It’s easy to assume that web designers work on the look of a site, while web developers handle the coding – and that that’s all there is to it. But while these categorizations aren’t exactly wrong, the difference between web design vs web development is a bit more complex.
Many designers and developers specialize in a particular niche, while some have overlapping skills, so it’s important to find the right person for your project. If you’re building a website from scratch, you’ll almost certainly need both a designer and a developer to handle the project.
So who should you hire, and when? I’ve broken down the different types of web developers and designers, talked through how they compare, and estimated how much you might need to budget for each.
What Is a Web Designer?
A web designer creates the layout and oversees usability of a website. Although web designers have to be creative and need a strong background in design principles, they also need technical skills.
For example, web designers should have a good knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO), which means understanding how website design and content affect a site’s ranking on Google and other search engines.
Many web designers have one of these specialized roles:
UI designers are responsible for a website’s interface, or, in other words, how a website looks. They research both the client and the target audience to determine how to showcase a brand in a way users will find visually appealing.
UI designers usually need expertise in branding, color theory, and design principles, and to be able to use software like Sketch (a collaborative design app) and InVision (a design project management tool).
They should also know how to create responsive design – layouts that automatically adjust based on a user’s device and screen size.
UX designers make sure the experience of using a website is easy and engaging. Like UI designers, they also research the client and the audience extensively, but with the goal of ensuring that a website’s navigation and functionality is intuitive.
Think about it like this: when you visit a restaurant, there are certain things that you expect to happen – that you’ll be shown to a table, for example, or given a menu and asked for your order.
Websites are no different. When you visit a webpage, you instinctively look for a menu button for navigation, or click on certain words that you expect to take you to another page. Layouts, icons, and other design features are meticulously planned out by UX designers, who consider how a user behaves when browsing a website.
UX designers have to be experts at prototyping, wireframing, and interaction design as well as using programs like FlowMapp, Optimal Workshop, and Sketch, which help them lay out the user journey. They also need experience with user testing and information architecture, which is how a site’s data is organized and labeled.
Visual Web Designer
Visual web designers have experience with both UI and UX. They can take responsibility for either aesthetics or functionality, or manage both – so their job role can vary depending on what you want and need. As such, visual web designers need to master everything from design principles to prototyping.
Although web builders also handle website layout and usability, they’re not the same as web designers. A web builder is not a job role, but an application that lets you choose from style templates that you can plug into your website.Wix, for example, is one of our go-to website builders, as it has hundreds of templates to choose from, and can be a good choice if you need a simple site and have some design and tech skills.
However, if your website needs specific functionality or a custom look, you’d need to hire a web designer rather than attempting to build something yourself with a web builder.If you want to have a go at building a website yourself, take a look at our list of the top website builders in 2023.
What Is a Web Developer?
A web developer is a hybrid programmer-engineer. Essentially, web developers build websites by creating the architecture that underpins the structure of a site. They also translate design elements into functional pages. Many web developers have one of these focused roles:
Front-end developers are also highly skilled with testing and debugging. If you need an expert who can address user-facing issues like building a form, you’d hire a front-end developer.
Back-end developers build the critical elements that make a website run properly – but that users don’t interact with directly. Much of back-end developers’ work happens in databases or on servers. They’re masters of coding, and they generally specialize in software and database languages like Java, SQL, Python, Ruby on Rails, and PHP.
Back-end developers also work with API technology and version control systems. If you need someone to set up servers or databases for your site, you’d hire a back-end developer.
Once you know the difference between web design and web development, it’s easier to determine which you need – or if you need both. As a general rule, you need a web designer if:
Your company has updated its branding and wants new logos, colors, and other elements incorporated throughout your website.
Your homepage – or even your entire site – is outdated and needs a visual refresh, from the page layout to the buttons and banners.
You need a hand displaying photos or videos on your site in an aesthetically pleasing way.
On the other hand, you need a web developer if:
You need custom functionality or integrations – such as an e-commerce store or a newsletter subscription form – added to your website or built from scratch.
Your company needs a mobile app.
Your website is experiencing hosting or speed issues and you need to get them resolved.
What You Need
You Need a Web Designer
You Need a Web Developer
New branding on your website
Custom website integrations
Mobile or desktop app
Website design refresh
Photos or videos displayed on your site
Help with server issues
If you need a little from both columns, then you need a web designer and a developer who can work together. Although you can hire these two experts separately, it often makes sense to contract a team for the job. That way you can ensure that they know how to communicate and collaborate effectively, making the process smoother.
How Much Does a Web Designer vs. a Web Developer Cost?
The cost of hiring a web designer or a web developer depends on several factors, ranging from project size and scope to whether you work with freelancers or an agency. However, when it comes to web development vs web design, web design is generally less expensive.
On average, web designers charge between $50 and $100 per hour, while web developers charge between $100 and $175 per hour. That translates to annual salaries between $50,000 and $75,000 for web designers and between $70,000 and $90,000 for web developers.
So what does that mean for your budget? Fortunately, most web designers charge flat fees per project, making it easy to know what to expect when you hire them.
A web designer might charge as little as $50 for a simple one-page website, while a content-heavy, 20-page website could cost $5,000. If you need a complex website with custom functionality, an e-commerce store, and hosting, a web developer could charge over $10,000. Mobile apps often cost $50,000 or more.
If these prices sound beyond your budget, rest assured that it’s possible to spend less when hiring experienced designers or developers. Hiring through the Fiverr marketplace gives you access to design and development experts at a wide range of price points, with small projects starting as low as $5.
DesignZLK has achieved Fiverr’s Level Two Seller status, an elite level that indicates they have maintained at least a 4.7-star (out of 5) rating and delivered at least 50 orders. This freelancer has more than five years of experience as a designer, and has worked on platforms including WordPress.
They also design e-commerce sites, and their super-affordable packages start at $5.
BilalKhawaja has several years of website and graphic design experience as well as a degree in software engineering. They have ample experience with WordPress and can adapt themes to ensure they’re SEO-friendly.
This designer has also earned Fiverr’s exclusive Top Rated Seller credential, which is the platform’s most prestigious level. This indicates they’ve earned at least $20,000 and delivered 100 orders.
As their name suggests, ExpertWebsite1 has mastered a long list of programming languages, and they have been designing websites for seven years. Although ExpertWebsite1 is a web designer, their web development skills could help you tackle more complex projects or even build custom solutions.
This Level Two Seller also has a five-star rating and provides unlimited revisions to ensure client satisfaction.
Another Level Two Seller with a five-star rating, CreativeArt088 is a group of experienced web designers and developers. This team offers creative yet professional web design and specializes in WordPress sites. In addition to web design, the team additionally handles other creative projects like logo and banner design, making them a great choice if you’re looking for a visual refresh of your site.
With more than 10 years of professional experience and having achieved Fiverr’s coveted Top Rated Seller status, HipInspire easily stands out as a top choice. This freelancer specializes in web design and front-end code, and produces unique layouts tailored to your brand. They also design mobile apps and brand identities, so they may be able to handle all your creative and technical needs.
If you need a web developer to build your site from scratch, look no further. The Fiverr marketplace is home to some top-tier web developers, with freelancers offering gigs from $5 to $1,500 and up.
While you can get simple website fixes for $5, you’d need to budget for the higher end of the price range if you need a complete, custom-built website or mobile app – but that’s still quite affordable compared to what you would pay elsewhere.
With gigs starting at $5 and dozens of five-star reviews, Butt_Faizi provides unbeatable value. This seller offers front-end and back-end web development using a variety of platforms and technologies. While their $5 gig only covers debugging existing websites, they also offer a $150 gig that involves multi-page website development and a $400 gig that includes an e-commerce site.
As a highly rated Level Two Seller with over 100 great reviews, Me_Mairee stands out from the competition. With their software engineering degree and years of professional web development work, they have ample experience and affordable pricing. For example, you can get a one-page website with responsive design for just $50.
Nauman440 boasts Fiverr’s Top Rated Seller status, indicating that they’ve delivered tons of high-quality work over a long period of time. This freelancer also has over 400 excellent reviews and experience in everything from WordPress design to back-end development. They offer a custom landing page with responsive design and multiple plugins for under $150.
A Level Two Seller with a five-star rating, Xpert_Solutions has more than seven years of experience with web development. They’re fluent in a wide range of languages, including HTML and PHP, and they specialize in WordPress sites. They strive to deliver efficient, well-designed code – and their excellent rating attests to their success.
A Fiverr Verified Pro, Kikaninilesh is a team of web developers with more than a decade of experience in the field. They’re fluent in a long list of programming languages, and their basic gig includes a mobile app design and development, plus a month of support, for $1,500. Their pricier $6,000 gig includes mobile app development for both Android and iOS.
Web Developers and Designers Work Together to Build Successful Sites
To some extent, web designers and developers can overlap in terms of skills and project scope. Yet developers and designers tend to do their best work when they collaborate. Ultimately, you’re often best off hiring a team to tackle your project so each member can contribute their expertise and deliver the optimal website.
For many web design and development projects, Fiverr is the ideal place to hire an expert – such as one of the freelancers I highlighted above. While web design and development can get pricey, Fiverr has cheaper alternatives that are just as effective.
When it comes to hiring a web developer vs web designer, neither is necessarily better than the other. Instead, the best choice depends on what you need. Hire a web designer to assist with UI and UX, or hire a web developer who is an experienced coder. Most websites require collaboration between a designer and a developer.
Is web design the same as web development?
Web design and development are related, but one can’t replace the other. Web design refers to the user-facing elements of a website, such as the layout and graphics. Web development refers to the back-end components of a site, including the code and plug-ins that make it run properly.
Can a web designer make a website?
Yes, a UI or UX expert can manage both web design and programming. However, web designer-built sites tend to be simpler than a site a web developer would produce. In many cases, web designers specialize in building sites on platforms like Wix.
Anna Sonnenberg is a digital agency owner who specializes in email marketing, content strategy, and social media management. For over 6 years, she has run Sonnenberg Media, a digital micro agency that works with small businesses in the CPG, SaaS, marketing, and health & wellness industries.