It’s been a couple of weeks since we last explored some technical terms within the web industry. This week we tackle the difference between a graphic designer and a front end developer. The lines on these two are often blurred as most front end developers will dabble in graphic design and vice versa. However, for the sake of this blog post we will be treating these two professions as entirely separate from one another.
At it’s most granular level, front-end devs and graphic designers can be broken into two categories with concerns to website development. The graphic designer literally designs the website and makes it look appealing to the end-user with respects to brand, user experience, and function. The front-end developer will then take that creative concept and implement it into a functioning website. I’ve gone into more detail below.
Traditionally graphic design spans a wide array of services that go well beyond the web. A graphic designer can be tasked with creating logos, print collateral, cartoon characters, advertisements and, of course, websites. The sketch pad and Adobe creative suite products (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc) are the tools of choice for the graphic designer. While graphic designers use complex software the job is decidedly less technical than the front-end counterpart. Graphic designers must be both creative while maintaining the functionality of the website. Crafting the balance between form and function is more difficult than one may think! Designers must also weigh their industry expertise with the wishes of the client essentially becoming the conduit for someone else’s vision, which is no easy task!
Once a design has been reached or approved by the client is time for the front end developer to take over at the wheel . The front-end developer is responsible for coding and implementing the design into a functional website. They make sure that every piece is where it should be and that it functions properly. With the institution of responsive design as an industry standard, front-end developers are tasked with making sure a web platform works on all devices including mobile phones, tablets, and different screen sizes.
Additionally, front end developers are tasked with crafting interactive pieces on the front-end of the website. These pieces can be anything from a simple contact form to more robust integration with a custom back-end system. Front-end developers also get to play around with animation and quirky website elements that take the average to extraordinary. Finally, a front-end developer will ensure that the code on the front end of a website will conform to standard industry and search engine practices to optimize search results as well as the ease of use for end users.
As I mentioned before, most front-end developers will also function as graphic designers and vice versa. Keep this in mind when you are shopping around for a web development team. Ask if the shop you are working with has a dedicated designer and front-end developer or does one person play both roles? Ask to see work product from both realms before you make your decision especially if you are hiring a solo developer.
Next week we will explore the differences of different backend systems such as CMS, CRM, PMS, and more.