The difference between a Web Designer + a Web Developer. Who do you need to hire?

Any site is made of of two parts – the design and the code. When you decide you want a new blog design or website, you’ll think about the overall look you want it to have. You’ll think about the fonts, colours and layout. So who do you contact? A web designer or a web developer? Here’s a general overview

A Web Designer will take those ideas you have, along with your preferences, goals, problems, their experience and many other things and translate it all into mockups using graphic design software (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc) as a visual concept. They create the graphics of your site, choose the fonts and colours, plan how your site is laid out in order to solve certain issues or achieve certains goals, etc. Then the mockup files (organised using correctly named layers + layer groups) will get sent to a web developer…

The Web Developer will develop those mockups into a live working site using HTML, CSS, Javascript, JQuery, PHP and more. The guidelines they follow and code they use will vary depending on the platform. Their main focus is with functionality and using clean code that complies with web standards. They’ll make sure it loads quickly and make sure your content can be found by optimising it for SEO and correctly using markup. When finished they’ll make sure the site looks like the mockup, behaves the way it’s supposed to and functions properly.

Who do I need to hire?

99.9% of the time you’ll need both! As you can probably tell from the explanation above, they are both needed to create the perfect blog or website. They could be the same person (designer + developer in one) or they could be two separate people – for example Zoe offered development services while Kaye offered design services. I offer both in one package and also offer development services to designers who want to collaborate on a project. Some designers will have a prefered developer, some developers will pair up with a specific designer and some won’t mind too much who they work with, which allows you to choose both people you like.

When you are inquiring about a new project, make sure to check if the price includes only the design or if it is both the design + development. You could also ask if any of the design / development work is outsourced. These two things will give you a better understanding of the process involved, the timeframe and the overall cost of the project.

I hope this cleared things up a little bit as I get this question quite a bit. Hopefully it will help you when looking for your next project. If you have any requests for posts or tutorials please leave them below as I’m hoping to get back into a regular blogging schedule now that I have some extra free time.

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  1. I am so glad you posted this! So many “designers” have popped up lately in the custom theme area and they’ve been trying to do both – design and develop. It often results in some sketcy/messy coding.

    Definitely need to look into what kind of service you will be getting when purchasing a custom theme.

    1. Thanks Kristie. Definitely important, packages and services vary so much now depending on who you go to!

      That’s a really good point too, I think a lot of new designers don’t understand that it usually is two different roles. When we were taught at college it was two separate classes with two lecturers – a graphic/web designer and a developer/programmer. That made it easier to understand how different the two areas are and what skills were needed. I’m so glad I was able to learn from both!

  2. Hi Elaine, I couldn’t agree more! We’ve had to help a lot of people from the dreaded “etsy nightmare”. It seems there are new “designers” popping up almost every day.

    (Sorry if the below feels a bit spammy, feel free to remove)

    Incidently, we’re currently looking for a new back-end developer to join our team. If you or any of your readers are interested please feel free to contact us. All the usual suspects required mySQL, PHP, Python and JSON preferable.

    1. Hey Phil, have definitely noticed a huge jump over the past few years. If only more of them reached out to developers! Oh that’s awesome, will share that with some friends of mine 🙂

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