Why do some web site people call themselves designers and others developers? Here’s a look at the differences.
Web design is a lot like building a house. It starts with the overall way the site works (the blueprint), goes on to the user interface (the framing), and finally encompasses the look and feel (the carpet, the wall color, and the light fixtures). Notice that the look and feel are the LAST items to be created; you don’t put drapes up before you have a window. The things that make a site stylish are less critical than those that make it functional.
“Function before Style”
Obviously, these measures overlap quite a bit. I choose a blueprint based on the goals of my client and the function of their web site. But I also must understand and deliver a style that will work with their content and which meets their approval.
Web development focuses on the technical functions of the software that run web sites. This includes coding—writing or altering the instructions, written in specific computer languages, that make things happen. Code is like a recipe in many ways; you must have the ingredients before you start the action.
So, which am I? I fall in between, of course. I can design and build sites, manipulate content, integrate with social media, and work on the code in the background. However, I know my limitations very well. I stick with what I do best and either find ready-made code or outsource other work to trusted colleagues.
Of course, the two labels above are not the only ones around. The terms webmaster and web site builder, publisher, coordinator, etc. are all relevant in this industry. They watch over completed sites, combine all the elements of an online presence and put them in the right places, and control the entire process for others.
With my clients, I prefer “web manager,” which I think incorporates all of the above. What are you?