Web Design vs Programmation

They have: 3 posts

Joined: Feb 2010

Hey all,

Im new to the board and I'd first like to ask a quick question. I am a professionnal web programmer and I am arguing with a friend of mine who is web designer and recently initiated to html programming (css layout etc).

Hes reading books about CSS 2.0 and arguing with me that Web Design IS the actual programmation of the site. Meaning that when you do the "web design" of a site, you actually do the HTML programmation with the CSS styles etc. etc.

Being a former programmer, im arguing with him that HTML is a coding language, wich is NOT web design. Web Design to me means creating the Photoshop layout of a website, not touching a single line of code.

I mean, I can be a Web Designer without knowing a single bit of HTML, right ?

Waiting your answers, thanks =)

pr0gr4mm3r's picture

He has: 1,502 posts

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According to what I read here and here, web design includes the HTML, CSS, images, etc.

Megan's picture

She has: 11,421 posts

Joined: Jun 1999

Technically, it could go either way but when you think about the purpose of those mark-up languages I think it makes more sense to include them with design.

CSS is more obvious. What is CSS for? It defines the design of the site. It doesn't make much sense to hand that task to a programmer. The first problem with that the programmer probably doesn't have a good eye for design and may not interpret the proof as the designer would like. The second problem is that the designer may have to provide proofs for a lot of small areas of the site, when they could really design those sections in CSS themselves (e.g. fine tuning the design of a section of a page, or a navigational section, or a table etc.)

HTML could go either way. What does HTML do? It defines the structure of a page. This is really neither design nor programming. Anyone who understands semantics can do it, but I wouldn't consider it to be purely design or programming.

To expand on what you are debating, I would also say that web design is much more than creating a photoshop proof. The design needs to incorporate navigation, usability, accessibility, interactivity. A photoshop proof cannot address all of those factors (and I fail to understand why most people choose Photoshop for website proofs but that's another debate!).

Theoretically you could get a job doing web design without knowing code (depending on how a team is built), but, I would argue that designers are much more useful if they can code.

paul wood's picture

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In my opinion, web designer is more like artistic graphic concepts to do design web page layout using Photoshop/Paint Pro Shop, Illustrator, and any artwork designing. Also incorporate template layout into web page. Very similar to desktop publisher (Microsoft Publisher).

Web developer/programmer is more like advanced technical concept to do code the programming employing actions/behaviors resulting in PHP, HTML, CSS, XML, database, Flash Actionscript, Javascript, ASP, C++, etc on the website. Also parsing any external files such as PDF, Doc, video files, audio file, mp3 into web page and do web designing job as I mention above.

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They have: 3 posts

Joined: Feb 2010

I'd say coding is coding, whatever language it is. If you code HTML, then you are not doing design obviously, you are following pixel by pixel a design made by you or another person to translate the visual layout into lines of codes, wich is programming a website, using HTML, then CSS to style.

I'd say programmation is where you write lines of codes, in the case of HTML, you are very probably coding something with a layout already done. You cannot begin a website by coding HTML, so you cannot "design" a website via HTML.

Frist step would be to define the structure of the site, sections, what goes where what does what and where to click AKA thinking / ideation. Second step would be to design the web page AKA Web Design. Third step would be to code the site AKA programmation.

I guess there is people that put the whole process "in the same basket" and others like me who tears it apart in very separate parts, where web design as nothing to do with coding.

When my boss says, please do the "Web Design", im delivering a photoshop proof. And when he says please do the "programmation" of that site, im doing the HTML / CSS, then the PHP / SQL.

And I've never seen someone delivers a completly HTML coded website after he has been asked to do the "web design" of a site...

Megan's picture

She has: 11,421 posts

Joined: Jun 1999

So you're equating coding with programming. I wouldn't agree with that. In HTML & CSS there are no functions, variables, procedures etc. It just defines structure and appearance - not really programming. HTML and CSS aren't programming languages, they are mark-up languages.

Flames wrote:
You cannot begin a website by coding HTML, so you cannot "design" a website via HTML.

Well, a lot of people are starting to skip the Photoshop mock-up and start wireframing right in HTML. So in that sense you can begin designing with HTML and CSS. I think this makes a lot of sense because you start with the layout structure, navigation, and usability. The visuals come later.

Of course, HTML isn't a design language - it's structural mark-up.

This can depend on how you want to segment things and what the strengths of your team members are. On a large team you might have an information architect who would do the content organization, information architecture, wireframing etc. Then the "designer" would take over and do visuals, while another specialist might do HTML & CSS and a fourth person the backend programming. On a small team the designer might take on the first three stages while the programmer does the backend.

On another team you might have a very strong graphic designer who doesn't code very well. In that case you could have a mark-up specialist or developer do the mark-up.

As a designer I wouldn't want to pass of a design and depend on a programmer to code the CSS right. There are too many small pieces that would probably get overlooked. You can't realistically design every page of a site in Photoshop first. I think it's very very important for designers to be able to code. They are the ones who created the design, they are the best people to create the mark-up for it.

He has: 629 posts

Joined: May 2007

I agree with Megan here.

#1 HTML has nothing at all to do with coding. It is a markup language, pure and simple. I spent 40 years designing applications. Before desktop computers arrived, I used markup languages to document my designs, and sometimes helped with the program coding. Two utterly different activities.

#2 CSS is decoration. Eric Meyer describes CSS as "putting the clothes" on web pages. Without knowledge of CSS, and working only in Photoshop, you'll likely create a static image of a page that cannot be realized cross-browser. How will that Photoshop "comp" look on a wide screen? how will it look on an iPad or iPhone? What if someone is using a computer that displays text at sizes very different from what you expect? What if someone is browsing with images turned off. (Yes, they do!)

#3 Pixel perfection is unattainable. Attempting to make a page look the same on every platform is a fool's errand. You can't even rely on the colors being identical. You must know the strengths and weaknesses of the technology. Otherwise you are just playing at being a designer.

Cordially, David
delete from internet where user_agent="MSIE" and version < 8;

Renegade's picture

He has: 3,022 posts

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Typically, I agree with the above where HTML and CSS are not quite programming languages - yes, they are languages of sorts - but not quite "programming" per se, they are markup languages. If you say that designers don't need to know Javascript, PHP, ASP, etc, I'd be more inclined to agree with you as they are used more as programming languages than markup.

To answer your initial question:

Flames wrote:

I mean, I can be a Web Designer without knowing a single bit of HTML, right ?

Yes you can but, while it is possible to seperate out concept and design from markup - HTML and CSS, it is a huge advantage to be able to do both and realistically, both are quite interchangable as pointed out above.

In a corporate environment and mindset, having clearly defined roles such as "web designer" and "web developer" or even "programmer" makes numerical sense but, in a practical sense, it can create more headaches and time delays with meeting deadlines.
This is simply because you'll have the design team submit a design, programming team make the design, design team go "hm.. that doesn't look quite right, can you do that", send it back to programming team, so on and so forth.

Megan's picture

She has: 11,421 posts

Joined: Jun 1999

Looks like there's been a bit of a debate going on about this lately:


Good arguments on both sides.

Flames - I hope you won't stop visiting our forum because people disagree with you here. It's an interesting topic for discussion!

They have: 10 posts

Joined: Sep 2008

HTML is not a coding language, it is a markup language used to create marks on web pages which actually leads to design of a webpage...

Creating the Photoshop layout of a website is a web designing but it helps to create a template only, when it comes to actual web page design and look after the browser compatibility then u have to touch the CSS which is used in formatting the whole document or web page and to set the alignment u have to touch the code slightly or it depends on the type of webpage u r designing...so a web designer should be aware with the html and have some knowledge of the code to create a browser friendly web page...

They have: 3 posts

Joined: Mar 2010

with my regards, I also chose Web designing. Because in this, it is always a never-expiring thing. If you are using something in your code, you should keep in mind that in future enhancement which could be in near or far future, you have to keep in mind that for each and every requirement and enhancement, the client expect only one answer and that is YES!

They have: 3 posts

Joined: Jun 2009

Web design is purely related to design a layout in photoshop and cutting images and do html and css formating.

knowledge of html is not a programming knowledge. if i have knowledge of html then i can not say that i am programmer.

programming means server side scripting & client side scripting.

Los Angeles web design

He has: 629 posts

Joined: May 2007

Interesting discussion. Thanks all for your perspectives.

As user agents ("browsers") become more capable of effects like drop shadows, translucent backgrounds, rotation, and transitions, I wonder how much longer the main design tool will be Photoshop? There is also a need right now to make site layouts "adapt" to a wide range of window sizes and resolution...

Maybe one day slicing and dicing Photoshop images will go the way of hot metal type?

Cordially, David
delete from internet where user_agent="MSIE" and version < 8;

Megan's picture

She has: 11,421 posts

Joined: Jun 1999

To me the slicing and dicing went away with tabled layouts. Now that you can layer images on top of each other, and most design images are backgrounds, there's no need to "slice and dice" them. Much of what you used to do with images can now be done with CSS instead.

I know some designers are starting to work in HTML & CSS from the ground up (not doing a mock-up in Photoshop or whatever). I'm really interested in this approach and hope to try it with my next project. I've actually really never understood why people prefer Photoshop for comping. A vector program would more easily replicate what you can do in CSS.

I do wonder if CSS will become more like a programming language as it evolves. There's also a question of where JavaScript fits in. Where do you draw the line? JavaScript is now used to manipulate layouts quite a lot. Whose job is that?

They have: 1 posts

Joined: Apr 2010

Web Designing is different from programming. Programming means enabling a process to do a task done. Programmed process to achieve a goal is programming. Designing include CSS sheets and HTML is a language. But if HTML is used for designing purpose then it is totally different from programming.
Designing not only include Style sheets. It includes graphics, animation, Slicing etc......

They have: 5 posts

Joined: Apr 2010

web design includes the HTML, CSS, images, etc., Css Define style of the sites. Having knowledge of html is not a programing knowledge.
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They have: 3 posts

Joined: Feb 2010

Well, I might be wrong, but I still think that if you are writing lines of code in notepad, whether it's html tags or php conditions, you are coding something. To me coding means writing lines of code wich translate into something else than black font on white background once viewed online.

Around me are many people who design web layout every day. They are artistic people who like things that looks good, they know about trends and color matching. They really, but realllllly dont care about coding whatever and how things works. And we call them Web Designers. What else could we be calling them, they design web layouts all day long?

All of you people said it's better for a web designer to know how to code html and css. I totally agree with that, it would be a better world if every web designer would know (and have interests) in web programmation, but it's not the reality. Most artistic people I know are the opposite kind of people than coders.

To me, having a successful web site developpment would means to go trough these steps:

1. Having a web designer create the layout. Someone with the artistic mind that make things looks good and know about web graphic trends.

2. Taking the nice web layout the designer made to a web integrator. Someone who can code markup languages such as HTML and CSS. Someone who know how website works, browser compatibility, w3 validation, seo optimization, jquery integration, etc. Someone whos not a designer and not a programmer, but between the two.

3. The HTML / CSS / Jquery now done, it's time for backend programming and dynamic functions to be added. Now pass the website to a programmer. Whos gonna build the administration tool and the dynamic parts of the site such as news module, events module, etc. etc.

OF COURSE having someone artistic who can design a web layout and ALSO do the web markup is IDEAL. But that's not the case for everyone, let's not generalise...

Web design > Integration > Programmation
Layout > HTML markup > Backend + dynamic coding

3 completly different things to me.

Megan's picture

She has: 11,421 posts

Joined: Jun 1999

Interesting points. There are a few things I disagree with here, though. The first is that layout design is not a purely artistic problem. There are many logical problems that need to be incorporated into a good layout, and these things need to be worked out before the prettiness is added. The layout needs to be usable, it needs to work from a marketing perspective, it needs to be accessible, it needs to communicate the desired goals, support the desired content etc.

If someone is just designing layouts all day long (does a job like that exist anywhere??), they could be called a "web graphic designer" or "web layout designer". In reality, someone like that could also be doing print design or multimedia work. Or, as it often works, they would also code HTML and CSS. In reality, to be marketable, someone should be capable of doing more than just designing layouts in Photoshop.

I know there are some people who don't care about the code, but there are also many good designers who do both. I think I said above that CSS is a mark-up language that describes layout, so in that sense it's an important part of layout design.

The second is that web design, integration, and programming are "completely different" things. The way I see it, there is a continuum between the artistic and the technical in web design and development. How you define different roles can really vary depending on the individuals involved, the type of business, and the size of the team.

Let's see if I can draw this:

Artistic/Non-technical                                           Technical
Graphic Design    Usability   Info. Arch.   Mark-up    JavaScript  Backend

You might have a separate front-end developer (or "integration" as you call it) on a three-person or larger team. But if you only have 2, as defined in the original question, where is the line drawn? It could depend on the strengths of the individuals involved (there are many programmers I work with who I would not trust to do mark-up correctly). It might also depend on the amount of work you have in each area. If you're developing applications your designer might need to do pretty much everything to the left of JavaScript. The day-to-day management of a site requires a little bit of everything.

So I agree that there's no need to generalize here about which skills belong where. I think the part I disputed in the original question is that mark-up is programming.

They have: 6 posts

Joined: Feb 2011

They are typically the same right? How about Web designers and web developers?

Anna Hussie's picture

They have: 5 posts

Joined: May 2011

It is almost impossible for a person who do not know the CSS and HTML and even then he want to be good designer .it is not possible ,I am writing this for the readers not for the specific person who made this thread.HTML or the back bone of web design.

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