Don't Get Ripped Off on Your Next Website Build! Know the difference between a website developer and a website designer.

So you're building a website...

Is a website designer or a website developer a better deal?

A new website can be an excellent way to build credibility, increase sales, increase calls, build your brand - or make an epic flop in the cybersphere.

A lot of this has to do with the provider you choose - and the difference between a website developer or a website designer. Do you know the difference? How will you make the most bang for your buck?

I’ve seen websites developed in so many different ways - and the way you choose to develop your next site really determines how successful the launch will be. A website is such an integral part of business transactions in 2016. 

Who is developing your website?


1. A Graphic Designer with a high-res rendition of your website. 

the Graphic Designer

Graphic Designers are a wonderful place to turn for design issues and branding - especially when they have an eye for pulling things together. At an advertising agency I have seen first and the problems that can arise when a graphic designer designs a website, submits it for approval and then it goes for coding. When the client receives their website back - they are often shocked at how different the site looks from the high-resolution design. 

Building a website is a lot different from building a document

Designs need to be responsive - meaning they self-adjust for mobile, tablet, desktop, laptop, to fill the space beautifully. Responsive designs are usually built in blocks that take a priority order on your screen. When a designer is comfortable working with content in a print document - this concept can change and upset designs which were once lovely and pristine. In addition, when something is beautifully designed, it can require additional coding which will make the site more expensive and time-consuming - resulting in a project that is either too expensive, not profitable, or doesn’t meet expectations. If you are looking exclusively for a designer - your website may fall short. 


2. A Website Developer who can do, or copy, anything.

The Website Developer Regina

Maybe you know a developer who codes like a ninja - that does not make them a designer. You want it to spin? No problem. Slide? You’ve got it. Make a crazy noise? Of course. A website developer has the ability to make you a fully functional site that does everything you want. 

I hate to say it (also - I’m lying, I love to say it) but what you "want" isn’t usually what you need.

Images in the background - that is out of style.
A slider that fades - that’s a big, big, nope.
Button's that are easy to click and boiled down content - that's what I'm talking about. That's what your customers are looking for too. 

Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. If you work with someone who doesn’t ask you what the point of something is or challenge your aesthetics - run away, or add a designer to the mix. What you will end up may be a nice copy of what your competition is doing, but that doesn’t mean it will represent you. 

When you work with a developer - don't just copy what you think is working for your competition.

I recently had a client who was copying the world's ugliest website because it belonged to their competition - and we all know we should focus on our competition instead of our strengths (Eeeeee! Wrong answer. Do you, boo.).

You are awesome. Do your own damn thing. Take the good from your competition and compare it against your mission, goals, and values. If that doesn’t work for you - leave it. Appropriate what does work - but give it your own spin. Plagiarism is not only tacky as hell, but negatively impacts your SEO score (and your street cred). 



3. Your Uncle Joe - A man who can do it all

friends and family designing websites

Really? Think uncle Joe understands your audience? Don't care - just need to check that box in your business plan? Found out the yellow pages make websites too (Run!! Or don’t - your call.). I’d love to see you work with someone who knows your business and cares about you, your business goals, and your client list. 

I have the physical ability to sing. Do you think that you should have me sing at your wedding because of that? No. If you’ve heard me, you know what I’m talking about. I get no choice between melody or harmony - it's whatever my diaphragm and vocal chords argue about that day

What I’m getting at is this - maybe you know someone who could throw something together - but will it achieve your goals? It is going to cost you time and energy, and always some money The “cheapest” solution may not pay in terms of leads and brand exposure - so there is something to consider.

Your website is your ambassador. How is it representing you?


4. A Scammy Website Services Provider

Avoid Website Development Scams

Out of all of the options - this is the one who makes me most angry. This is the person - or usually company (usually based to the south of the Canadian border) who claims they "get" you. They design(ish) everything up based on what they think will work on WordPress, or on a US-based audience. They are less concerned with quality - and more on the volume of work they produce. They promise training and updates but are “too busy” to follow-through.

Come on.

At one time or another, they seemed like the best solution. At some point, expensive retainers and sub-par design with no customer support are draining on resources and energy - not to mention missed opportunity!


5. Mr. DIY website development

DIY Website Development

As a business owner, it is common to have the idea that we need to do things to have them done right, or that we will save money doing them ourselves. This can be a problem because often we are more focused on our products and services than our clients, and lack the strategic focus necessary to build an effective website. On top of all of that, when you are busy in your business there is often time taken away from projects like your website - and it gets pushed to the back-burner - or worse - you push out something lacklustre and get a "nailed it" version of your site. Not beautiful, not effective, but live. 


6. A Talented Employee

Talented employees building websites

If you have one, you know what I’m talking about. Ask her to do social media. It is juvenile at first and then improves. Then it generates results. There is not too much strategy involved - but a lot of engagement and a willing heart. Ask her to start a project totally out of her wheelhouse. She may not know what she’s getting into - but she does it, and does it well. Ask her to build a website, and she picks the best available platform she finds in a quick search and figures out how to put it together. This employee is an angel. She works hard and is of exceptional value. 

The problem is this - people have devoted their lives to online experience, and consumers expect (and demand) excellence. Thank goodness for this jack-of-all-trades - but if you want to make money with your website, this is the wrong place to start. And, on top of it all, talk about pressure! When you hire a pro, this talented employee can make more of an impact in her internal position.


7. A Website Designer

Website Designer Regina

When you work with a fabulous website designer they will understand the difference between content, function, and design. It doesn’t matter how pretty something is if it doesn’t achieve a goal. It doesn’t matter how gimmicky something is - if it doesn’t serve your goal, it won’t be used. The best website designer will use a mix of function and form and simplify content to make an impact. If you can say what you’ve said in 500 words in a paragraph or sentence, the best website designer will challenge you to boil it down. 

Great Design Happens When Function and Form Collide

True design is when function meets form. A mix of duty and functionality. Your website should be your greatest ambassador. It is an investment geared at making your business money. Don’t settle for less than excellence. You don’t settle in your business - and your website is an extension of that business. 


You should be asked - and ask yourself the following:

  • How are people going to find you?
  • What experience will they have on your website?
  • What is your biggest money-mare - and how will you capitalize on that?
  • How are you gaining and retaining leads?

If you are working with a website provider and none of these issues have come up - think closely. Either cut your losses or look for a strategic professional to make your website a success. Whowever you decide to work with - make sure you weigh the pros and cons and consider the return on your investment. 


Have you been working with a website developer or a website designer?


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Heather Murphy

Heather Murphy is a business consultant with expertise in digital marketing. Heather owns Authentically: Business & Life Solutions, making an impact with inbound marketing, graphic design, and social media marketing. As an educator, Heather frequently shares at conferences and seminars to empower people for building the successful businesses they invision. Heather is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council.