Most people begin their website project with a search for a professional web designer or web developer and don’t even realize that there is a difference between the two. However, they are very different types of people and they both come to your project with their own points of view. Deciding what type of site you need will be the first step in determining what type of person you need for the project.
The Type of Website you Need: Static or Dynamic
The first place to begin when choosing who to build your site, is to decide whether you are going to need a static or a dynamic website. A static website is sometimes called a “brochure website”. On a static site, once all the information has been uploaded to the server, it stays the same. It only changes when a webmaster goes out to the site and makes updates. Therefore, all users see the same thing. It’s much like handing out a traditional business brochure. All of your customers see the same thing until you have your brochure redone.
With a dynamic website, what the user sees will change, based on their input and thus is a more complicated and costly type of website. A dynamic website requires advanced programming to operate correctly. The programs must execute different results, based on what the user requests. A “search” feature is one dynamic element contained on most websites. Any ecommerce site is an example of a dynamic website.
Form – The Web Designer
The web designer’s job is to focus on the layout and look of a website. They choose the color scheme and make decisions on how the text and graphics are displayed. They are concerned with the impression the site gives the visitor and how the visitor will navigate around the site. They are usually skilled in Photoshop and other graphic software. Many web designers begin their careers as graphic artists and are skilled at getting the site to have the “look and feel” that you want. They create your image on the Internet. Web designers usually have the skills needed to create static websites on their own.
Function – The Web Developer
Web developers, on the other hand are programmers. They usually handle more complicated sites and know various scripting languages. Their focus is on the interactive features of a site such as the shopping cart for an ecommerce site or a survey form or an order form. You will need the services of a web developer for a dynamic website.
Which to Choose
Knowing what kind of site you need in the beginning is important because if you hire a web designer to build your website and you did not factor into the requirements that you were going to need, for example, an advanced multiage form, you will end up with a very nice looking website that does nothing for you. If you go the other way and have a web developer build your site, you could wind up with a very functional site that looks terrible. Design is always going to be secondary to a developer. If you need a dynamic website and the person you’re considering is more of a designer, the project can still be successful. Just be sure to have them show you some websites with some dynamic functionality that they have built to make sure that can handle your job.
If the person you are considering is more of a developer, check their portfolio and make sure that they have the resources to partner with designers to produce a high quality website.
If you’re still not sure which way to go, web designer or web developer, you would be better off leaning towards the web designer because the designer deals with that all-important first impression. Most Internet users decide within the first 3 seconds, whether or not they are going to stay on a site. Your project will be successful with a web designer as long as they have good web development resources as their disposal.
Usability – Where Form and Function Meet
Usability refers to how quickly and easily users can accomplish what they want to do, on your site. If your site is difficult or frustrating, they will quickly leave. You need your website to achieve your business objectives and if it’s not, then it is not a design problem, it is not a development problem, it is a usability problem. Usability is the common thread that binds form and function together.
When considering who to hire to build your website, a web designer or a web developer, be aware that they both have their strengths and limitations. A web designer will give you the right colors and the right look for your site and they understand what people respond to. The developer will give you the interactive elements for your site such as a shopping cart, a sign-up form or other dynamic functionality. However, design and development must work together to get your customer to buy your product or to contact you about your services.
If your site is visually appealing, allows the user to quickly and easily do business with you, then you have hit on the perfect marriage of form and function to produce a site that excels in usability, which translates into success!