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The terms ‘Web Designer’ and ‘Web Developers’ are thrown around a lot these days interchangeably, and indeed there is a crossover between the two roles. However, there are significant differences between the two. If you are looking to commission a new website, then you need to know the difference so you can choose the right company to bring that website to life on the right platform.

What is a ‘Web Designer’?

A web designer is generally a creative professional who would design the look and feel of a website, including layout, visual appearance, and usability.

What is a ‘Web Developer’?

A web developer is responsible for building a website in code, including the site layout and appearance as per the design specifications produced by the Web Developer.

Role Crossover

Over the years, we have seen the line between to two roles get blurred as there are plenty of tools and platforms which allow a designer to enter the realm of the developer and vice versa.

A web designer can build a website without a web developer, and there are several services and options they can use to get a website live. They may choose to use one of the codeless platforms to build a website (such as Wix, Squarespace, Webflow etc.), or they may choose a templated/themed based Content Management System (such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal etc.)

The same is true for web developers who also have a range of options that let them build a website without needing a Web Designer. They could choose to buy a pre-designed template or use one of the many available styling libraries.

So does it matter?

In our experience, the large number of companies out there that offer ‘websites’ are in effect web designers who will set you up on either a codeless platform or their preferred Content Management System.

Depending on your requirements and future plans, this may well be the perfect approach for you, but if you plan to grow your website and have it become much more than your online ‘brochure’, having a designer set you up on an inappropriate platform could very well come back to haunt you.

Most platforms that web-designers turn to are designed to allow anyone to start a website with little or no technical knowledge, but they come with some serious limitations.

For Codeless platforms (Wix, SquareSpace, Webflow etc.), you will always be limited to whatever functionality those platforms give you, and if they don’t fit with your business, too bad. Scalability is also a major issue as integration options will again be limited to whatever the platform chooses to provide.

For Content Management Systems (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc.), you may need to depend on third-party plugins to add functionality, which can range in quality with poorer plugins causing severe speed, security, and scalability issues, causing a poor experience for visitors, damaging your search engine ranking and losing you sales.

On the other side of the coin, having a developer style your site using one of the many styling frameworks, while will look modern and intuitive, is likely to feel relatively generic. 

Final Thoughts

We regularly have conversations with people who have had a website set up for them, only to realise their ambitions have hit the buffers because of the limitations of the platform they have been set up on. Quite often their only choice to move forward is to write it off what they have and start again.

A web designer is best at making a great looking website, a web developer is best at building that website in a sustainable and scalable way.  Ideally you should the talents of both for your next website, but if your on a tight budget, our advice is to speak to a developer first.