If you are running a business, not-for-profit or even doing a serious personal blog, you might be considering hiring someone to help you with creating a website. Maybe you have no idea what kind of help you need to hire because you don’t really understand what goes into making a website work. Let’s try to clear that up.
What is Website Design?
Web design is the process of creating the look, feel and layout of a website. If you want to compare it to a car, a web designer is a kind of like the person who designs the seats and body of the car. They want it to look attractive and be comfortable. They deal with the parts that visitors to the site will interact with directly, much like drivers and passengers interact most directly with the seats and interior of a car.
What Do Website Designers Do?
Web designers use graphics, font and text choices and layout to create positive user experiences. A good designer doesn’t just want a site that is pretty. They want one that is easy for people to understand, find their way around and use. Good design should be attractive, but being attractive is not really the primary purpose.
Word choices and font styles are selected with an eye towards being welcoming and readily comprehensible for the typical audience member. The designer will need to have some idea of who the intended audience will be for the project in question. Age, education level, gender and other demographic details will shape what design decisions make the most sense.
Always design with a specific audience in mind. What works for college students won’t work for college professors. What works for senior citizens won’t work for teenagers. What works for hobbyists won’t work for more serious business clientele.
What is Web Development?
In a nutshell, web development goes deeper than web design. Although web design isn’t just skin deep either, web development is even more about function than form. It is enough about a function that if the developer isn’t also a designer, the form may suffer in deference to function.
Ideally, that shouldn’t happen. In reality, it sometimes does. In theory, if budget and time are not objects, you can have a perfect site every time. In practice, budget and time constraints are part of reality and sometimes you need to decide which pieces matter most.
For example, to return to the car analogy, web developers work with what’s under the hood. They build the engine of the vehicle. The vehicle here is the website.
What Do Web Developers Do?
In internet parlance, they do a lot more back-end work than designers do. They also do some front-end work, but web developers get into the guts of the website more than designers do.
If you just want to blog, you probably don’t really need a developer. In other words, if you just want to be able to publish your thoughts or other information and have other people read it, you don’t need a lot of back-end work. In a situation like that, you probably want a designer. You primarily want it to look good and be a smooth experience.
But if you need the site to do the heavy lifting and perform functions like having a sales cart, doing surveys or otherwise interacting in a substantive way with the visitors, then you need a developer. That’s who does heavy coding of the sort that makes a website an application that does something. Designers may know some code, like CSS and HTML, but they probably don’t know the kind of code that does that type of work. Developers usually use server-side programming languages like PHP or Python.
CSS and HTML are front-end code. CSS is primarily about appearance. HTML does a bit more than that but is also primarily a front-end language.
So, Where to Start?
You should start by making a list of goals for the website. What is the purpose? How large is the potential audience? What are you trying to accomplish?
Before you can have a website, you first need to set up web hosting. Asking the above question will help you determine what kind of hosting plan you need.
Web hosting is the service that will deliver your website. You can think of it as being like the TV station or telephone company. It is the service that brings your website to the audience. You will be considering things like how fast you want your pages served and how much data you need to serve. It’s okay to go with a smaller, less expensive plan first. You can always alter the hosting plans later when you have a better idea of what your needs are.
Your list should also help you decide whether you need a web developer or a web designer. Though, in reality, the two professions aren’t as distinct as it would seem. There is some overlap between what they do. There is no clear cut off that distinguishes one from the other.
If you need a quick and dirty way to tell them apart, developers generally know a lot more code than designers do. Designers know a lot more about graphics, visuals and user experience. Some people are qualified to do both. In other cases, you can get two people to work together. Just as a car needs both good seats and a good engine, a website needs both good front end and good back-end work.
About the author: Riya is an inspired writer, passionate about travelling, lifestyle and encouraging startups. As a freelancer, she understands the importance of productivity at work. Connect with Riya on twitter, @sanderriya.