Your website needs work, and you want some help. Should you look for a web designer or a web developer?
People use the terms somewhat interchangeably, and the lines are blurring between the two jobs as pre-fab templates and themes help developers make attractive sites and DIY website builders give designers shortcuts to good code.
But if you want to hire an expert to do something a little more sophisticated for your site, ask yourself this question—do you need an artist or a geek?
What is a Web Designer?
- Web designers are the artists. They work on the customer-facing side of a website, the front end. Their expertise is in how the site looks and how customers interact with it.
- Web designers are responsible for a site’s aesthetic appeal. Using design principles, color psychology, and carefully chosen images and graphic elements, they can create a beautiful site that attracts your target users.
- Front-end design is also part of what makes your site easy and intuitive for people to use. Visual cues in page design and layout help people figure out how to navigate your site, often without having to think about it at all. Font choices, white space, and other document design elements influence how easily people read online. A well-designed site helps people quickly gather the information they need. So web designers don’t just make things pretty—they can help improve your users’ experience on your website.
- Web designers can also help you tell your brand story. They can create logos, highlight your business’s personality, and translate your message in a visually appealing way for your customers.
Web designers usually have a background in art and design and a knowledge of tools like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. They can make your site a thing of beauty. On the other hand, they may not know the code on which your website is built. They may not be able to tweak or customize your site’s functionality. And if everything crashes, they may not be able to help.
What is a Web Developer?
- Web developers are the geeks. (Don’t worry, it’s a term of pride.) They work on the server side of a website, the back end. Their expertise is in the site’s functionality and how users get things done. They’re responsible for building the code for your website and making sure it’s clean and technically sound.
- Hire a Web Developer for complex or custom site builds. Web developers can build product databases, integrate third-party software, and ensure that your website interacts well with other sites (like a customer’s credit card company) so your users’ experiences are trouble-free.
- E-Commerce Sites will want a Web Developer. Especially look for a developer that has experience with taking a store online. For complex sites like online stores, functionality goes much deeper than front-end design and you will need someone that can trouble-shoot your payment processing on a very detailed level.
- Web Developers can help you build a website that will function differently then websites you have seen before. They can truly customize your site to your business needs and make sure your users’ experiences are trouble-free.
Web developers typically have a technical background, with a knowledge of the computer languages that build your site from the ground up. They can get you up and running, even after a crisis. On the other hand, they may not know much about the principles of branding, and if you have design needs that require more than a basic competence with visual software, they may not be able to help.
So which do you need?
Both designers and developers have the same goal in mind—to create websites that are attractive and functional. So it all comes down to thinking about the kind of expertise you need to make that happen. If you need someone to brand your site and create a strong web presence for your business, find yourself a web designer. If you have a clear sense of your business and brand but need the technical knowledge to build and maintain a strong website, hire a web developer.
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