Should You Hire a Web Designer or Web Developer?
Are you planning to build a new website and need help? Now you’re wondering, should you hire a website designer or website developer?
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A WEB DESIGNER AND WEBSITE DEVELOPER?
In the early days of websites, the answer to that question was simple: designers design and developers code.
Today that question is a little more nuanced - you’d be hard pressed to find a web designer who doesn’t know at least a little HTML and CSS, and you won’t have to look far for a front-end web developer who can whip up a bit of design. So, who is really a web developer and who is a web designer? Can they be both?
Strictly speaking about the general concepts of web design vs. web development, there is a clear distinction. Let’s take a look at these two concepts and the roles they play in building websites.
WHAT IS WEB DESIGN?
Web design governs everything involved with the visual aesthetics and usability of a website - color scheme, layout, information flow, and everything else related to the visual aspects of the user interface and user experience (UI/UX) (basically how everything functions for your website visitors).
Some common skills and tools that distinguish the web designer from the web developer are:
Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign) or other design software
Placing call-to-action buttons
Wireframes, mock-ups, and storyboards
Web design is concerned with what the user actually sees on their computer screen or mobile device, and less so about the mechanisms beneath the surface that make it all work. A web designer brings a digital experience to life.
WHAT IS WEB DEVELOPMENT?
Some common skills and tool traditionally used by web developers are:
CSS preprocessors (i.e., LESS or Sass)
Frameworks (i.e., AngularJS, ReactJS, Ember)
Libraries (i.e., jQuery)
Git and GitHub
Web developers don’t usually create mock-ups, select typography, or pick color palettes. These are usually provided by the designer. It’s the developer’s job to bring those mock-ups to life. That said, understanding what the designer wants requires some knowledge of best practices in UI/UX design, so that the developer is able to choose the right technology to deliver the desired look, feel, and experience in the final product.
WEB DESIGNERS & WEB DEVELOPERS HYBRIDS
At the end of the day, both web designers and web developers are working to a singular goal - to create a website that entices and attracts users. To do this, both the design and development must be sound. A site not only needs to look good but also function properly. The colors and imagery need to reflect the brand and the interface needs to encourage website visitors to take a desired call-to-action.
The previously defined lines between designers and developers are becoming more blurred as more designers are learning to code and more developers are paying close attention to design theory. We’re all beginning to see that the future of the field includes the title web designer/developer together.
You can be a designer and developer at the same time. More people are beginning to label themselves in this way and it is becoming an in-demand skill-set. Design and development are converging for a number of people and even for designers who never considered learning development and vice versa.
WHAT I DO AS A WEB DESIGNER
I would be considered one of the hybrids. When I initially started designing websites, l focused primarily on design. I had a limited understanding of how the underlying structure of websites worked, nor did I consider learning coding to build them.
That all changed when at one point, there were things I wanted to do websites that I was designing but couldn’t unless I knew some code. I had to learn how to alter the underlying structure and styling languages so that I could customize websites from a basic template. I realized I would be more valuable as a web designer and more satisfied with my job if I could learn both skills.
Plus, if you read my previous post about the #1 Reason Why I Switched to Squarespace, you’ll see I’m a bit of a control freak (in a good way). I wanted to be able to do what I wanted to a website. So I started learning to code. I won’t admit to knowing a lot about code but I do know enough to be dangerous...and effective.
Now, I can talk to developers and understand the language. It has made it easier for me to work with developers on projects and hopefully, it has made developers appreciate working with a designer who gets where they’re coming from.
Lucky for me (and you!), because I use Squarespace as the website building platform, I don’t have to know extensive coding to build the website from the ground up. They do it for me (thank you, Squarespace!). When building and designing websites using Squarespace I implement CSS (a type of coding) to customize your website so that it is unique to you and your brand.
SO, SHOULD YOU HIRE A WEB DESIGNER OR WEB DEVELOPER?
Honestly, the answer depends on what you are wanting to accomplish! The best thing to do is either work with someone who does both (like me). Or find a team (web designer and a web developer) who works well together. You want to make sure that the website functions smartly and easily as well as looks beautiful and customized with your branding.
A great article to read is, “7 Difference Between Squarespace and Wordpress.” Audrika addresses it from the viewpoint of a web developer who has learned some design.
Did you create a website with a web developer or a web designer? How was the experience? Do you have any questions about working with either or both? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!