A lot of people think that a web designer and a web developer are the same thing, but they actually specialize in different areas of website building. You might be asking yourself which one you need to build your websites business, or do you need both? The answer will depend on what your main goals are with your website. In this article I will try to break down the difference for you and help you to determine what your business needs are.
Web designers are the ‘artists’ of the web. They design the look and feel of a website, including things like colors, fonts, the interface, and the layout. They may also be able to design your logo for you if that is something that you require. They typically have training in graphic design, and some will have gone further and studied things like user experience design. It’s great to have a website that looks pretty, but not so great if it’s difficult for the end user to understand how to navigate it. In the early days of the web I remember a lot of Flash-based websites that had all kinds of moving parts and interesting graphics, but that I ultimately left in frustration because I couldn’t figure out how they worked. Speaking of Flash, if you contact a web designer who says that they specialize in Flash I would advise moving on and finding somebody different. Flash technology is not supported on the majority of mobile devices, which means customers would not be able to use your website on a smartphone or tablet.
Most web designers also have at least a basic understanding of HTML code (think of it as the building blocks of websites) so that they can turn their designs into a functioning website, and if you can find one that can turn their design into a theme for a content management system like WordPress or Joomla even better, as that will give you the ability to be able to easily update your website on your own.
You should use a web designer if:
- You have a lot of great photography of your product/service
- You need a logo designed (although not all web designers will offer this service)
- You have a strong brand already set up for your product labels/print media and need your website to integrate with that seamlessly
- You don’t need any complicated applications to be part of your website (shopping carts, booking systems, client log-in areas)
If web designers are the artists of the web, then web developers are the architects. Web developers specialize in learning the programming and coding languages that turn a design into a functioning website and add features like contact forms, forums, shopping carts, and log-in areas. We at Ibsen Co. fall into the web developer camp, and although we don’t think we are especially skilled at design, we’re good at taking a pre-existing design or theme and altering it to a clients needs. We always recommend that clients use WordPress and find a theme that is close to what they want, we can modify it from there to add in your company logo and update the colors to match your branding. ThemeForest has an excellent selection of professional and high quality themes that we can work with. In general we suggest that you use a web developer if you need a site that is functional over graphics-heavy and specifically branded.
Should I use both?
If you need a website that is both specifically designed to your brand, and needs a lot of functionality then you should definitely employ the services of a graphic designer and web developer. Most small to mid-size web development companies will employ both types of professionals, and often more like SEO specialists, which is yet another facet of website building!
Whatever you end up choosing remember that communication and keeping it simple is key! You hired these people for a reason, listen to their years of experience and expertise so that you can avoid this kind of a situation!