Should I Hire a Web Developer or a Web Designer? Why?

by David Robb, CTO/ Lead Web Developer 
When hiring somebody to build your website you want to make sure you are hiring the right person for your job. It can be confusing because many people confuse the terms “web designer” and “web developer” but there IS a big difference.

It’s rare to find someone who is genuinely good at both web development and design. Before you hire someone, you need to decide what you need from your site.

If you think of a web designer as an artist and a developer as a builder you can probably imagine the sort of qualities required for each job. Most will have a small amount of skill in the other’s area but specialize in their given field.

A designer should be able to build a custom theme with custom graphics, logos, and images. They create the art or the look of the site, without having to have as much background in programming and coding the site functions.

A developer will most likely purchase a theme and edit it as required. This doesn’t mean your developer will give you a basic-looking site – modern themes are highly customizable for a skilled developer in terms of color, layout, menu structure, and more. Where a developer’s strength comes into play is with their technical abilities, essentially building the engine or the hidden functional structures that make your website do what you want it to do.

Here are 2 questions to ask before you hire someone to work on your website:

  • Are you trying to build a complex website with up-to-date functionality, data processing, complex work flows, shopping carts, and large databases? If so, you should probably hire a developer.
  • Are you building a basic website but want it to be visually unique with a bespoke theme and graphics? You most likely want to hire a designer.
The ideal solution for most people is to hire a developer who can include a graphic designer in the process. If you want high-end functionality for a lower price, a developer is typically your best option, since the outward appearance of your site can often be easily adjusted and customized. The back-end functionality is much harder to program without a development background.

Think about it this way:


you want a developer to design the engine, aerodynamics, and functional specifications of your race car, but you want a designer to paint it, design the style, and add the finishing aesthetic touches. 

If you only have the funds to hire one person, a developer is often your best bang for the buck. Many designers make a business out of designing customizable themes and then sell them at a low cost to developers who can then go in and customize the back-end and functional specifications (“the engine”).