Few people outside the industry understand that these are, in fact, two different things; so, you may hear the terms used interchangeably. The term “website designer” is the term people are most familiar with and, therefore, it is often used – even by those who know the difference – as an all-inclusive umbrella term for someone who designs and codes a working website.
In the strictest sense, a website designer is responsible not only for the aesthetic look of a website – its layout, colors, and all the graphic elements that make up each page, but they also must understand that they are creating a user interface. Thinking and designing outside the box is great, but if a site visitor has to hunt even for a moment for elusive navigation or they need instructions to get from one page to another, there is something very, very wrong. For example, if they have to move their mouse to an unmarked corner of the screen to access a menu (I’m looking at you Windows 8) all is lost. (Yes, I’m bitter.)
A dozen developers trapped in a room together with Doritos and a bottomless cooler of Red Bull can’t make an incomprehensible design easier to navigate.
Unless they redesign.
The Merging of the Two
Though design and development are technically two different things, they are not mutually exclusive sets of disciplines. It is unusual to find a website designer who doesn’t know how to write, at the very least, simple html or a developer who can’t put together an attractive design. It’s also just as likely that a web designer may not know how to create a database-driven app and a web developer may not instinctually understand the rule of thirds.
As a designer who develops and a developer who designs – from concept to implementation – I get to exercise both sides of my brain, realizing an idea from soup to nuts. It’s why I love my job.
Next up, hair dresser vs. brain surgeon. 😉