Web Design for Developers: The Basics You Must Know

Don’t waste your time with an online course of graphic design for web developers. Learn why web design for developers is useful skill, and how you can get started with it.

Web design
June 5, 2023

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What to look for in a web designer and developer? A mix of these skill sets is usually preferable for either. But while there has been a lot of talk about why designers should learn basic coding, the opposite scenario is usually neglected. Here’s everything you need to know about web design for developers!

Does your comfort zone consist mainly of coding? Do you feel awkward shoving pixels around and choosing colors for web pages? As much as we appreciate sticking to what you know, there are numerous benefits of learning the basics regarding web design, especially if you are a web developer yourself. 

First, let’s look at both respective fields to see where there’s overlap and how they differ. 


What is the difference between web design and web development?

It’s one of the most frequently asked questions surrounding web design and development: “What is the difference between web design and web development?”

Web design focuses on the part of a webpage that visitors see. A designer ensures the page is visually appealing and that visitors instinctively know how to interact with it. 

Web development involves programming necessary to make a website work. It’s the job of web developers to ensure something actually happens when a button is clicked. 

Developers focus on the front end, which is the part visitors see, or the back end of a website, how the website works. Some developers can do both, making them full-stack developers. 

To create a better overview of both fields, we’ll look at the similarities and differences between web design and development. 

Similarities between web design and development

Web design and website development closely intertwine and are crucial components for a solid digital presence. You can have a stunning website, but you'll get nowhere if it doesn’t work correctly. 

In the end, the aim of both disciplines is the same: to create a user-friendly web experience that accomplishes specific goals. For example, a web designer will ensure that the user interface allows users to find information and take action.

The web developer will make sure that they can actually complete the required action (e.g. move onto the next page, add to cart, watch a video, download a mobile app, etc.)

Differences between web design and development

Although they are inseparable for the final product to work, the difference between web designer vs. web developer is pretty huge.

A web designer uses design programs and tools to create, essentially, a piece of  graphic design. Without a web developer’s expertise website design is merely visual design in a digital format. 

In theory, web developers don’t have to know anything about choosing the right website layout, color scheme or fonts. Their job is to write code (using coding languages like Python and HTML) that allows a digital product to work. 

Reasons developers should learn design

Do you have to be a web designer for web development? Definitely not. But there are a few convincing reasons why understanding the basis of UI/UX design can help you be a better developer.

  • Knowing basic design will help you empathize with the designers on your team and help you work together more effectively.
  • Web developers that know a thing or two about design are better at adapting responsive design processes and workflows. 
  • When you build websites with a view of design, you’ll also understand actual users better. This can help you to develop better user experience for end-users, or develop an easy content management system (CMS) for people that need to update the site.
  • Design knowledge will eventually help you enjoy your job as a web developer more, as your collaborations will be hassle-free.

How to get started with web design as a developer?

Ready to get some insights into the world of web design for developers? Here are 4 simple tips to get you started. 

1. Don’t get overwhelmed by theory

A tip to not get overwhelmed is to stick to the basics. As a web developer who isn’t experienced with abstract and vague theories, you’ll be happy to know there are some pretty black-and-white rules every web designer should adhere to

If you’ve ever used the Internet some of these rules will be obvious (e.g. fast load times, mobile optimization, etc.). However, there are also a few design-specific rules, such as the use of white space and choosing the right color palettes which hugely impact the overall experience of the site as well. 

2. Adjust your mindset

This is the trickiest part: adjusting your mindset to one of a designer rather than a developer. As a developer, you’re used to a certain order, writing your code from top to bottom, left to right. Every code is set in stone and has a clear purpose. Design also has a purpose, but it’s not as straightforward. 

Design is much more chaotic than coding, but shifting your mindset and embracing the creative side of a website will help you put on your designer hat much faster! . 

So, the simplest way to approach graphic design for web developers is this: embrace your creativity! Although codes work in a more straightforward way than design, there's usually more than one way to get a digital product to work. Apply this mindset to designing the look of the webstite as well.

3. Get inspired

A great way to submerge yourself into the wonderful world of design is by looking at what others are doing. Luckily, countless websites are available where web designers show off their portfolios. Some examples:

  • Behance – The world’s largest creative network based on showcasing creative work.
  • Awwward – Showcasing the best of the best, filled with award-winning websites. 
  • Dribbble – A self-promotion and networking website for designers and other creatives.

4. Practice web design

The best way to learn something is by doing it yourself. Therefore, the ultimate way to step into a designer’s shoes and learn the ropes is by designing a website yourself. 

It’s a good idea to adjust your expectations. You don’t have to design an award-winning website right off the bat. The purpose of practicing web design is to see what issues a designer may run into and to get a glimpse of what their process looks like. 

To get you started, here are some web designer tools you can use to craft your very own website:

  • Figma – This platform gives you all the tools you need to build responsive websites and design elements without using a single string of code. It’s designed for collaboration, so you can easily get feedback from your designer friend or colleague. 
  • Adobe XD – The platform by Adobe makes it easy to import your elements from Photoshop and Illustrator, so if you love designing elements in those apps, Adobe XD is a great choice. Adobe XD has a wide range of tools and a design asset library. 
  • Sketch – A drag-and-drop platform available for Mac computers allowing you to create stunning designs and prototypes without coding. Sketch allows you to zoom in, which helps you get into the nitty-gritty of your web design. It’s straightforward software, making it widely loved among designers. 
  • Framer – This platform has a similar interface to Sketch, but what makes it different from the other software is that Framer allows you to add custom code to each element. If you can’t help yourself and want to code, Framer is for you! Additionally, the platform has a massive library filled with visual assets, allowing you to quickly design a layout. 
  • Website builders - You might scoff at any open-source solution as a professional web developer. But sites like Wix, Shopify, Webflow, and Elementor are great places to start learning about web design. Most of them have simple drag-and-drop editors, so they’re very beginner-friendly, and will allow you to start dabbling in web design right away.

Via Figma


Ask any professional web developer whether they prefer working with a designer that knows how to code or doesn’t, and chances are they opt for the coding designer. What they often don’t know is that it works both ways. 

In the end, both web developers and web designers have the same goal: to create a striking and user-friendly website that runs smoothly and completes specific goals

Knowing basic web design as a developer will make you a pleasure to work with for any designer and put you in front of your competition.

More importantly, understanding how web design impacts user experience will help you deliver better front- and back-end solutions. 

For further reading on web design, check out our articles on what makes a good website, this guide on creating website mockups, and our list of best website designs to draw inspiration from!

Simone is a writer, dividing her time between native Netherlands and 'home away from home' Malawi. Whenever not stringing words together, she's either on her yoga mat or exploring any off the beaten track she can find.

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