How do you determine between hiring a web designer vs web developer to build your website? It’s a question we get asked more than any other from clients and we don’t blame them –the meaning of web design and web development has been blurred through the years as platforms like WordPress have streamlined the process of making a website.

However, they are still separate disciplines. When comparing a web designer and a web developer, think of it like this. A web designer is an architect who draws up the plans for a building, while a web developer is a contractor that brings those plans to life. However, there’s a lot more to it than that and it’s important you are fully informed about each one's skillset before you choose which one to hire.

This blog post will give you the knowledge to do just that.

Web Design Overview

Freelance Web Developer

A web designer is responsible for creating the layout and the visual design of the website. They are the ones that create a color scheme to match your brand, graphics or icons for the project. They also ensure that the website is easy to navigate for users by creating an intuitive user interface.

Generally, they’ll use programs like Adobe Photoshop, XD, or Sketch to create visual mockups of what your website will look like. They’ll also create wireframes that represent outlines of what the website will be. It’s a barebones design that allows them to quickly create a design and solicit client feedback. From there, a web designer can iterate the design based on your feedback. It’s also where we plan the website copy. So when it comes time to develop the website we can just copy and paste everything over.

We’ll go more in-depth on how the design and development process work hand-in-hand in a bit. Now, the design phase is arguably the most important part of creating a website. It’s here where client feedback is requested so that the design can better match your vision. Now is the time be making changes. It’s a lot easier (never-mind less expensive and time-consuming) to change a wireframe of the site than its code later on in the process.

When trying to determine whether you should hire a web designer or a web developer to create your website, it’s important that they have a thorough design process in place to solicit your feedback. Further, make sure that they are good communicators so you are kept updated on the status of the project.

Web designers play a huge part in making the website of your dreams a reality, but it is still just one half of the project. To see how that design gets live on the internet, let’s take a look at the role of a web developer.

Web Development Overview

A web developer is responsible for taking the static designs that a designer created and coding them using a combination of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to create a live website. Those three coding languages are the main languages used by web developers to create websites. Some web developers will choose to code the website from scratch and upload those HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files to your hosting provider to get the site on the web.

While this can make life easier for developers, it means that if you as a client wish to make any changes to your website, have to contact a freelance web developer and negotiate a new service agreement based on what you needs to be done. Needless to say, this process can be time consuming and expensive.

That’s why the web development industry has moved towards Content Management Systems (CMS) to which can dramatically speed up the web development process and can make it easier to add exciting new features to your website. They also give you the control to manage your website after it’s completed. Any non-major changes can likely be handled by a small business owner or their team.

We choose to set up our clients with our Content Management System of choice, WordPress. It’s the most popular, fully featured CMS on the market and, it is still user-friendly enough to allow our small business clients to manage it once the project is completed. Best of all, it’s also the least expensive.

By the way, we’ve got an entirely separate blog post detailing why WordPress is the perfect solution for small business owners, click here to read it.

However, the job of a web developer doesn’t stop there. They will also ensure that the website is mobile responsive by testing the website on mobile and tablet to ensure a great user experience. No matter what device your website is viewed on. Further, they’re also responsible for configuring the hosting of the website, as well as optimizing it so it’s buttery smooth and loads fast. This has become more important over time.

Google now uses the speed of a website as one of its biggest ranking factors for SEO. Further, we already know that 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load, and Google will penalize sites with high bounce rates (people quickly leaving a website). So basically, two of the main factors Google uses to rank website goes hand-in-hand.

If one suffers, so will the other. If you are interested to see how fast your website is, Google has a free tool that you can access here. But take that with a grain of salt, as it doesn't always reflect a users experience. That’s why when hiring a web developer, not only should they have a proven track record of being able to deliver websites, but they should also have a solid understanding of SEO so people can actually find your website. In 2019, digital marketing and web development go hand in hand.

So, How Do You Know Which One To Hire?

It's important to remember when deciding to hire a web designer or web developer that both will have the ability to get your website live on the internet, which at the end of the day is the outcome you’re looking for. As what we discussed earlier, the lines between web design and development have been blurred so much that this distinction doesn’t mean as much as it used to.

At the end of the day, you need to ensure that you can work effectively with your freelancer, so choosing someone you get along with and can communicate well comes first. The main thing you should look for when evaluating freelancers is to make sure they have a professional process in place.

With a proper process, your project will be completed faster in an organized manner and it will come out closer to your vision. If that isn’t in place, it doesn’t matter how skilled your freelancer is.

Bailey Canning is an advertising professional from New Jersey currently living in Boulder, Colorado. He started Inbound Web Development to work directly with businesses to create conversion focused websites & innovative digital marketing campaigns.