If you’re young and looking at an IT career it can be confusing to know if web design or development would be the better option.
As ever there isn’t a straight-forward answer. It’s about finding the best fit for your personality.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each.
The future prospects for both careers are very good. Computers are becoming ever more widely used and this isn’t going to change anytime soon. The demand for both programmers and web designers is going to grow with that. Each time a new application is computerised that needs to be both programmed and also an interface designed so that it is easy for people to work with.
The underlying skill base of programmers is different to web designers. Both work in the same area and have technical skills.
However web designers are more of a ‘jack of all trades’. They need to combine technical skills with a creative side and an understanding of psychology to produce designs that will work for people.
More details on the exact skill base required by web designers can be found here.
Programmers straddle fewer different areas. Yes they will work across different technologies and languages but the fundamentals of their jobs are similar.
They design, build, test and implement computer code so that it can be used in a live environment. For smaller projects it would be just them working on the project. For larger projects they would be part of a team. They might only be responsible for coding a small part of the project, or testing part of the project, on large teams.
More details on the exactly underlying skill base of programmers can be found here.
Both areas will continue to grow and evolve. Whether you are a web designer or a programmer you should expect that you will be reskilling and learning new technologies a number of times during your career as technology progresses. For many people this is a big attraction.
This is most likely to be a combination of teaching yourself incrementally using web tutorials and YouTube videos and more formal instructor-led courses to ensure that you build a solid foundation when learning a new technology. (EG if you were learning Photoshop you might look at the tutorials provided by this company which also provides classroom courses)
Types Of Employers
Both careers are open to people working as freelancers on their own or for a larger company.
In both cases most people start with a company. This lets them build up their skills and learn from their colleagues while they are getting started. The most usual career path for programmers is to stay with companies and work as part of teams.
For web designers it is not unusual for them to then move to being freelancers as they build up a portfolio of skills and client relationships. The creativity required to be a web designer does not scale well particularly well. Which why design companies tend to be relatively small.
Also many web designers enjoy the fact that this offers them a great deal of freedom to work as much or as little as they would like. It also often allows them to work where they would like. The rise of the ‘digital nomad’ lifestyle means that there are whole communities of people who travel the world earning a living as they do so. A major benefit is that they often charge first world companies first world prices but live in third world countries and so their expenses are dramatically lower than they otherwise would be.
Hopefully that brief introduction to the differences between being a web designer and programmer is helpful. As ever the best advice can be found from speaking to people who work in both industries and also know you well.