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Website Developer vs. Website Designer: Do You Know the Difference?

We notice when talking about websites that people often interchange the terms “website developer” and “website designer”. It’s understandable that people would mix up the two, after all, they both advertise that they build websites. And they do both build websites. They are, however, VERY different roles! It’s important to understand the difference between the two professions, and to be able to determine which one you need to help you with your website.

What is the difference between a web designer and a web developer?

While both designers and developers create websites, the approach they take is quite different. Website Designers are similar to graphic designers (in fact, many are also graphic designers by training) in that their focus is on the visual creativity and making a website look good. They focus on the style and overall feel of the site and its pages. Website Designers typically use commercial software templates to customize a website’s visual elements, modifying the template to suite their design needs. They add functionality through the installation of additional software, often called plugins or widgets.

Quite differently, Website Developers build a website from scratch using code. They buildout the core structure using coding languages. Their focus is on how a website will perform and how different needs of the site will run. Web Developers use their programming knowledge to turn the Web Designer’s vision into a functioning reality, using software like HTML, CSS, PHP, Ruby on Rails and Java to build the website’s framework and make it operate properly using custom-built functionality.

A good metaphor for the two is to think of developers as building contractors and designers as architects. Both professions are necessary, but require very different skill sets and have different perspectives on a project. Architects pay close attention to aesthetics, while contractors focus on function. They both have the same end goal, they just have different ideas about how to accomplish it.

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Do you need a Web Developer or a Web Designer?

Determining which type of website professional you need depends on where you are in your website development process and what you need to get out of your website. If you need help defining your website branding as it corresponds to your business branding, and you want someone to design how your website will look visually, you need a web designer. For instance if you know what you want your site to look like, but need someone to make it do the things you want it to do, you need a web developer. If you need a website with functionality beyond simple landing pages, features such as responsive contact forms, eCommerce, user login, etc, you need a web developer.

Most people need a bit of both for a professional, responsive website for their business. The reality is that when building a website from scratch, you need a web developer to build the foundation and functionality into the site, and a web designer to make it look and feel the way you want it. Your end-user, your audience, experience is the most important consideration, so don’t forget that! You need a website that will be pleasing to visit, but it also needs to perform effectively so that the user experience is not frustrating or deficient for what they need to do (sign up for your newsletter, purchase your products, etc.).

It doesn’t have to be one or the other, in fact, when a website designer and a website developer work together, the end result can be rather ideal for the client – the best of both worlds if you will.

What is a bad idea is to hire two random people, a web designer and a web developer, who don’t work together all the time. Each professional has very different styles, software they prefer to work with, approaches to communication, etc. It is far more productive to hire someone who already has a working relationship with their counterpart designer-developer, or has both skillsets available in their digital marketing firm.

So, if you have no design for your site, you can approach either company – just make sure they offer both types of services – design and development. Be wary of a designer that says they can do “anything you want” because it is likely they will use all templates, plugins and widgets, with no custom programming and coding. When your web designer relies solely on plugins and widgets to get the functionality needed for your website, the costs rise dramatically. It is more cost-effective to hire someone who can code your site to have the features you need and desire.

At Zebralove Web Solutions We Have You Covered!

The “best of both worlds”, that being technical web development and skilled web design, is what we have to offer from our team at Zebralove Web Solutions. We’re unusual as we have expertise in both areas. We can work with clients to design their website look and feel, build custom websites with any functionality a client needs, and provide the essential content and built in optimization (SEO) that a quality website requires to hold its own on the internet.

We’d love to help you get your new website up and running, or refurbish your existing website, so that your business or organization isn’t losing out online!

Please contact us for more information on our web design and web development services!

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