe the basic connections, so they are poorly detailed. However, as the details are agreed upon with clients, they turn into a full-fledged layout. These processes are the responsibility of the web designer.
In general, you probably already understand what the differences between the responsibilities of these two specialists are, but let’s focus on the key ones.
User experience focus
Summing up, we can conclude that the tasks of front-end developers are more focused on providing user experience. They are responsible for how end users will interact with the business logic of the application or website. As for web designers, they create a visual that should be understandable and intuitive enough to lower the entry threshold for new users.
Graphic design focus
In turn, everything related to graphic design is the responsibility of web designers. Nevertheless, each step of their work must be agreed upon with the developers since the latter determine the architecture of the future software solution to which all other elements of it, including design, are actually “attached”.
Frontend Developer vs Web Designer Salary
Now let’s talk about salaries. Usually, for front-end developers, the average salary is slightly higher than for web designers, but in the end, it all depends on the expertise and specific skills that a particular candidate has. Let’s briefly check the data provided by the independent online resource Glassdoor.
In particular, according to Glassdoor.com, in the US, an average salary of a front-end developer is $86,704 per year. At the same time, according to the same web resource, for a web designer living in the United States, the average annual salary is $63,058 per year.
Note that these indicators can differ greatly from those indicated, taking into account the expertise of a particular specialist and their location. In particular, if we are talking about experts from Eastern Europe and, for example, from Ukraine, the average salary for a front-end developer is $49,200 per year, while the average salary for a web designer is about $5,000 per year.
At the same time, resorting to hiring specialists from locations with more moderate average market rates, you are unlikely to sacrifice the quality of the cooperation results obtained since, for example, in Ukraine, the IT industry is one of the leading and the level of specialists living on its territory is in no way inferior to specialists from the USA and other countries with the highest level economy.
We hope we’ve helped you figure out what type of specialist you need to staff your development team so you can start your talent search with the right skill set. But if you do not want to bother with the search of a frontend designer or a frontend developer, you can immediately contact us, and we will provide you with an expert who will bring maximum benefit to your project.
Frequently Asked Questions
Finally, let’s answer some common questions related to the topic of our article.
No, a front end developer is not a designer, as the first ones write the programming code for the user interface, defining how end users will interact with it, while the second ones work on its visual part using graphic editors.
Web designers work on a website’s or web app’s look and feel, while website developers create the code to make it work. They often work together, but their skills and typical job responsibilities are different.
If you want to work on the technical side of projects, you should consider a web developer career direction, while if you are more interested in color theory, branding, and creativity, it’s better to follow a web designer career direction.