I recently sat down with a client who was trying to build a new website based business. They hired a local gal to do the site and had the shell of a site layout to look at, but the process was stalled so they called me in. As I sat in their office listening to all the features and functions the site should have I asked one little question – Is she a web designer or a developer? To which they replied, “There’s a difference?”
Yes, a big one.
For most businesses, it’s possible to find a currently available software suite and put it to work driving your functions. For instance, this site is powered by WordPress which means all the fancy features of creating a blog post are in my browser window, search functions, plug-ins and lots of other bells and whistles are part of the programming that makes my life easier. I don’t have to code pages by hand, upload HTML pages using FTP, or re-upload them when I need an edit. All of the functions are part of the software running on the server.
The graphical component, or the part that you’re looking at right now, comes together because of a template I added to the site using the WordPress Admin’s Appearance Menu (another software development gem). The template gives me the overall aesthetics of the site. Color scheme, menu placement, fonts, and on and on. It’s the reason this site has a conversation bubble on the right rather than a tag-line under the big “KarlieRobinson.com” on the left.
The thing is, the very analytical thinker I need to create or modify the software that runs my site isn’t always the same person as I trust to pretty things up for my visitors. The process works the other direction too because it’s rare to find someone who’s good at everything.
My husband and business partner, Todd, is a hard core website developer, I trust him completely when it comes to database modifications, payment service integration or any other modification to sites that generate our income. However, when it comes to aesthetics, sites he designs usually have orange somewhere in the color scheme. Not that his sites are unpleasing, but not everyone likes orange as much as he does.
In the case of my client’s new website, they hired a designer hoping to develop a custom database and other software functions that were obviously out of her league. I don’t doubt she could have made the site look good (though the 5 second load time of her own site has me wondering what she’s thinking), but she didn’t have the programming skills to create an efficient software solution, from scratch, to recreate the clients wants and needs as a software solution.
The moral of the story is to know what it is you need before you ever hire someone because you need to know what type of hire you need to make. If aesthetics are more important, then a Designer is probably the best choice to lead the project. If the functions, like ability to accept payment are more important, than hire a developer. Even if this person can’t fulfill every aspect of the project they should, at the very least, be able to act as the project manager and form a team to ensure the requirements of functions, delivery date, and budget are met.