With all the different services available today to help people build a website, there’s a lot of information out there, and much of it is very confusing. You’ve got DIY methods and professional services and freelance contractors and agencies and everything you could think of, all bidding for your business. If you’re thinking about hiring someone to help you, one of the most important things you need to
understand – in my opinion – is the difference between a web developer and a web designer.
These days some people use the terms interchangeably, but the truth is that they are different. The confusing thing is that some people – like me for instance – are both, and that becomes a problem for people trying to make the distinction. While some agency teams have both a web designer and web developer that work together on a project, some people only do one or the other, and hire the rest out, or some people do both.
But what’s the difference?
In general, the difference is that a designer designs a website, and the developer develops it. I know that doesn’t really explain it – so here’s a little more in depth.
A designer is the person who examines your business needs, your ideal audience, your branding, and translates that into the layout of the website. They decide what needs to go where and why it needs to go there, and how your colours and fonts need to interact, and they come up with a design. If the designer were not also a developer, then they might actually create and layout the design in an image program, and then send that design to a developer.
The developer is then the person that turns that design into a working website. They translate the image they receive into a functional website that you can click on, scroll through, and interact with.
If someone were a designer and developer like me, this process would be less cut and dry. Sometimes I lay out my designs in image form before developing them if I think the project requires the planning, and then sometimes I just dive right into the development and design as I go. Both methods work well if you know what you’re doing.
I hope that makes the distinction a little more simple. The real reason you need to understand it is so that you know what you’re getting. If you are hiring a developer to build your website and you haven’t got any designs, there might be a problem. Or if you’re hiring a web designer without any development knowledge, you’d be left with just an image and no functional website. It’s important to know what you’re getting.
These days, I’d say the common term is ‘web designer’, and people use it to encompass both things. If someone tells you they are a web designer – they likely both design and develop websites. That’s what I call myself, and I do both. I use this title because the average person doesn’t really know there is a difference between design and development.
The issue arises when someone calls themselves a web developer. If they do, it’s likely that they are NOT a designer. This means that you, or a third party, will have to give them a design, and they just turn that design into a website. If you’re thinking of hiring someone to build you a new website, ask questions, and make sure you know what you’re getting!