For someone who wants to have a website built for their organisation, the terms ‘web designer’ and ‘web developer’ are sometimes quite confusing. Is there a difference? If there is, which one should you use? Are there companies that offer both web design and web development under one roof? In what follows we will try to answer these questions and a few others.
What is a web designer?
A web designer typically employs graphic design software such as InDesign or Adobe Photoshop to create the visual elements of the website, including the layout. Their work usually involves one or more of the following fields, which is why most web designers specialise in one or more of them:
Visual design . Visual designers use a mix of UI and UX (User Interface and User Experience) principles to enhance the journey of website visitors. They are also responsible for conceptualising your brand’s unique tone of voice or style.
User experience design (UX) . Web designers who specialise in this field try to keep your website visitors totally hooked, so they stay on the site longer. This of course increases the chances of them taking the action you desire, for example, buying something or signing up for your newsletter. To do this, the designer will typically research your firm’s demographics, the profile of visitors you want to attract and more.
User interface design (UI). This part of web design involves crafting the way visitors interact with your website. Your site should, for example, be easy to navigate. Visitors should not have to search for half an hour if they are looking for a specific product or service, or if they want to contact you.
In the process, web designers use design principles such as balance, contrast, emphasis and consistency to ensure that all the different parts of your website work seamlessly together and to draw the visitor’s attention to specific sections of the site that you want to emphasise.
What is a web developer?
Web developers are sometimes also referred to as web programmers, and for a good reason. These guys (and girls) take the design created by the web designers and turn it into a fully functional website. Imagine the design as a non-interactive screenshot of the website. Web developers now take this and use coding to convert it into an interactive, working website.
In the process, they still use the original ‘web programming language’ called HTML. But nowadays most websites also require the use of programming languages such as Perl, PHP or Java to make them fully dynamic and interactive. Web developers often also use content and image sliders as well as active states for buttons and links to improve the site’s interactivity.
They might also use CMS (Content Management Systems) such as WordPress to speed up development and to make it possible for you to easily update and maintain the site in the future.
The bottom line
At the end of the day, web developers and web designers have to work together towards a single goal: to build a website that firstly attracts visitors and secondly entices them to take the desired action, whether that is clicking on the ‘Buy Now’ button, signing up for a newsletter, sharing your website link on social media or something else.
To achieve this, both web design and web development must follow sound principles to ensure your website not only looks good but also works properly.
When you choose an individual or a company to build a website for your organisation, you should therefore make sure that they have sufficient skills in both these fields. It’s no use you have a website that looks stunning but the user interaction sucks – or one where everything works perfectly but visually it’s as unappealing as your grandmother without her dentures.