So you’re looking for the right person to help establish your company’s web presence, and you keep coming across the terms ‘web designer’ and ‘web developer.’
You might have even seen a few opinions posted online about one or the other. Contrary to what some of these infographics and blog posts may convey, there is no disdain or negative competition between the two camps. In fact, web designers and web developers work together to build powerful and visually stunning websites, and their skill sets often overlap.
However, you still need to know what the differences and similarities they have. If you’re new to the world of web building, you may not know if you need a designer, a developer, or both.
So for those of you wondering whom you need to hire, let’s take a look at what separates the two job titles.
The Web Designer
So what does a web designer do? The short answer is that s/he is the person who is responsible for how a website looks, which includes things like:
- Color palate
- User interface
This job relies heavily on artistic and graphic design skills to make the website look good, but designers also play a big role in making the site easy for people to use, both on a desktop or mobile device.
The web designer uses tools like Adobe’s Dreamweaver for web design, Illustrator for creating graphics, Photoshop for image manipulation, and even Acrobat or InDesign. Think of them as the left-brained creative force behind your web project.
The Web Developer
On the other hand, a web developer takes the static design of a website and adds functionality to it. If you think of web designers as the interior decorators of your website, then the developers are the builders. They put all of the pieces together to make things work. For example, they would be the ones who do things like:
- Build a functional shopping cart for an e-commerce site
- Create a tool that calculates shipping costs
- Give a website the ability to collect information from visitors
- Build a photo gallery on your website
- Creating the architectural structure of your website
The web developer also has two other important responsibilities when it comes to your website. They are often the ones who test to ensure that everything continues functioning correctly, and they are usually responsible for the security of the website.Web developers are sometimes broken into two subsets: front-end and back-end. The front-end developer works on the user/browser side of the website, while the back-end developer focuses on the server side of things.
Many web developers, especially a front-end one, may have some knowledge about layouts, color schemes, and graphics. While some of them may not have the artistic ability that a web designer possesses, they are usually more than capable of building a clean, well-organized website themselves.
Which Do You Need?
It is not uncommon for someone unfamiliar with this distinction to think that they need to choose one over the other, but this simply isn’t the case. In fact, your website would probably benefit from having a firm that employs both designers and developers to work on your project. If you are thinking, or you are being sold, that one discipline can easily exist without the other, then consider this. Ninety-four percent of first impressions are design-related. If your design doesn’t immediately capture the visitor’s attention and convince them to stay on your site, then your website needs more work. Conversely, if your site doesn’t function properly – if it takes too long to load, some tools/forms don’t work, or if it isn’t secure – your reputation is going to take a hit, and visitors aren’t going to come back.
Another concept that may seem to be a solution is to hire someone who excels at both design and development. As most professionals will tell you, it takes a unique skill set and quite a bit of time to become a really great designer or developer. Finding someone who can do both at an equally high level is extremely rare. That is why most firms are staffed with both designers and developers. This way, they can put the right skill sets to work on the parts of a project that best meet their abilities, without risking a drop in quality in either department.
As a beginner, you have the distinct advantage of not having any preconceived ideas of which is more important. There is nothing swaying you towards one discipline over the other. You have the opportunity to do what is right for your website and to work with a team that dedicates equal time and resources to both; only then can you build a website that both draws visitors in and keeps them coming back.