Websites are created by web designers: this is the answer most people would give if asked how websites are made. They can be forgiven for thinking that, after all, a website’s design makes up a large part of the experience of using a website and it is this aspect of a site which is most tangible and most easily pinned down.
But in reality, ‘web design’ is only one half of the story: websites need to be developed as well as designed. The web designer has a counterpart: the web developer, who builds the website which has been designed, using computer code.
Different but Complementary Skills
While web designers and web developers are both essential in the process of creating a website, they require very different skill sets. The whole process of creating a website is a fundamentally lateral one involving problem solving using a blend of logical and creative thinking, and so the designer and developer team present a powerful combination of right-brain creativity and left-brain logic.
The web designer’s role
- Push the boundaries when it comes to the visual aspect of the website
- Design content with the website’s message and tone of voice in mind
- Keep up with (or set) the latest design trends
- Have experience of branding, idea generation, image generation, art direction, best practice design and typographic layout
- Have a view on user experience from a visual point of view
The web developer’s role
- Make sure websites deliver a seamless user experience across a multitude of devices
- Ensure websites are well-structured and well-programmed
- Keep up to date with the latest technologies and communicate these with the designer to apply to the designs
- Have knowledge of various programming languages and current development methodologies
- Have a view on user experience from a technical or functional point of view
Why Collaboration is Key
Traditionally, these different skill sets have meant that designers and developers often work separately on projects, often in separate parts of a building with little or no input into each other’s work. The completed designs are passed from the designer to the developer, who then builds the website
However, simply having dedicated web designers and web developers is not enough to create a website which is visually pleasing whilst also offering a seamless user experience. With responsive website design leading the way to a device-friendly future, the old ‘conveyor belt’ process is no longer adequate.
A Balanced Approach
Design and development are different but complementary skills, which should be harnessed through a balanced, collaborative approach in which designers and developers respect and have input into each other’s work.
The design phase may precede the development phase the process of creating a website is far from being design-lead; websites need to be increasingly adaptable so a collaborative, iterative approach is emerging, which makes this possible. The advent of responsive website design and the ever increasing range of possible functionality means that it is becoming impossible for designers and developers to work in isolation.
Collaboration and regular communication between designer and developer has never been more crucial. Tied up in this is the importance of including both developers and designers at every stage of the process: from the initial scoping meeting through to website testing pre and post live.
With both designer and developer fully engaged in a project, the combined force of their complimentary skill sets ensures that the end result is a beautiful, innovative and functional website which exactly meets the client’s needs.
Illustration by Jason Roberts