It is near the end of 2017 and the process of building an effective website is no longer just throwing up some WordPress, buying a domain, and hitting publish. Creating a website that not only looks great but also is effective at generating traffic is crucial. Both positions, designer & developer, need to work together and communicate effectively in order to achieve both of these goals.So the question is..
Should you hire a web developer and designer separately?
The purpose of a website determines whether you should hire a web developer and designer separately or together.
The subjective nature of visual artwork and interface design can be make this a challenge for project owners as well. We’ll go over specific things that a designer and developer should be asking each other and more.
Purposes Change the Answer
An art studio that needs a website would definetely require a separate designer because art studios value visual aesthetics. In that case, knowing if a separate designer is required would be obvious. However, most business websites are not going to fall within this category but rather within a balance of design and development needs. A dedicated designer is necessary when the aim of a website is to be heavily aesthetic or visual arts based. Websites for photography studios are going to contain much more arts focus compared to something like an attorney’s office or construction company website.
Similarly, a project that incorporates special features such as live video conferencing, special custom interfaces, or entire web applications will need at least one dedicated developer. At least one developer is usually required for any project unless your designer is also part developer.
Subjective or Objective Goals Change the Plan
As a designer works with visual aesthetics, the task of determining whether a task is complete can be very subjective to both project owner and designer. The goal of a developer is to achieve a certain site functionality usually determined by the question: “does it work or not, yes or no?”. On the other hand a designer’s job is to make everything look aesthetically pleasing and flows well with the user. This is usually the question of “does it look good?” which is often not a true/false question.
Time Requirements: Never enough
Duplicating efforts to teach someone your project all over again is another major consideration. A full development agency that has a staff of both will reduce the amount of time required for logistics. Time will be saved because of the close work between developer and designer most agencies possess.
Understanding the communications between the two roles is crucial and the following sections go over the advantages and disadvantages of hiring a web designer and web developer separately, a web agency where they already work together , or the unicorn developer that does both.
Web Designers: Aesthetic Ninjas
Designers are responsible for the look and feel of a website. They are going to help ensure layout, colors, image placement, and content flow. Most designers are responsible for the planning portion of a new website while web developers ensure that the technical infrastructure can accommodate the designers’ plan. A designer shouldn’t be responsible for the site plan solely as site development can often hinder original plans. Communications between the two roles or people involved is crucial.
Make sure the following communications are clear from your designer to developer:
- Comprehensive wireframes & guides that highlight both visual layout and user flow
These diagrams will help the developer’s job immensely as they will understand user intention and desired functionality. Make sure the plan is clear with everyone on your team.
- Sample content previews on all designed pages
Always do design around content, never content around design.
- Possessing excellent written and verbal communication skills
Good designers will need to be able to talk your website plan out effectively to more than one person.
Most web designers should know enough development to create a sample website of their work. Web developers need to also have an understanding of basic design principles even if they are not doing the planning and work themselves. This includes things such as considering website performance when suggesting 3rd party plugins, heavy graphics/video, etc. Make sure you have a well rounded team.
One of the advantages of having a web designer who is also a web developer is that there is less time communicating between multiple individuals about your project. A web developer should in turn take into consideration the designer’s vision.
Web Developers: Logic & Wizardry
Developers are the ones who are in charge of bringing up the infrastructure necessary in order to make a website design or prototype a reality. They will be able to take the designer’s work and create a well working and functional site. This sometimes involves writing code from scratch or using a content management system such as WordPress. They are going to be the ones answering some of the most difficult technical questions so therefore it is vital for them to know a basic skillset.
Make sure the following communications are clear from your developer to designer:
- Functionality related showstoppers or user experience considerations that a designer misses
When a developer works together with your designer they are able to predict and plan logic errors in your page wireframes. The perspective of a developer is that of an expert logician who may see UI flaws before your designer finishes.
- If doing a web application a designer might not know all of the screens they have to design
Web applications can contain dozens of screens and individual interface segments that might be missed by a design and even the business owner if they are not intimate enough with the app.
- A developer can assist a designer by ensuring all resources are properly optimized
Images, video, scripts, and more all can be utilized on a web page and hugely influences site performance. A good developer is going to consider all this and should work with your designer closely.
If dedicated designers
Unicorns: A myth or reality?
1. A web developer that knows both web development and web design.
A unicorn developer is a web designer or web developer that combines multiple disciplines and can do the work of one another. They are highly sought after in the industry and can provide a huge enhancement to one’s business. The biggest problem with unicorns is quality assurance; many can do what they claim. Expect to pay significantly more for a developer that is worth their weight in business gold. The time and hassle saved may be worth the expense.
Conclusion: Should you hire a web developer and designer separately?
A project that involves heavy graphics or visuals would likely benefit best from an independent web designer. Conversely, if the project contains many interactive interface elements consult a seasoned web developer first before the designer. If you choose to separate then the communications between the two contractors must be strong. If there is any doubt in hiring independently then a web agency may be the best choice as the designers and developers already work together. Price may vary widely depending on these choices so it might be a good idea to keep that in mind while searching for an optimal solution. Cost and time will both vary.
It is with this author’s opinion that it would take far more time attempting to hire individually for every project but there might be times when it is a good idea. 99% of the time I would prefer dealing with web agencies due to having fewer moving parts in your development production plan.
If you have time and money or have a very visually focused or specialized functionality then hire separate.