A website usually has two aspects to it. The first is the technical framework of code based on which the website gets created. This requires software development which is done by a web developer. A user or lay visitor to the website would not know about the code that is used in the website.
But how the website looks and how the various visual elements of a website come together to provide a good user experience would depend on how the website is designed. This work would be done by a web designer.
Designing a website usually involves working on the nuts and bolts behind the scenes in order to provide a skeletal structure to a website, which can then be used by the web developer to bring the website to life. Designers usually start off by looking at the planned architecture of the website and create a basic wireframe from it. This would also include all the visual aspects of the website including the layout of different pages, the flow of information between pages, the sitemap governing the website, and even the colour palette that would be used across the pages. The web designer would need to understand the purpose of the website and the expected profile of the traffic to the website and decide on the typefaces and font sizes accordingly. He might be called upon to design and place recurring images (or logos) that would appear on all pages of the website. Because of these reasons, a web designer needs to have an eye for aesthetics. He must be able to provide a pleasing contrast for different sections in a page and across the website which doesn’t jar the senses yet is able to highlight different segments. A designer must be able to perfectly balance the use of smaller and bigger typefaces or darker and lighter colours. Finally, a designer needs to keep track of earlier work done on a website so that the continuity of fonts, colours, layouts and designs are maintained on all pages and sections.
The Way Forward
The distinction of designer vs developer has begun to fade slightly. The need of the future is a web designer who also has a more than a rudimentary knowledge of coding so that he doesn’t need to depend on anyone else for creating mockups and prototypes. Similarly, a web developer with a good visual sense and a basic understanding of grid maps and information architecture would be able to see for himself the visual effects of the programming changes that he is bringing in.