How to decide what fits your needs.
You’re looking to create or revamp your website. You have a lot of options and are not sure whether you need a website designer or website developer, or both! There is a guy on Craigslist in Narnia who develops websites at a moderate cost. There is a full service agency that will give you a team of 10 people dedicated solely to your project. Your cousin Earl learned some HTML back when Silicon Valley was just another West Coast slum. The kid who mows your lawn talks about graphic design all the time and created some beautiful, albeit appalling, graffiti down the street. What will best fit your business is subjective. It is a juxtaposition between what you want, what you need, and what you’re willing to put into it. So it’s time to ask yourself: Do I need a designer or a developer?
What’s the difference between a web developer and web designer?
A developer is responsible for website environments (where your website gets created and lives), functionality (any special tricks your website needs to do), and logic (if this, then that). They work in databases, backend languages (php, .NET, python), and create logic and algorithms to customize the functionality of the site.
A designer takes care of the aesthetics of the site, the overall look & feel. There is a grey area in this spectrum. Some agencies will have a “front-end developer” who is proficient in CSS (cascading style sheets written in code readable by the system), as well as a “designer” who functions more in image editing software and design elements that are loaded into the site or coded in by a developer. Regardless, it is becoming more necessary for designers to know how to manipulate basic code on websites.
Do you have what it takes?
A lot of content management systems (CMS) are trying to take over the need for development and design know-how out of creating websites. Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress offer prefabricated themes for users to create their own online world. If you are doing anything complicated (selling products, having users login, etc.) you still need to be fairly savvy to figure out what modules and settings you need, and even then, you may end up with some beautiful assets, marred by some failed design or functional intricacies.
What is right for you?
In order to help you determine whether a designer or developer is best for you, let’s explore a few examples…
Carline just started watching Orange is the New Blackand wants to start a blog to share all of her opinions on women’s life in prison and give recaps of the episodes.
Does she need a developer or a designer? Neither.
Carline can head on over to WordPress and start a free blog. There are plenty of templates to choose from and she can start venting your contempt for Caputo today.
Case: The Eyes Have It
Dustin runs an air conditioning business and has a current website that was made in 2001. It’s simple and purely informational. All the content is in place, but he is unhappy with the look and thinks he could get more leads if it was more modern and had more calls-to-action for potential customers to get in touch.
Dustin is looking for a designer. Colors, fonts, and visual effects can completely change the feel of a website. By updating elements and adding strategic contact info, the site will become more visually appealing and accessible for clients. The cool new look will make your A/C business a hot commodity.
Case: Baby Needs Back
Brady’s accounting firm has a website with a busy website and recognizable brand. They currently have an “appointment system” in place that sends an email to someone at the firm to request an appointment. This is pretty inefficient because clients can’t actually schedule appointments in real time, but can only request them and have someone get back to them. They have chosen software to handle their appointments with real time availability, but need it to plug into their existing website.
It sounds like the firm is doing well with the website they have, they just need some custom work. He needs a back-end developer to handle the integration task. API’s are how systems talk to one another. An API integration will allow the scheduling system to show up on the website, and the developer will ensure that the software and website play well together.
Case: All Aboard
Lucille started a fashion business and while she has a lot of design talent, she knows nothing about websites. She wants to be able to get her design ideas across in a meaningful way in order to showcase and sell her spring line, both to individuals and wholesale clients.
Lucille needs both a developer and a designer. She is looking for e-commerce functionality. Your developer will set up an online store, customer login, secure payment processing, and variable pricing for bulk orders. Your designer will integrate your brand’s color palette into your site in subtle and creative ways, and make your products jump off the page.
The degree of functional and aesthetic desires you have for your site will dictate whether you need a developer, a designer, a team of engineers, or just a few instructional YouTube videos to make your site awesome. If you’re still not sure what you’re looking for, check out our handy-dandy cheat sheet below.
Website Designer vs. Developer Cheat Sheet
What You Want
Who You Need
To add or change the look and feel (images, colors, fonts, sizing, content placement, etc.)
Custom functionality (logins, payment processing, add rules, etc)
For your site to do cartwheels, have animations, fancy logic, and the kitchen sink
A Team of both (or an elusive Ninja Unicorn)
If you know whether you need a designer or developer, but are still not sure where to go next, check out the NEWMEDIA Website Development page for more insights and to see how our team of experts can help you. regardless of the complexity of your website project, head to the NEWMEDIA and tell us about your website goals or to ask us a question. And, most importantly, good luck with your new project!