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Web Developer VS Web Designer

Jacob McKinney
11 Nov 2014

I'd like to talk about another subject that during my years as a developer, supervisor, manager, and business owner has really surprised me: a lack of understanding on the differences between a Web Developer and Web Designer. Today I'll go over what each is, their core responsibilities, why you want them as two different individuals, and why you need both to develop a great website.

I'll start off with the Web Developer. This is a programmer that specializes in the development of World Wide Web applications or network applications that are run over an HTTP connection to a web server and displayed in a web browser. Typically they will use HTML, some CSS, JavaScript, and a MySQL database. Depending on the type of web server in use for an application, they'll typically use server languages such as PHP, ASP / .NET, Java, or Perl. In some instances, multiple of these languages may be used together to create an entire application. A developer is focused more on the way a website works than how it looks. This person should know the ins and outs of web servers, how to set one up, maintain it, secure it, and install applications required to meet the needs of the web application. While still not being a server administrator, typically most server tasks could be completed by this individual. He should be aware and include best practices for SEO and page loading. If there is something that needs to be changed, added or done with your website, this is your first point of contact.

A Web Designer on the other hand, is a person who is focused directly on how a website is interacted with and how it looks. This is one of the most commonly mislabeled positions, when looking for jobs in the web world. This individual does not know server languages and would not typically open code in a text editor. Some Web Designers will stick directly within image manipulation programs such as Photoshop or Illustrator, while some do use WYSIWYG editors to achieve their end goals. Many Web Designers now create the HTML and CSS and provide it to a Web Developer, while other developers will take graphic design files, such as a PSD's and create the HTML and CSS themselves. Often Web Designers are also full graphic designers, in-fact the best web designers I've met are full blown graphic artists. These individuals also have no issues creating logos, flyers, banners, advertisements, vehicle wraps, and some will even sketch client requests from scratch. This person can create graphics on the fly that amaze the onlookers and at the same time blow your world away after they've spent serious time on a design.

While it is absolutely possible to have one person with both of these traits, I'll have you look at it this way. If you were looking for someone to come fix your sink, would you prefer John your neighbor who's fixed his own a few times or Jim the professional that fixes 10 sinks a day, every day, runs a business, and has insurance? What if John's going to take all day; Jim's in and out in an hour? What if it breaks again and John's out of town? What if while fixing it something else breaks? What if John does something that causes another issue? What if John causes a lot of water damage to my house? At the end of the day I just can't go with John- sure he could, but this isn't what he does all day. Well, the same thing is true about anything a person does. If you have a designer that is also a developer, he has to spend time becoming an "expert" at both. If 3 people spend the same number of hours each day for a year becoming better at what they do every day, at the end of that year those people are an "expert" of that subject matter for as much as they could obtain in a year. If one was a designer, he's got a year of designing and pitfalls and issues that he's dealt with and solved. If one was a developer, heís got a year of programming and debugging and fixing code under his belt. Understand that both positions require the ongoing knowledge of programs, tools and techniques that are continually changing. If he's both... he's only got 6 months of experience being a designer and 6 months being a developer. The people that focused on one trait quickly surpass the knowledge and expertise of any dual role individual. After 10 years, the amount of knowledge, expertise, and quality that each person could produce is at such a staggering difference, you wouldn't compare them at the same level.

This is why you need both a web designer and a web developer working on your website. For all the things that a web designer is, their expertise is attractive designs, what works and what doesn't. Their knowledge on how to attract attention in the right direction. A web developerís expertise is handling the backend workings, securing your information, creating bug and hack free code. Allowing you to achieve everything you can imagine. A team with compounding years of experience produces such a better end product. Using people for their strengths. So, please, if you're posting an ad or asking for assistance, list your ads correctly. The pure act of listing it incorrectly hinders your ability to find the correct person.

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