Questions from a student

A student from a part term at PSU asked me a few questions about web design vs web development. I thought I’d share!
Here’s my response to their questions:

Hi Alanna!I hope you are doing well during all of this craziness!
I am trying to pursue web design a bit more, and there is so much to learn and it’s overwhelming knowing where to start. I was hoping I could ask you some more questions.
First of all, do you consider yourself more of a web designer or web developer? I’m just curious what you do mostly as your job.

I definitely consider myself a web developer. Most of the contracts I work on or jobs I’ve had have been in partnership with a designer/designers who had off final design comps to me and I code them up. I’m usually involved in the design process though, and offer suggestions on ui/ux like user flows and interactive experiences. etc. Something we didn’t talk about in class is that there is a front end (what the user sees) and a back end (how the functionality is programmed and how the data flows to and from the database). I’m what you call a full stack developer so I develop the functional code and apply the page/component flow and designs to it.

Do web designers generally use GitHub to build websites? What is industry standard? I’ve built a couple websites for friends using github, and I’ve also built one using Squarespace. Using Github, I’ve been able to figure out how to set up domains, but it’s still pretty confusing to me. If I were to get an entry level job as a “web designer” what platforms would I be expected to know how to use?

Git is definitely the industry standard version control software for code.… you can think of it as cloud storage for code. It is by far the most popular place to store your git repositories on the cloud, is another popular place for git repositories. But a lot of servers also serve as that “code cloud.” Heroku and pantheon are website servers that integrate with git as well as serving up sites, so they also technically act as a remote git repository. Here’s a nice article on what git is.

Alternatively, if Github isn’t industry standard, is there something similar that is? I really like coding and problem solving, but places like Squarespace really don’t allow you to do much coding. Is there some sort of platform that exists somewhere in the middle?

Yeah I see what you’re getting at. I should make you a video about my setup. I’ll be right back! Here’s a video about my process. Larger websites can be hosted in a variety of places. They may get hosted at a larger server farm, they may be hosted at AWS (amazon web services), or similar places. Dreamhost, media temple, and others like it are generally fine for small business and many even have e-commerce solutions you can use, like stripe.

What skills would be expected of me if I were to apply for an entry level web designer? Would I need to know more than CSS, HTML, and Javascript? Do web designer jobs exist without having to do/understand back end development?

This is evolving right now. It used to be that web designers were strictly designers and didn’t code. A lot of places now want designers who can at least code a little. Knowing how to code front end REALLY helps. My other job has a design program and a third of the program is teaching html, css and javascript. It’s becoming more and more important to be a coding designer, but yes, there are lots of designers who focus on the UX/Design side than the design/code side. So more of the branding, planning, designing phase of a project.

Do web designers usually work with web developers for every project? What if I wanted to work freelance eventually?

Generally web developers are needed for full stack projects. For smaller websites like marketing sites, e-commerce sites (using e-commerce built-in tools) you can totally freelance alone. But when more logic is needed, you might end up partnering with a full stack developer for that logic layer and you’d focus on the design and front-end. I’ve also done plenty of small business sites that didn’t have a lot of technology and worked with a designer. I prefer working with a designer no matter how large or small the project, because I want to focus on code, and you have to switch your brain around a little when you do both.

There doesn’t really seem to be many “web design” internships out there in the world. Is this normal? 

I swear there are some! Maybe they are listed under design/ux/ui? I don’t know! A good bet would be to look for smaller companies where they may not have a complex development environment where you can first get experience with design and code for smaller sites, then build up your portfolio and take larger jobs as you go. Or look up companies in portland or remote that you want to work for and see if they have internships.

Also! What other classes do you teach? You said you teach at another school online?

I’m a mentor, so I support students through the curriculum of various programs, making sure they ‘get’ what’s in the curriculum and adding that in-person (well, remotely-in-person) learning experience. We have a Design UX/UI program, a Web Development program, a Technical project management program. I mentor for those three. We also have Data Science, Data Analytics, and Product Management. I work at They are all vocational programs that span 6-9 months generally. And for people who either can’t go to college and want vocational skills or (most of my students) are changing careers and already have college degrees.

Thank you for any advice/information you can give me!Haley Riley

You are so welcome!
Hope all is good -Alanna