Website Designer vs Programmer, Creative or Technical, Which Do You Need?

Over the past 11+ years I’ve been creating websites for my clients, I’ve often come across people who are really confused about the difference between a website designer and a programmer and many times have hired the wrong person for their needs. So, let’s talk about these two types of web people and hopefully this information will help those who are stuck in a dilemma.

The Simple & Basic Difference: One is a creative person, the other is a technical person. Think “artist” & “mathemetician” or “scientist.” Very different! Of course both of these types of people can have the ability to work in both areas, but they really are strongest in either one or the other. For example: I’d consider myself the creative type. I do know how to write code, SEO strategies, marketing and more… but I’d call myself a designer (creative) first and foremost. Why? Because I hire the technical programmers to work with me when I need complicated forms, e-commerce, private client logins, or some other complicated coding done. The exact opposite might happen with a technical programmer who would hire me because they can build something that’s functionally sound, but if they want it to look good rather than just functional, they need me.

Hiring a Designer: Make sure as you look through various designers’ portfolios that the sites they’ve done not only look good, but all the links work, the forms work, and there was thought given to the navigation and functionality of the sites. A site should flow from one section/page to another. You should never need to use a browser’s back button. Make sure and ask if they have a technical partner. Have them clearly explain how they’re planning to build it, before they’ve even designed it. Make sure in your agreement they are planning to design the right amount of layouts so you’ll know the flow of the site, before it’s coded. One thing I’ve learned over time, you can’t just design something, you have to know how to produce it.

Hiring a Programmer: I have one team that I like to use and why? Because they interpret my layouts perfectly. I’ve tried other programmers, one didn’t do a good job in the programming, and another’s prices were too high and terms too strict. So when I’m looking for new programmers to help me build my clients’ sites, what do I look for?

1- I don’t want a person or team that is too busy, because they sort you into the mix and the project will take too long. Sometimes even when they say you’ll have it next week, it may take longer. Make sure they stick to their projected schedule.

2- I want to see some simple, clean and creative websites that they’ve done. If all their samples look similar with similar headers, sidebars, body and footers, I think they may not be able to think out-of-the-box and I want the programmer to be ready for whatever I dream up.

3- Their price per hour has to be in your price range. Their terms are flexible, like 2 or 3 payments.

4- They’re comfortable working with creative people and it shows in their work and how they communicate back and forth.

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What to do if it’s not working out and you may realize you’ve got the wrong type of web person working on your project.

Don’t panic! Find someone you trust for advice, someone who’s knowledgeable in the web field, so together you can assess the website, the issues or problems and figure out a course of action.

Example #1: Say you’ve hired a web programmer to build your website and after paying the first two payments, the site is mostly built, you’re still unhappy with the design and some of the functionality. Well, it may be time to negotiate with the programmer to turn over the files and look to a designer who can now fix it up to your satisfaction.

Example #2: You hired a creative designer but the SEO is missing, the google analytics, titles are wrong, links aren’t working right or some other technical problem. You can either discuss these changes you want made and it’s up to the creative web designer to hire a techie to fix the site or you finish up with the creative and find a techie to do what you need.

Now you’re saying, I don’t want to deal with these problems, or have to hire more than one person, but you also need to understand that these situations arise every week. I hear these exact stories all the time. Sometimes if you’re in a bad situation, you just have to cut your losses and move forward.

One tip I will give is to really do your homework before hiring someone. If you’re getting a recommendation, you still have to know that person can do what you need done. Be sure to go over very carefully what you want with that designer or programmer. Be sure to look over the estimate or contract you’ve gotten to be sure things are spelled out clearly.

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