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July 29, 2018

The difference between a Designer & Developer

Defining a Web Designer, Web Developer, or Development Agency

The difference between a Designer & Developer

In the early days, the web was very mysterious and the average business knew very little about development and web design. We didn't know what to pay, and just about every role seemed like rocket science or magic to average Marketing Director, CMO, CEO or business owner. Over the years, these jobs have become much more familiar, but it can still be confusing knowing just what each roles does and what to expect. We've written a little to serve as a guide in the hiring process.

Designer or Developer?

Here's a quick, general look at the differences between designers and developers. As with any industry, salaries and hourly rates vary with geographic region, but this is generally in line with what you'll find in 2018.

Web Designer

A Designer is usually someone who creates the style, layout and front-end UI/UX. It’s a term that is still often used to refer broadly to just about any aspect of production. It can mean anything from a student that is capable of installing WordPress and configuring a prebuilt theme, to a seasoned developer coding sophisticated applications. In the professional world, a Web Designer refers to someone who can design and create layouts, graphics, typography, style guides, front-end design, UI/UX and handle the basics of installing and setting up platforms like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or Magento.

  • $40-$70k Salaried
  • $30-$50/hr freelance
  • 2 to 5 years of experience
  • HTML, CSS, js
  • Host, domain & email setup
  • Does not develop or code

Web Developer

Developer can be a broad term as well, referring to everything from someone who can handle all aspects of creating and setting up a CMS like Joomla or WordPress, to seasoned professionals who code custom web applications, integrate with web services and APIs, and are capable of major customizations to any script, extension or plugin, functions and features. Developers are sometimes also designers, but there’s an increasing number of developers who code and do not have design or artistic talent or experience. In larger companies, the Web Developer typically doesn’t have any design roles or responsibilities.

  • $75-$150k Salaried
  • $60-$120/hr freelance
  • 5 to 15 years of experience
  • php, .NET, ASP, HTML, CSS, js, etc
  • Full stack & multiple types of databases
  • Server, host & email management
  • IT and web security
  • Does not necessarily design

Design Firms and Development Agencies

Generally, companies come to a design firm or a web development firm like The Microtechs because they don’t have an expert on-staff, or they have a mid-level in-house Designer and they need a professional design team. With packaging and print-design freelancers (like the kind that might do a business card), they often rely on the business owner to do much of the designing for them, and simply follow instructions. Try to think of it like landscaping a big property. A gardener can follow your instructions and plant trees and add mulch where you’d like, but a landscaping company would be able to listen to your needs, understand your vision and design a beautiful garden with all of the trees, lights and plants you want. They’d have the experience to know where the plumbing needs to be, the pressure of the engineering of a retaining wall, and what would die in a few years if it were planted here instead of there, etc. They'd know exactly what pH levels were needed for each kind of plant, flower or tree, how to properly fertilize them, and various aspects of construction. The'd be knowledgeable with building decks, light masonry, outdoor kitchens and living areas, electrical wiring, and paving and grading with drainage and weather in mind. Sure, you can transform your backyard on-the-cheap by hiring a few day laborers to follow instructions. But, it would be very unusual for the average home owner to be adept in so many different areas of expertise and that she or he wouldn't need help from a professional at some point. More often, they will end up paying twice--once for the on-the-cheap day labor assistance, and once again for a professional company to come out and consult, quote and implement whatever aspect of the project became a headache.

...or you wound up with a photograph of a happy customer on the side of a bus getting disfigured by an open window or brake light.
When it's your business, it simply has to be right.

When freelance goes wrong

Probably 30% of our business at The Microtechs is repairing, replacing or consulting on mistakes or missteps from freelancers or business owners who gave their best and ran into a brick wall. Sometimes in a panic, unforeseen consequences can send even the level-est of heads into pandemonium. "SiteLock told me I needed to change the Namservers" might follow something like, "Every employee's email is down and I don't know what happened!". Maybe the design that looks amazing on-screen turns out to be the wrong color in real life, or you wind up with a photograph of a happy customer on the side of a bus getting disfigured by an open window or brake light. When it's your business, it simply has to be right. With web design, freelancers and students familiar with something like WordPress often shop themselves as capable developers, when all they are really doing is installing a CMS and pre-made template. Commonly, these freelancers will install 3rd party plugins for every feature, with up to a dozen all made by different companies or developers. Jigsaw-puzzle WordPress sites can be a mess to deal with, and these plugins rarely work well with each-other and almost always style things differently. Whatever the issue, the business ends up paying for the same work twice: once the "cheap" way, and once again to fix it.

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