Small business owners often confuse website design with website development. While they are similar, they are completely different tasks. Here’s a little discussion on how they are different.
What Web Designers Do
Web designers are the beauticians of the Web. Their job is to make websites look beautiful. This requires a certain set of skills in both graphics and coding. Skills a web designer should learn to master include:
- HTML: Every website designer should learn HTML. It’s the basic building blocks of website design.
- CSS: Cascading Style Sheets include the design elements that are typically interpreted by Web browsers. A good website designer will be very familiar with CSS and how it interacts with HTML.
- Content Management Systems (CMSs): Some website designers work exclusively with CMSs. At the very least, you should be familiar with WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. More and more, I see small business website designers working with Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace.
- Photoshop: If you’re going to work with graphics, and every website designer works with graphics, then you should learn to manipulate those graphics using a photo editing software. While there are others on the market, Photoshop is easily recognized as the most superior.
These are the minimum skills of a website designer. More advanced designers might work with PHP, more obscure CMSs, and use other tools like plugins, templates, and ready-made scripts to make websites function the way they want them to.
What Web Developers Do
Web developers are much more interested in what is under the hood of a website. While website designers are more like auto manufacturers who work on bringing the latest innovation in sportiness to the auto world, web developers are more like the engineers who work on making cars more fuel efficient or mechanically sound. Typically, website developers are more interested in the functionality of a website and get into programming languages and how they affect the total design and functionality of a site.
Web developers work with programming languages like:
- Ruby on Rails
- HTML and CSS
- and mark-up languages like XHTML
While a website designer will be interested in how a user interacts with a website, the website developer is more interested in whether the website works the way it should.
Many website designers also work as web developers. Some specialize in one or the other. As a small business owner, you should be familiar with these terms so you know who to call on when you have a problem to fix.