The other day I was strolling the forums giving answer to basic web design questions. It’s a man that is sometimes not because I have the free time but because I just happened to find myself looking for something in the web development coding arena and come across a question that I can easily answer.

On this particular day, it was a Facebook group and a nice young woman had listed a job opening requesting a web designer who could also do the coding for the website using HTML and CSS.

To my surprise, the participants of that thread literally laughed her out of the group.

They said things like, “you expect to find a designer who can also code ha!” And other things along those lines. Basically proving their lack of ability and also bring up a really good only that I want to address here.

This phenomenon of separating the visual design aspects of creating a website from the coding side is actually something fairly new. I have been doing websites for the last 20 years and, in my day, when you made a website, you had to have design skills as well as coding skills. There was one guy who made it pretty and another girl who made it real and accessible online.

There was one person who took the time to get to know the brand and made something attractive and functional.

The fact that it is now laughable to consider the idea of having, basically, a web designer, as opposed to a run in designer and a developer separately is mostly embarrassing to me.

Overview: The Difference Between a Web Designer and a Web Developer

I felt embarrassed as a designer that those people would laugh and the value the quality of the work that a true web designer and developer can create. Even if their argument was true, this person seeking help with a potential client and the way they communicate with her was simply unacceptable.

So, to clear the slate, not everyone who works in web focused only on one discipline.

I would not expect the average designer to go as far as being a full stack developer who can work with custom code built from the ground up, but, any web designer worth more than a nominal fee, should be able to develop at least in HTML site and should absolutely be able to handle any basic customization required for WordPress site.

So when you’re looking for web designer for an individual or start a project, do not be discouraged and do not feel that you have to hire two separate people. You just have to keep looking until you find the right person.

In a larger, enterprise organization there are more moving parts and potentially hundreds of pages, then you absolutely want to separate those two roles and hire someone who specializes in each one individually.

But, for the most part, the modern marketing designer can where a few different hats. They have the visual artistry side “down,” they have some experience when it comes to the “why” behind design decisions, and they can at least handle the basics of web development such as HTML, CSS, and building with WordPress.

The modern marketer needs to be multifaceted, with one foot planted in art and the other in science. – Mat Wesson, Salesforce Canada

artist versus scientist in marketing and design
Artist vs. Scientist: Marketing Best Practices for the Modern Marketer

To get a better idea of the difference between a web designer and a web developer, or at least the separate functions of the two, read on, watch on, and then download my checklist of things you should look for when hiring a web designer that go beyond the portfolio to help make sure you have an outstanding experience with a qualified professional who is interested in your success and able to perform in their roles for you as needed.

I think the topic gets a little muddy because, even within just the developer scenario, there are still different types or levels of web developers. They are divided into what is called frontend, the HTML, CSS, JS side, and back-end which deals with service and database aspects and uses advanced coding language like PHP or ASP.NET.

from Savvycom

And that’s not all. In the Front-End Side as well as the Back-end, on a basic level, the decision of which type of design format to use has further options, still. Especially when you get own into the various types of CMS sites (for example, WordPress and Joomla – an oldie, but still somehow a goodie).

When it comes down to the basics of hiring an outstanding web designers, look for:

1. Passionate Designers Who are as Excited About Your Success as Their Own

You want to hire designer who is passionate about modern design in emerging trends, but not willing to put those things in front of what your website needs as a brand and what your clients and customers need to hear from you in order to take action.

2. Those with Experience Designing for more than one Industry

It is tempting to want to find someone who has designed specifically the type of site that you want your site to look like, however, that is not necessarily a beneficial thing and it should also not be a requirement. Most web designers function as contractors and should therefore have a portfolio that displays a wide range of capabilities and a vast base of knowledge that they can put to work for you in your particular field.

Having a designer who is an expert only in one industry also increases the likelihood that you will receive work that is not necessarily up to par with current marketing and design techniques. This is because if they only do one type of design, chances are, they been doing that particular type of design in a particular type of way for the entirety of their career. This leaves little space for you to gain the benefit of a designer who has a more broad range of skills and who is knowledgeable about how to convert customers in multiple product segment.

3. For Your Web Designer, What’s More Important to You, the Work or the Person?

This does not mean that you have to choose between the two, however, during your search you will likely come across someone who you like very much as a person but who does not have the quality of works you looking for.

In the reverse, you may also very well find someone you have excellent portfolio but a crappy I figured.

In either these cases you want to know before you get on that road which one is most important to you so you know how to respond.

4. Find a Designer Who is Wise About Design and Not Just Trendy

I always chuckle a little when my clients use shrimping industry words like minimal, material, and other words bit mostly only designers use and that they heard or read somewhere online.

While all these things are basics that should be known by a designer, they do not identify the measure of the design capability. Just as some of my clients is simply read up on the topic, a designer who knows a few trending keywords does not necessarily have to be someone who is graded knowing when to use those individual trends

Here are a few more important things to look for when you are on the hunt for great designer:

  • A Strong Work Ethic and High Level of Integrity
  • Modern Design Aesthetics and a borderline addiction to details
  • Proven, Streamlined Project Management Process
  • Marketing and Presentation Design Expertise
  • Content Research and Organization Capabilities
    effective project management
  • Flexible Availability that suits the needs of your organization (on-site, off-site, remote, conference calls, and dial-in team meetings)
  • Access to support designers in the case of work overflow

To learn more about what makes a great designer, watch the following video. When you are ready to make your hiring decision, refer to the checklist below as a design brief for your website designer/developer to make sure they include all of these very basic but important user experience aspect of your new website user interface so you can be sure your new designer gives you exactly what you want and need.

The reason this topic is so important to me now is because I have had way too many clients come to me with horror stories. I understand that sometimes things don’t go the way either party expects, but, personally, I’m tired of paying for the mistakes of projects past and if there is anything I can do to make sure that as many people as possible have a positive web and graphic design experience even if it’s with another designer, I am all for it. Good luck in the design of your project and remember don’t stop and see get what you want.

Happy building!