The Difference Between a Website Designer & Developer

Website Design

Have you been using the words “designer” and “developer” interchangeably?

You’re not the only one! Many creatives think designers and developers have the same job. While there are some professionals who use both titles to describe themselves, designers and developers have very different jobs.

If you’re not sure who you should hire for your next website project, I’ve got your back.

Today, we’re going to explore what it means to be a website designer and website developer. Toward the end, I’ll share my recommendations for deciding who you need on your website building team.

Website designer vs. website developer

There are distinct differences between a website designer and website developer, but they often go unnoticed by creatives who don’t fully understand who they are and what they do.

It’s important to understand what each person’s role is and what they are responsible for. Otherwise, you may end up working with the wrong person or have unmet expectations.

If you’re creating a website for the first time or you’re investing in a professional so you don’t have to DIY your site, this will be a helpful guide to follow before you hire someone.

So, let’s start with website designers.

What is a website designer?

A website designer is primarily a graphic artist who designs for the internet. They are highly creative people who love designing the overall look and feel of a website’s layout.

While they are known for finding innovative solutions, they don’t typically deal with the technical side of design. Instead, they focus on creating websites that are engaging, interesting, and unique.

Website designers enjoy spending their time on these kinds of tasks:

  • Thoughtfully placing company logos
  • Incorporating colors from brand color palettes 
  • Organizing where the images and copy will be located
  • Designing visual elements like icons, illustrations, etc.
  • Dreaming up interactive features users will love
  • Choosing brand photography and other graphic elements
  • Creating the website design mockup in Photoshop

A website designer’s main job is to make the website look good. Since they want to create an attractive user experience, they focus on the visuals so they can resolve any design issues before they pop up.

They have a unique way of seeing how a website should function in terms of its design, but they don’t dig into the backend of a website to make sure it’s functioning properly. That’s the website developer’s job (among other things).

What is a website developer?

A website developer takes the design that’s already been created by the website designer and brings it to life on the website. For most platforms, this usually takes a high level of coding knowledge and technical skill.

Website developers are all about solving problems as they ensure your website seamlessly runs without any issues. When that happens, they know they’ve done their job well. A website developer is more concerned with how a feature actually works than simply how it looks.

Website developers are commonly found working on these kinds of tasks:

  • Coding custom features for your website
  • Installing, creating, or reconfiguring website plugins
  • Front-end development in languages like HTML, CSS, Javascript, and more
  • Back-end development in languages like Javascript, JQuery, and more
  • Fixing bugs, server issues, and checking for broken links
  • Setting up your hosting and connecting your domain name
  • Creating mobile apps that work with your website

A website designer would probably look at this list and groan. Website developers, however, feel energized by having so many problems to solve.

They are both great people to have on your website team, but who do you need to work with? Let’s cover that next.

Should I hire a designer, developer, or both?

Now that you know what each person does, is it time to hire a website designer, developer, or both for your project? Well, it depends. I know you may not like that answer, but it’s the truth!

Don’t worry. I won’t leave you hanging with a vague answer like that. Instead, let’s explore a few of the factors that go into this decision.

Deciding to hire a website designer, developer, or both comes down to:

  • Your website platform preference
  • Your overall website goals
  • Your skills

Website platform preference

Do you know where you want to build your website? With so many platforms to choose from, it can sometimes be hard to narrow it down. If you’re still in the middle of this decision, check out the website platform comparisons I’ve created below.

If you want a quicker answer that involves less reading, take my
Which Website Platform is Best For You? quiz! After taking the quiz, you’ll receive a personalized platform recommendation based on your answers. It’s the easiest way to decide where to build your website.

With a website builder like Showit or Squarespace, you may only want to hire a website designer. Since these platforms have drag and drop features and allow you to create sites without having to touch code, you likely won’t need a website developer.

If you want to create custom features on these sites, you could look into hiring a website developer for that task but you wouldn’t need them on the whole project. This means you could have a site that looks completely custom but at a fraction of price.

However, a fully custom website platform like WordPress will likely require you to work with a website designer and developer. Sure, you could invest in a template so you don’t have to start from scratch, but you’ll need someone who feels comfortable with coding the front-end and back-end of your website.

The choice is completely up to you!

Website goals

After you’ve chosen a website platform, consider what your website goals are.

Ask yourself…

  • What is most important to you? 
  • How crucial is it to have a website that’s fully custom? 
  • Do you want a website that looks great on every device? 
  • Do you want to save money at all costs?
  • Do you care about building your website on one platform and having to transfer it later?
  • Do you want your website content or imagery to look a certain way?
  • How do you want website visitors to feel when they land on your site?
  • How important are the visual aesthetics of your website?
  • What are you ultimately using your website to accomplish?

The answers to these questions will help you understand what your priorities are. These priorities will light the way forward so you can achieve your goals without getting distracted by everything else you “could” do with your website. It’s all about what you want and need from your website.

Website skills

When you know what you need your website to accomplish, you can determine if you currently have any skills to help you get there.

For example, if you don’t know any coding but you already have a logo and color palette, you’ll save money and time by not having to hire a brand designer. Or maybe you’re a blogger who has blog content that you can migrate over to the new site without asking a developer to do it.

No matter what the task is, see if you have the website skills to get it done. If you don’t, don’t worry! That’s why you’re hiring a professional. 🙂

Even if you do know how to complete some of these tasks, I would recommend hiring them out anyway. You have so many hats to wear in your business, so taking the time to do something that someone else can do in a fraction of the time (and for a fraction of the cost) could hold you back from growing the business.

The most successful website projects are usually the ones where entrepreneurs go all-in with their investment. That way, they can make fewer adjustments in the future and continue to make profit from a website that automatically runs for them.

I hope this guide helped you understand who you need to hire for your website project.

If you want to hire a Showit website designer and are interested to see if we’d be a good fit, let’s talk! I can’t wait to meet you and hear more about your project.

The Difference Between a Website Designer & Developer

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