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Website Designer vs Developer: What’s the Difference? [Guide Included]

updated 2022-10-28
Need to get your website up & running but frustrated because you are unsure of the difference between a website designer vs developer? Learn more in this article.
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Running your business and life, let's face it, you're a busy Solopreneur & CEO on the rise. You begin to get the hang of what you need to prepare yourself and your business for online optimal performance and to build your credibility and visibility online. The continued website designer vs developer debate will not escape you either on your journey. Many assumptions are made of the website designer and developer because people believe that if someone works with websites, they automatically understand everything that is involved with creating and launching websites. That couldn't be further from the truth.

In reality, designers and developers have very distinct roles and are responsible for different aspects of building a website.


Website Designer vs Developer

Simply working with websites doesn't mean that a person understands how to code the sites for various functionalities or that they can design the sites for proper conversions. There are specialties in all industries and that includes specializing in certain designs work or development work within the website creation space. Understanding the difference between the two will become more important to you the more you investigate and understand your needs; this will improve the decision you'll make. Your job is to ensure that you and whomever you choose are on the same page with both expectations and results.

The Website Designer

Your site designer is responsible for creating that sexy user-facing look that everyone interacts with. The pretty colors, the flow of the layout and content, the formatting of your content, the placement of all the elements that come together to present your brand and site to your visitors. The overall user experience is part of the focus that's created with the help of the website designer.

They are also responsible for making sure that the tools you use to collect information and payment from your visitors (if you have any established or are creating from scratch) fit the experience in a way that looks and feels comfortable enough to them so that no one is left frustrated.

Your site designer is largely responsible for integrating your Brand assets into your site. From fonts to colors to visual and audio – all these are pulled together by your designer so your Brand is represented the way you envisioned, or better than. What your Brand is, your site should represent it. It’s ok to switch things up and tweak as your Brand shifts through growth.

Brand Misfit deciding who to hire website designer vs developer

The Website Developer

Your site developer is responsible for the functionality of your website. All the code is supposed to work as expected, but shit happens and you often end up with broken pieces or settling for something that works “close enough” to what you want. Depending on your budget.

As soon as a technical hiccup is introduced and depending on your contract, the developer goes under the hood of your site to figure out what went wrong and how to prevent this from happening again. Your developer is also vital to securing your website and all the data that passes through it.

No hacker should be able to slide in as smoothly as water through a crack. If there is anything that you would like to transform dramatically or perform in a particular manner, your developer should be able to get it done. The extra, extensive code development may come at an added cost – depending on your active Scope of Work.

The Fine-tuned Hybrid (Full-Stack Developer)

Instead of trying to figure out the difference between a website designer vs developer, consider hiring someone with hybrid skills. If you are able to lock down a full-stack website developer (designer and developer, or a 2-in-1) you're in luck as she or he is responsible for all aspects of your site. They may be stronger in one aspect more than the other so be aware that certain tasks may take them longer. If they work efficiently, they may have a stronger skilled person on their team to help them where they fall short.

This is no slight on them, but it would work to your advantage, as well as theirs, to have help and get the job done quicker and in collaboration. It works in your favor as you get two major skills in one person without having to hire two people for your project.

Collaborate with Charlene V. Brown, The Brand Misfit (sm) of Bklyn Custom Designs for your Struggle Site Strategy Session today

Hire Based on Your Needs

Figure out what you need to have done and which skills do you need, someone more proficient in design or development; all depending on your site functionality needs.

If they work efficiently, they may have a stronger skilled person on their team to help them where they fall short. This is no slight on them, but it would work to your advantage, as well as theirs, to have help and get the job done quicker and in collaboration.

When you're ready to hire and work with a site designer or developer (or both) you should remember that a designer does not equate to a developer and a developer does not equate to a designer.

The Rundown

Your developer may know how to get your site to work but lack the understanding of how to make it appealing and attractive to your visitors so they can become returning customers. Same for your designer. They may know how to create a fly site where people want to just stare at it all day, but they may be unable to help you if code goes haywire. Perhaps you prefer to code your site to do tricks and wow your visitors with cool details like the weather in their location and have the website display snowflakes or raindrops accordingly; you'd have your developer help with that.

The best way to go about hiring your website designer or developer is to understand what you need to have done. Ask yourself what type of website you need. Not only the look and feel, but the functionality too. There are many plugins that can make it easy to integrate your needed functionality, but you may need functionality not provided by plugins or known software. That is where the added help of a developer will come in handy.

Once you have our priorities listed, you have a better understanding on how to qualify your candidates. Remember that a full-stack developer will come with a larger investment but will give you the opportunity to have one person take the helm of managing all of your project needs. You'll be able to get more done under one contract and project.

Learn who to hire: website designer vs developer

Whomever you decide to hire, be sure that you are getting what you need and not only what you want. The functionality that will allow you to accomplish your goals through your website will be more important that a site that looks cute. If you can also pin down the processes your website should be capable of completing, you will have a better sense of what your budget should be for your project. Grab action guide, Who to Hire?: Website Designer vs Developer, so you will have the strategies at your fingertips.

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Charlene Brown,
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Through my A.M.P. Your Strategy Method™ my clients walk away with brand & site clarity for intentional direction so they take immediate action.
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• 2+ decades in Tech Life
• 2 decades with WordPress
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