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Front-end Developer vs. Web Designer – Real Difference?

It’s no surprise that people not involved in web development tend to confuse these two professions. Both of them work on the same task: roughly, to establish interaction between users and websites.

An uneducated customer makes funny mistakes sometimes. They ask a web developer things like:

  • Can you make my website look like X? (pointing at another site)
  • I love the website’s concept, but could you make it look more minimalistic/luxurious/trendy?

There is nothing wrong with that (when it happens for the first time). To fix it, let’s look closely at what front-end developers and web designers do.

Web Designer: Definition and Tasks

Web designing is a process of understanding the requirements for a web application and based on that create mock ups that will suitably accomplish the task and re-iterate it until you have every element in perfect positioning that is pleasing to user, discoverable on its own and integrates well with other components of the application.

Once that is done you need to create something called “high fidelity wireframes” that would require specialized software like Figma or Adobe XD to design the page look and in the process take care of typography, color combination and a bunch of other stuff.

💡 Low Fidelity vs High Fidelity

Low Fidelity Wireframes

This is the initial view of a future web site. The testing of this type of prototype is carried out at an early stage of the design process to confirm that the concept of the product is correct.

This is of two types: paper and digital.

Paper prototypes : These are freehand sketches made on paper. We like to use Sneakpeekit to choose a prototype template and just print it.

Digital prototypes : These are created in special editors for prototyping. Many tools specifically imitate the style of a sloppy drawing in order not to focus on the appearance of the picture, but to highlight the structure of the project.

This way helps to understand the comprehensibility of a certain idea for users. These sketches represent blocks on pages, transitions, and basic functionality.

Digital Prototyping Resources:

1. UXPin
2. Marvel
3. Balsamiq
4. Justinmind
5. Sketch
6. Invision
7. Figma
8. Adobe XD

High Fidelity Wireframes

This kind of prototypes looks like a finished product with pixel-perfect elements. It can be created as a high-quality interactive prototype or as a developed HTML/CSS pages.

Prototyping tools:

1. Axure
2. Figma
3. Sketch
4. Adobe XD
5. ProtoPie


The most important difference between low fidelity and high fidelity wireframes is how they contribute to the overall user experience. Low fidelity wireframes can be an excellent way of visualizing requirements and getting everyone on the same page early on.


High fidelity wireframes will make sure that your design decisions are communicated to the team building the end product and that target users are accounted for.

Hence a web designer is a person that makes the website looks good. They mainly refer to the flashy portion of the website as well as its usability.

The main responsibility of web designers is to focus on the style and overall feel of the website using different software like Figma, Adobe XD, etc to make the website more attractive.

However, there are different types of web designers as per their role and they are:

User Experience (UX) Designer: UX is known as User Experience. How a user feels and their demands getting fulfilled after using the website. In simple terms “is the user able to use the website efficiently, the way the developer has intended to use his artifact.”

User interface (UI) designer: User Interface (UI) Design is the creation of graphics, illustrations, and use of photographic artwork and typography to enhance the website and its layout.

Interface elements consist of input controls (buttons, drop-down menus, data fields), navigational components (search fields, slider, icons, tags), and informational components (progress bars, notifications, message boxes).

Visual designer: The Visual designer’s role is to aim for the completed product should look attractive. They are a mixture of User interfaces and Graphic designers.

💡 Who are Graphic Designers?

Graphic designers create visual concepts, using computer software or by hand, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, and captivate consumers.

They develop the overall layout and production design for applications such as advertisements, brochures, magazines, and reports.

Web Developer: Definition and Tasks

Web developers are generally called programmers. They take the design created by the web designers and convert it into a fully functioning website.

They use different software and tools like JavaScript, React, Vue JS, jQuery, Node.js, PHP, ASP.NET, Python, etc. Their main aim is to build a smooth-running, well-functioning website.

Web developers are responsible for collaborating with UX designers, UI designers, and visual designers to create web pages based on the design provided by the designer.

Based on their role, web developers can also be divided into three types: 
 

Front-end Developer: The part of a website that the user interacts with directly is termed as front end. It is also referred to as the ‘client-side’ of the application.

It includes everything that users experience directly: text colors and styles, images, buttons and a navigation menu. HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are the languages used for Front End development.

The structure, design, behavior, and content of everything seen on the browser screen when websites, web applications, or mobile apps are opened up, is implemented by Front End developers.

Responsiveness and performance are two main objectives of the Front-End. The developer must ensure that the site is responsive i.e. it appears correctly on devices of all sizes no part of the website should behave abnormally irrespective of the size of the screen.

Back-end Developer: The backend is the server-side of the website. It stores and arranges data, and also makes sure everything on the client-side of the website works fine.

It is the part of the website that you cannot see and interact with. It is the portion of the software that does not come in direct contact with the users. The parts and characteristics developed by backend designers are indirectly accessed by users through a front-end application.

Activities, like writing APIs, creating libraries, and working with system components without user interfaces or even systems of scientific programming, are also included in the backend.

Full stack Developer: Full-stack web developers can design complete web applications and websites. They work on the frontend, backend, database, and debugging of web applications or websites.

We have briefly explained who are Front-end Developer but lets dive deeper more into it.

What is Front-end Development?

So, what is Front-end Development, exactly? It is a field of web development that implies bringing the concepts developed by a web designer to life.

Simply put, a Front-end developer reanimates a website’s layouts and overall appearance. Buttons get clickable and animated. Chat windows pop up or fold. Sliders slide, animations launch and stop, and so on.

i.e., a front-end developer enables the interaction between users and the website.

Skills 

  • HTML5 and CSS3: HTML is the hypertext markup language and is needed for structuring web pages. Using it, you can define where the elements of a web page will be located. CSS (cascade style sheets) design a website’s appearance. Using these two, a Front-end Developer can create a website’s backbone.
  • JavaScript and its frameworks (React, Angular, Vue.js): JavaScript is the language making a website interactive: pop-ups, animated dropdown menus, scrolling effects, slideshows, etc. are created with JavaScript. Knowing it is a must.
  • Being familiar with REST, knowing how to use RESTful APIs and services.
  • Knowing how to optimize websites for mobile platforms.

Typical Tasks

  • Creating and optimizing websites based on the layouts and wireframes developed by web designers.
  • Creating landing pages.
  • Convert websites to fit and work on mobile platforms.
  • Fixing user interface bugs.
  • Inserting, editing, and removing the elements of the user interface (buttons, menus, forms, etc.).
  • Testing, troubleshooting, and maintenance of the created websites.

Front-end Developer vs. Web Designer: Whom Should You Choose for Your Project?

Front-end Developer vs Web Designer is a vast topic, so there could be a whole page of plain text here. But, we thought a brief table would work better, so enjoy.

You have got a request?Front-end DeveloperWeb Designer
This is an annoying bug you want to fix.YesNo
You need someone to design UI/UX for your website.NoYes
You want to move that nasty button just a little bit to the left.YesNo
Your website could use a version for mobile platforms.Yes(Implementing)Yes(Designing)

Resources

Conclusion

We hope our article helped you figure out the difference between a Front-end Developer and a Web Designer. If you already have a website, the chances are that you need a Front-end Developer rather than a Web Designer.

When an internet page is up and running, web designers have little to do with it, while a developer will most likely have a bunch of technical tasks to work on.

If you still have questions, this FAQ is for you!

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Sunil Pradhan

Hi there 👋 My name is Sunil and I'm a front-end developer who loves to help others by simplifying web-dev related topics.

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Sunil Pradhan

Hi there 👋 My name is Sunil and I'm a front-end developer who loves to help others by simplifying web-dev related topics.