I Need a Website: Do I Hire a Designer or Developer?

Many times in my freelance career I have encountered clients that were either creating a website for their company or personal brand for the first time, or interested in re-doing an existing site. I find myself spending a lot of time up front explaining the possibilities, what is maintainable for non-coders, and how the job of a designer versus a developer correlates to scope, cost, and options.

I wrote this Q&A guide to demystify some of the process and provide basic knowledge of options for those who aren't sure where to begin, especially those who might want to tackle their own project, and might not be technically inclined.

1. How much would you like to do yourself?

Hey, I get it. Sometimes it's not in the budget to hire a developer or designer to create your website. If you want to take on the project entirely yourself, there are bunch of options for those who do not know how to code or design. Website builders such as Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly provide pre-designed templates that allow you to input your own content and images. More on these later. If you are interested in hiring a professional, keep reading.

2. Do I hire a designer or a developer? What is the difference?

In short, a designer can layout the look of your site. A developer can write lines of code to make it work.

Now, this is where it gets hairy. There are a lot of designers (non-coders1) out there who can and do create websites for their clients. They might be leveraging a website builder as mentioned above and tailor it (hopefully) to fit your brand. However, this is VERY different from what a developer is capable of and isn't exactly the same value. A developer, in theory, is not constrained by limitations for web creation. Another caveat–this isn't exactly black and white. It's great if you find someone who has at least a little experience in the other field:

Occasionally, you might come across someone who is versatile in both design and development roles.

3. Ok, so what does this cost?

Essentially, this boils down to labor. A pure, custom development job is going to be more costly than a lightweight platform that does most of the [code] heavy lifting for you. There are a lot of options in between, though, so make sure to evaluate these resources yourself. Most no-code platforms have free trials.

4. If I Do Hire Someone, What Should I look For?

You will want to vet anyone you decide to help you build your website. For both designers and developers, ask for samples of their work and don't be afraid to ask a lot of detailed questions up front. Anyone you hire should be doing likewise with you to understand what you are trying to achieve. After all, it is your project!

  1. Writing HTML & CSS is not programming. These are markup languages. ↩