What is a web developer? And why should you hire one?

What is a web developer? What to they do? Should I hire one? What’s the difference between a developer and a designer? I answer all of these questions in this post!

One question that I am asked more than any other question is “What is a web developer?”.

First of all, let’s clear up some confusion…

A web developer is not the same as a web designer

I feel like the terms “web developer” and “web designer” are often used interchangeably, but in fact, they are not the same.

A web developer builds websites. They are programmers that write code (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc.) which make up a website. Not only can they build website from scratch but they can also help with other technical aspects of websites such as diagnosing and fixing problems and bugs.

A web designer designs websites. They normally produce wireframes and detailed designs of websites. Not only can web designers design websites that look good, but they also have a good understanding of user experience (UX).

I often compare it to builders and architects. The architect designs the building, and the builder builds it.

But aren’t there people who can do both?

Yes, there are people who can write code and design website, but I think people who can do both will admit that they are better at one than the other. People who can do both will also admit that the prefer one to the other.

And actually, as a web developer, you do need some understanding of design and user experience. Similarly, designers do require knowledge of how websites are built and be aware of platform limitations. But finding someone who can do both extremely well is a challenge.

In the book “How To Style Your Brand” by Fiona Humberstone, there is a quote that says:

“I am yet to met a creative genius who also has a head for serious coding and would always rather work with two separate specialists then one jack of all trades.”

I completely understand why people are much more tempted to hire someone who can do both, rather than hiring a designer and developer separately. But it’s a case of “you get what you pay for”.

Nowadays it’s easier than ever to “build” a website without having to touch any code what so ever. Thanks to websites like Squarespace and Wix, as well as plugins and frameworks for WordPress such as Divi, Visual Composer and Genesis, we are seeing a rise in people with little or no development experience creating websites for their clients.

It’s not uncommon to see designers using pre-made WordPress themes built by someone else, and then making a few basic styling changes to it to meet the client’s needs.

And this is absolutely fine. But what happens when the client requests something more technical that requires work on the back-end of the website? Or what happens when there are problems with the pre-made theme you have used?

Many of my clients come to me having worked with a designer who also “built” their website for them, and the reason they seek my help is because the designer they hired was unable to handle the more technical aspects of a website build. In these cases, the client ends up paying for both a designer and developer anyway.

The author of “How To Style Your Brand”, who is a brand stylist, also says:

“You’re much better off working with an exceptionally talented creative and then moving on to a super smart web developer rather than trying to work with one person who promise to be able to do the lot.”

I could not agree with this more!

So why hire a web developer?

If you are looking to create a brand new website from scratch, or if you are looking to give an existing website a fresh look, I highly recommend that you work with a web designer and a web developer.

The web designer will help you to design your perfect website for your needs. Sometimes they can help with branding, but if you already have your branding at the ready, a web designer will incorporate this into the website design.

The web developer will then turn these designs into a fully functioning website. They will test it to make sure its works on a range of devices and within numerous browsers, and they can help you to make your website live when it is complete.

Although it isn’t always necessary, web designers and web developers can work together to ensure that the designs are interpreted correctly and the client gets a website that looks and functions exactly how they were expecting it to. Designers might not be familiar with the limitations of a particular system, so developers can advise on this. Communication is key!

You may also choose to hire a developer if you want to make changes to an existing website, such as adding new features and functionality. You might want to add an extra call to action button to a page, or add in a social media feed, or create a brand new landing page. A developer can do this for you.

Web developers may also be able to help with other technical website tasks. For example, I carry out website migrations, meaning that I can move websites and blogs from one platform to another, such as from Blogger to WordPress. I can set WordPress websites up from scratch, as well as help with domains, hosting and general set up tasks.

If you’re not sure what a web developer can help you with, just ask them!

In summary…

In short, you should hire a web developer if…

  • You are looking for someone to turn your website designs into a fully functioning website.
  • You need someone to fix any bugs on your website.
  • You would like to make changes to the styling of your website (i.e. colours, fonts, text sizes).
  • You would like new features to be added to your website.
  • You need someone to set up a website from scratch for you (including setting up hosting, domains, SSL certificates, FTP, etc).
  • You would like to move from one platform to another (e.g. from Blogger to WordPress).

You should seek help from a web designer instead if:

  • You have no idea how you want your website to look.
  • You have a rough idea of how you would like your website to look, but you need some help incorporating your branding into the design.
  • You need advice for creating a strategically designed website.

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