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Web Designer or Web Developer: Which Do You Need?

Code general wordpress

Randy Hedglin

9 min read

Web Designer or Web Developer: Which Do You Need?

Even the most breathtaking website design can fall flat if you don’t have a skilled web developer putting it all together. Curious Minds has the knowledge and resources you need to launch and maintain a successful website. The world wide web is growing! Like the intricate masterpieces skillfully woven by our eight-legged friends, internet access, broadband service, and mobile networks are spreading their silky fibers into every corner of the globe, changing people’s lives for the better as each one takes hold. To say that global connectivity has embedded itself into our lives and livelihoods would be a significant understatement. Free and ubiquitous content management systems such as WordPress make it possible for nearly any individual or organization to establish a personal presence on the web, and the race to do so isn’t letting up. As online technologies continue to develop, the quantity and variety of professionals who are needed to keep things running smoothly, as well as to help your website stand out above the horde of URLs screaming for everyone’s attention, have grown exponentially. Two of those genres of modern-day wizards are web designers and web developers.

The Web Designer: Hashing Out the Big Picture

Though these titles are sometimes (mistakenly) used interchangeably, there are fundamental differences between these two very different members of your overall web team. What are those differences, and how can you determine which one you need in any given situation? Read on to find out! A web designer might be likened to an architect: Someone who envisions and establishes the aesthetic concept for a structure, determines an outline of how that structure is going to look and function and then preserves that vision in a detailed set of blueprints. For a web designer, those “blueprints” might be in the form of a storyboard, sitemap, wireframe, or other design document laying out the specifics of a project in varying levels of detail.

The most skilled web designers are often visual learners who have an innate creativity and who rely on their intuition and gut instincts to know when something just “looks right” and will be appealing to the masses. Some traits and qualities that web designers require in their profession include:

  • The ability to see the "big picture" to understand the overall vision and goals of a project.

  • Creativity and a solid grasp of design principles that will produce a visually appealing result.

  • Knowledge of more general graphic design concepts, including color schemes and typography pairings.

  • Familiarity with the concepts of user experience and user interface design (UX and UI).

  • A thorough understanding of accessibility requirements for the modern web.

  • At times, the need to create and edit content, such as graphics and videos.

The Web Developer: Wrangling the Vision to Life

Of course, no one can live or work inside a blueprint, so a web developer’s role is akin to that of a contractor or builder who takes an architect’s plans and turns them into reality – a fully functional work of art! Accordingly, a web developer knows how to dig into the down-and-dirty details of a web “blueprint” and use the best tools and resources to piece it all together from the foundation up.

Realistically, a builder’s goals are closely aligned with – but not identical to – those of an architect: While following the architect’s specifications as closely as possible, a builder wants to ensure that a structure is sturdy and safe to live in, that all the building’s systems run smoothly, and that any future workers or residents will be as comfortable as possible during the time they spend inside. So too, a web developer should have:

  • Knowledge of a project’s core structure, including server and databases, as well as the web apps, tools, and utilities that make it all work.

  • The ability to keep up with emerging and evolving technologies, including knowing when something is outdated, on the verge of collapse, or in need of replacement.

  • Familiarity with numerous frameworks, libraries, and programming languages to successfully troubleshoot and fix anything that has gone wrong.

  • A proven track record of not just building but also debugging, testing, securing, maintaining, and supporting web projects in the long term.

Choose Your Party: Designer, Developer, or Both?

Naturally, there is some overlap between the proficiencies of a web designer and those of a web developer. Before designing any structure, an architect needs a fundamental understanding of the construction processes involved. Likewise, a builder needs to know how to read a blueprint and how to communicate with the architect if some aspect of the design isn’t feasible or requires clarification. The situation is the same between web designers and web developers. Choosing the right team of professionals to assist with your web project is vital to ensuring its success, but how do you know whether you need a web designer, a web developer, or both to bring your project to launch? Here are some common examples that may help you decide: (GRAPH)

Page Builders: The DIY Alternative?

If you’re a fan of Chip and Joanna (or of Bob Vila, if you’re from my generation), you may be intrigued by the idea of cutting out both the architect and the builder and just constructing your own website. To be fair, the modern "low-code, no-code movement" has brought about some site builders and WordPress page builders (such as Elementor, Divi, and Visual Composer) that could make this a viable option if you want to build a very simple website with only basic functionality.

The main advantage of these website builders is that they allow you to construct a site using pre-made templates and building blocks without having to do any design work or write any code. That sounds appealing, but consider some negative implications that we at Curious Minds have experienced firsthand:

  • We often encounter WordPress websites that were created by amateurs. These sites “work” but not very well because best practices were not followed when setting up the site in the first place.

  • In many cases, these sites have been hacked together, piece by piece, over many years, to the point that even the site’s creator can’t remember how aspects of the site were originally put into place or where to find a specific setting or important feature.

  • Frequently, these site owners have installed an inordinate number of plugins, many of which have been abandoned years ago by their developers, are not compatible with modern versions of WordPress, or include frightening security holes that a non-developer isn’t likely to notice.

  • In an effort to make every conceivable option available to every user, page builders and their associated themes and templates have become so bloated with features that they tend to slow entire sites down to a crawl (even the ones that advertise themselves to be “speedy” or “optimized”), which annoys users and is bad for SEO.

  • If you expect that your site or your business may grow in the future, adding new site features and functionality becomes difficult and time-consuming, exacerbated by all the issues noted above.

What Can We Develop for You?

Here at Curious Minds, we are web developers – plain and simple. Given a design to follow, we can build a pixel-perfect site from the ground up, using all the latest best practices, frameworks, libraries, and coding techniques. If you already have a site but it could use a little TLC, our developers are experts at troubleshooting, problem-solving, and even weeding through years of shoddy or nonexistent site maintenance to target the root of a problem and stabilize your systems in short order.

We have finely honed tools and techniques to spot glaring issues with your site's health, security, and page speeds. We can sort through your WordPress plugins to identify any that may present a concern for your site’s functionality or security and patch those holes before they become your next headache. We offer ongoing support and maintenance plans to ensure that your site doesn’t just nominally “work” but is at the top of its game.

A lot goes into building a successful website, and you need the right professionals on your side to make that happen. There’s nothing worse than finding out you have the wrong person for a given job: Yes, an architect can swing a hammer, but likely not with the precision and skill of an experienced builder. Similarly, a contractor may be able to sketch out a reasonable design but not with the finesse and pizzazz of a seasoned architect.

If you need a website with advanced functionality or just want to make sure your existing site continues to run smoothly, an agency full of web development experts is exactly what you need, and Curious Minds is exactly that – offering solid web development solutions that can put your mind at ease!

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