You can be forgiven for believing that web-design and web-development are the same things. It’s because most people think they are and most designers and developers – rather than trying to fight everybody on this – have started to do a bit of both, as that’s just easier and takes less time.
Still, though they do have some things in common, they are far from being the same. Today we’re going to explore some of the ways that they differ and what that means for you.
They are very different. To put it simply, web design is like a car’s dashboard, while web-development is what happens under the hood. Now, with a car, those two things are obviously very different. For most people, however, the difference between the two on the web isn’t as obvious.
For them, the only distinction that matters is software and hardware, the stuff you can touch (though make sure the computer is off first) and the stuff that you can click (in this case you obviously need to turn the computer on again).
But that’s no longer the only distinction. As programs become more complex and the human computer interface part of the equation is ever better understood, doing both the web design and the web development have become distinct areas in their own right.
The only problem, that there’s far more demand for the one area than the other. According to Visual.ly, not only there are far more jobs available in web development than in web design (with the one having about 200k jobs, while the other has 1.3 million jobs), but web development also pays almost double, at 85k per year.
That’s quite a difference.
Left and Right
If you want to draw a clear distinction between the two fields, you can say it’s a left brain and right brain division. The web design element is artistic in nature. It’s about creating a visually appealing and intuitive design that people can both appreciate and comprehend.
Sure, a university degree might help, but you can be self-taught as a web designer. What matters is your portfolio – which is how you show that you’re fully aware of visual content trends and other developments in design. Here you’ve got to be good with photo and image manipulation software, like – for example – Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Abode illustrator.
The web developer aspect, in the meantime, is a far more left brain. It’s all about being able to program, understand the logic of programming language, create clean code and problem-solve so that you figure out ways to make the language you’re using do what the client wants.
Web development has something that web design doesn’t have and that is best expressed in the 1s and 0s of the programming world. Either something works as it’s supposed to, or it doesn’t. Either something does what it’s supposed to, or it needs to be fixed.
All this takes a great deal of training and though you can again be self-taught, it sure helps if you’ve got a good degree. In fact, quite many coders can be hired based on their qualifications alone. A portfolio is a much rarer thing.
So Why Do Web Developers Get Paid So Much More?
Because it’s not as intuitive. When you hand a person photoshop and give them access to youtube, they can figure out how to do many elements on their own. They can see what changes when you hit that button or change that setting.
That isn’t the case for a web developer. Often it can take hours and even days of work before a web developer has some kind of working version of what they’re trying to do. This means that you can’t just wing it. You’ve got to know the languages and sit down and master them.
A person that’s new to web design, but takes a week to really get to grips with what’s possible can create a decent product that though it won’t win any prizes, will do the job it’s supposed to.
A person who tries their hand at web development for the first time, however, will be happy if they can write something like pong in the first week they’re going.
In other words, the one has a much higher barrier to entry than the other.
And that means that:
- More people that aren’t web designers are going to try their hands at it anyway, particularly if they’re small scale companies or people working for themselves, while if somebody needs a piece of web software designed, they’re going to approach a web-developer.
- This isn’t true for web developers, where people that need a piece of software written or a page designed are far more likely to take somebody on who knows the languages and can deliver the product that they need.
- Even when a web designer is brought on board, as it is much easier for a client to judge what they feel they need, projects are going to be better defined and frequently be over more quickly.
- Again, for web developers that will often be harder to achieve, as clients will only figure out exactly what they want as the product grows and changes and they realize that certain aspects are missing. This means that projects will often take longer for web developers than for designers.
So Which Should You Choose?
Don’t if you can help it. If you’re one of those people who can do both web design and web development, then you’re going to be golden, as somebody that can do both is more valuable than two people that can do either or.
Why? Because it means that your whole concept will be far more cohesive and complete, with the design naturally flowing forth from the development. And when something forms a cohesive whole like that, it makes it work far more smoothly and far more easily, which means it is worth much more.
It doesn’t end there, either, as even if you charge more than, somebody that has only mastered one of the areas, you’ll still be cheaper, as they’ll only have to pay one person’s salary, rather than two people.
In other words, somebody that can pull off both is far more valuable. They’re the whole package, as it were, and that makes them far more useful to firms.
And that’s not the last word on the topic either. When you’re capable of doing both you’re far more flexible and are capable of approaching far more clients. That means that you’ll find a lot more doorways are open to you. And as we all know, once you’re in with a company and they realize that you’re good, it is much easier to continue working with them and expand your scope.
So don’t just focus on one or the other. Become broader, become more secure in the marketplace and learn to both design and develop on the web. Sure, it might be a bit of a slog to get yourself up to the level of expertise where you can do both equally well, particularly if you’re coming from design and expanding into development, but it will be absolutely worth it, as you’ll increase your value, your security and your income. Now, what’s not to love about that?