Seven years ago, my brother and I opened our own pet shop store. The business wasn’t exactly booming and so, in order to gain more exposure and customers on a local scale, we decided to hire a web designer from Fiverr with the intent of creating a website for us. After transferring a moderate amount of money and the passing of a few weeks, we got a message from the guy saying “It’s done. Give the template to a developer and they will work on your codes”. We were obviously shocked as we thought our website would have been online by that time. What we didn’t know back then was the difference between a web designer and a web developer and how a person who is only a “designer” does not involve him or herself with the front and back-end development of a site and vice versa. Therefore, you need both to create a website (shocking, I know). Nowadays, the process of building a website has become more complicated. Most companies have to implement all the elements that go into creating a website and a huge number of freelancers are trying to widen their area of expertise since most people require these two services together. What hasn’t changed, however, is the fact that the cooperation between a designer and developer is the key to building a functioning website. Before we go over how these two professions can help and work well with each other, let us briefly discuss the difference between web design and web development.
What does a web designer do?
Their job is, to put it very simply, “designing” the website, literally. If that was awfully vague and uninformative, sorry. Let me explain.
To say that web design is a big deal would be an understatement. You see, everything the user directly interacts with on a webpage, be it interface or layout or even a cool animation, has been made and optimised by the web designer. Their job is to define the colour, layout and basically everything the user sees and make them functional and aesthetically pleasing. While it is essential that web designers try to use their imagination to make the website as unique as they possibly can, they must also evaluate the ability of web developers. Some ideas and designs might seem nice and pretty on paper, but implementing them could be either a real headache or just simply impossible for developers. A web designer’s job is basically like an architect’s. The idea of designing a skyscraper that goes beyond the clouds is pretty impressive but utterly impractical.
What does a web developer do?
If web designers are architects, then web developers are construction builders. Their job description entails coding, maintaining and testing the site’s layout, interface, navigation and functions. Web development is comprised of two parts: front-end development (what the user interacts with) and back-end development (what the servers interact with). Front-end developers mostly work with graphic, UI, UX and SEO while having to collaborate with web designers to ensure the website is optimised enough to the best of their abilities. On the other hand, back-end developers are the ones working behind the scene. They are the unsung heroes of website building, tasked with maintaining every aspect of a website that we users cannot see or interact with. You can read more about back-end and front-end development here.
While most developers work on only one side of the development spectrum, there are some called “full-stack developers” who work on both back and front-end development. A full-stack developer is basically a jack of all trades. If you are a full-stack freelance web developer, you will have a significantly higher chance of being hired and if on top of that you are not a bad designer, brother (or sister, no discrimination here), you are a one man army!
Getting more traffic is the ultimate goal
It doesn’t matter if you are a developer or a designer. What matters is that the ultimate goal with your project is for it to get views. Anyone who tells you that they don’t care about traffic and they just want to create content or in the case of businesses, generate revenue through “word of mouth” only, are simply lying. Anyone who owns a website, wants, nay, NEEDS more traffic because otherwise, it’s not worth all the trouble. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s see what the role of web designers and developers are in this matter.
I am sure you have heard the word SEO a couple of million times by now, so I will spare you the boring lesson. Many factors go into having a website that is optimised for search engines. Those start from the basics like keyword research and links and go all the way to technical SEO, desktop and mobile accessibility and page speed. All of these and many more issues need to be dealt with by designers and developers.
Imagine that you have just opened up a restaurant in Brisbane (which is a cool place if you are a digital nomad like myself, but I digress) and you need a company to work on all aspects of your website. If you search Local SEO services in Brisbane, you will see that almost all the results are businesses that provide all services ranging from design to SEO. That goes to show that SEO is one of the most important pillars of website building and without it, even well functioning and good looking websites are doomed, let alone scammy looking and slow websites.
Some people believe that substance is more important than style. But I ask you this, why and how would a user care about the content on a website if the website itself looks ugly?
It is vital to consider all the aspects that define the aesthetics of a site, and most of them are bound by the designer’s creativity and technical abilities. An experienced web designer knows how to implement those factors in the most consistent way possible. Meaning that they should know how to satisfy the needs of their clients to the best of their abilities while maintaining a balance between their vision of how the site can look like and the way the developers can turn that vision into reality. It is imperative for web designers to know the reach of their fellow web developer’s abilities. That super-duper animation the designer worked on and is really excited about is probably a real pain to code for the developer, or that impressive layout will decrease the site’s speed.
Two heads are better than one
Whenever there is a disconnect between the designer and developer, the final product is not of high quality. Sometimes the website might end up being beautiful but completely dysfunctional, or it will work and run well but the aesthetics may be displeasing. This usually happens when developers and designers work separately on the same project, which will inevitably be unsatisfactory to the client. One of the reasons that might cause this disconnect is these two professions being hired separately. This is a common occurrence when people try to hire freelancers (the advice about hiring a freelancer that does both jobs comes in handy here).
But in many cases, especially when you go for a company instead, you can be sure that both developers and designers are working on your project together. This is almost never a bad thing since it never hurts when your colleague gives their opinion on the way you designed that specific layout or when your teamwork speeds up the process. Working together will result in the final product being aesthetically and technically cohesive.
While the subject matter of this article is known to web designers and web developers, it never hurts to remind them why and simultaneously, advise normal people on the nuances that come with hiring people to build their websites. If you know more about the profession of the people you hire, you will have more insight into the matter of hiring the best ones.