A web designer may or may not be a computer programmer, but most have at least some programming skills. Many web designers are also web programmers, which means they not only are the architect of how a page will appear on the Internet but also implement their own designs through programming. They can thus be called part artist, part writer, and part computer expert.
There doesn't have to be a great difference between a web designer and a web programmer. Programmers may only implement designs by programming in HTML, XTML, and various other Internet languages. They may set up special functions like shopping cart software, and they may be responsible for maintenance of existing web pages and introduction of new data. A web designer, especially one with lots of programming talent may also do this. In fact many designers offer both design and programming services. At other times, designers are the graphic specialists, integrating the client’s requirements into artistically rendered pages that are easy to use for visitors.
Web designers must keep abreast of current trends in the Internet industry. They must figure out what services are expected, what graphics are most likely to be received well and enjoyed, and how a page will rank high in search engines. By working with clients they get a sense of what basic functions the web page (or multiple ones) must serve, but they may also help clients formulate plans on how to keep web pages most approachable, and graphically interesting. Many are terrific artists who may have worked in other fields of graphic design prior to becoming web designers.
There's a lot of debate about the the qualifications needed to become a web designer. Some people are not college educated but have been navigating and programming pages for so long it doesn’t matter. A number of freelance web designers have at the least taken classes in art and design, and may have taken a few programming classes specific to different programs that can help them best create pages. Others have extensive programming or design background and hold undergraduate degrees.
Degrees tend to be less important than demonstrated ability when choosing a web designer. Instead of viewing credentials, evaluate the pages a person has constructed to see if the aesthetic value is close to what you want. Check pages to be sure all aspects are functioning appropriately and to determine if the web designer/programmer is equally skilled at implementing functions needed on your site.