In this week’s show, the difference between web designers and web developers, and the reasons why your web designer is not following you back on Twitter and Instagram. But not to worry; I also provide some tips on how to get along with web designers and developers.
- Modern Pugilist Entertainment: ModernPugilistEntertainment.com
Sound bite: SNL, Nick Burns, Your Company’s Computer Guy, 1999
Hi I’m Tom Litchfield, Coming up on this broadcast…
- What is the difference between a web designer and web developer?
- Why your web designer hates you…
This is going to be a fun show.
Today we going to talk about…
- The differences between a web developers and a web designers?
- How to make sure your next website project is a success; and,
- Why your web designer hates you
Usually at this point of the show each week I recognize a new client. Though we have a lot to cover this week, I did think about skipping this segment today. I’m going to max out my Soundcloud account with this episode.
But it’s my clients who make this show possible and I want to make sure they know they are appreciated. So…
Modern Pugilist Entertainment is a sports, mixed-martial arts promotions company.
I’ve seen first-hand the passion that MPE has for the sport and for helping the athletes that are trying to make a name for themselves.
MPE has a unconventional approach to promoting the sport, by getting everyone involved on the same page: the athletes, managers, sponsors, promotors and of course, the fans. Everyone typically has their own agenda in business, but MPE believes in a community where everyone checks their egos at the door and pitches-in to help each other.
You can find more information at Modern Pugilist Entertainment dot com. That’s a mouthful and I’m not going to even spell it out for you. The show notes at Supertype.tv will have a link to the site, do don’t worry.
In the past few episodes I explained the basics of websites, website hosting and domain names and WordPress.
Now you’re ready to learn the about the world of web design and development, my world.
What exactly is a web designer, and what is a web developer?
I know from experience this is an area of confusion for a lot of folks.
But first of all, why is it even important to know the difference in the first place?
Not knowing the difference between the two can cause a problem with expectations.
If you hired a web designer to build your website, you may ask them to do something that is beyond their skillset and the wonder why they can’t do it, or maybe even become angry if what you asked for was done incorrectly.
Same thing goes for web developers. They may get asked to do something they don’t do well.
This will make more sense in a moment.
Let me explain what a web designer is.
A web designer is a person who designs the style, look and feel of a website.
Usually, a web designer will have a background in design. Perhaps they went to art school, or studied art, or they studied UI, which stands for user interface which is the art of human interaction with software and hardware.
In a nutshell, a web designer is an expert at making a website look good and easy to use.
Many web designers can also design and create logos and other graphics.
I’ve worked with many web designers over the years, and I like to think of them as artist, understanding the fundamentals of art and design, color, balance and user interfaces.
OK, web developers. Who are they?
A web developer, is typically a computer programmer or has some programming skills, and works with different technologies to build a website.
The web developer is usually the one who add functionality to a website, such as contact forms, shopping carts, databases, news feeds and so on.
Now, I’m a web developer and I like to think of myself as a problem solver. If someone has a slow site I can make it faster. If something on a website is not working I can troubleshoot and fix it. If someone has a new idea to capture leads on their site, I can build it.
In the past, a web developer had to know how to program. These days it’s not always necessary, especially with WordPress.
With WordPress, you can add the functionality I just mentioned, shopping carts, registration forms, etc., by purchasing plugins you install on your site. There is still some technical work involved in setup and configuration, but not necessarily programming.
This is why it’s easy these days for a web designer to offer website features that in the past required a web developer.
Conversely, if your site is running WordPress, you can get a professionally designed theme for your site without hiring a web designer by purchasing a commercial theme. I mentioned this in the last episode.
So a web developer can also offer design services by licensing commercial themes and branding those themes for each client.
As you can see, there is no formal definition of the two and in many cases, web designers and web developers have skills that overlap.
Some web designers may call themselves developers and some web developers may say they are designers too.
It may seem cloudy but it’s easy differentiate between the two: someone who has a background in art and can design graphics such as logos in addition to designing a site is a web designer.
Someone who has a background in programming and has to outsource logo design when asked is a web developer.
How web designers and web developers work together.
Normally, I work with designers who don’t know any of that stuff, but have mastered tools like Adobe PhotoShop, Illustrator and the Create Cloud Suite, and use those tools to create and output web site designs.
For a web designer who only knows how to use design tools, and not any code, they will usually work with a web developer.
Sometimes I’m hired by a web designer to help them with a website project.
On the flip side, since I don’t have a background in design, I might hire a web designer to help me with a project.
When I’m working with a web designer, my responsibility will be to convert the design to a website template or theme.
I will also be responsible for the web site functionality, like creating the contact forms, shopping cart, sliders, whatever the site requires in terms of site features.
So it’s like the web designer sketches the body of the car, the color and style, the dashboard layout, and then I fabricate the body, build the engine, connect all the wiring and make sure everything works.
Why your web designer hates you.
Like all working relationships, customer and client are not always on the same page.
Business owners don’t know how to ask for a site and may be overwhelmed, not knowing where to start. Business owners may not understand what’s possible and what isn’t.
Web designers may not have a disciplined approach requirements gathering skills or use case analysis skills, to gathering requirements. They probably studied art, design, UI, maybe at a school or on their own.
Web designers may be talented artists, but might not be experts at gathering website requirements. They might not ask the client the right questions or unclear on expectations.
Web designers are often independent contractors and running their own business, doing their own marketing and billing and accounting.
With all that web designers have to manage, they may be stressed and not know it.
Now here comes small business owner, Tara, who needs a website.
A friend recommends a web designer to Tara who worked on her site. Tara likes her friend’s site and visits the designer’s site and browses her portfolio.
Tara is impressed. She contacts the designer, Jen, and makes an appointment for a consolation.
During the consolation the Jen listens to Tara and agrees to make a mockup based on what Tara is looking for. Jen is friendly and easy going and Tara feels a connection. She hires Jen.
A day later Tara sees the mockup and loves it. She agrees to move forward with her new website.
A couple weeks later Tara’s new site is ready. Tara’s excited and reviews the site. Jen has delivered a site just like her mockup and Tara is satisfied with hew new site and pays Jen.
But during that 2 weeks Tara was waiting for her site to be finished, she had some new ideas for her site. She saw a font on another site she likes and wants to use on her site. And now that she’s started using her site, she’s come up with a few more things she wants to tweak, like changing some of the colors.
Tara contacts Jen to ask her to make changes. Jen questions the changes Tara wants. Jen says the changes will be difficult and that there will be extra charges and gives Tara an estimate.
Tara thinks the estimate is a little high and is taken back by Jen’s change in attitude, who isn’t as friendly as she was when they first met, and was even a little short with her.
Tara doesn’t know what’s going on but agrees to pay Jen for the extra work.
Jen makes the edits and Tara is happy… for the moment.
After a few weeks Tara comes up with a few more minor edits for Jen. She emails Jen but after a few days doesn’t get a reply. Tara calls Jen and leaves a voice mail and doesn’t get a call back. Jen has disappeared.
A week goes by and Tara wonders if Jen is okay. She emails again. A day later Jen responds saying she has been overwhelmed with new work, and says she’s too busy to help Tara.
So what’s going on here?
Knowing what you know now about web designers, that they are artists, experts at their craft, with years of grueling study under their belts, years toiling in anonymity hoping to get noticed for their work…
It’s like buying a painting, then calling the artist the next day and saying, “I like the painting, but can you add more green to water and more blue to the sky, and can you add the sun so it looks like it’s morning?”
That’s ridiculous, right? No one’s going to do that. You’re not going to buy an expensive painting and then ask the artist to make changes.
But I see that all the time with websites.
I think it comes down to not trusting the web designers. Yes, if you ask Tara, “Don’t you trust Jen?” She would probably say, “Of course I trust her. If I didn’t trust her I would have never hired her!”
The trust I’m talking about is with Jen’s expertise and background.
Jen has proved she knows what she’s doing.
Jen has a web site portfolio that impressed Tara.
Tara loved Jen’s mockup proposal.
And Jen was recommended to Tara by a peer, which is the ultimate testimonial.
Yet the font and color edits Tara asked for was telling Jen, “When I comes to design, I know better than you.”
When get was getting Tara’s requests, she may have felt hurt, annoyed, maybe she was burning inside, “Who are you to question my design sense?”
But it’s not Tara’s fault. I know from experience, web site owners want to feel like they are a part of the site, that they have some say in how it looks.
Tara had that opportunity during her initial consolations with Jen. But Tara, being new to websites, came up with new ideas later on after she approved the mockup.
I also believe that tweaking web sites makes web site owners feel happy. Maybe the honeymoon of having a new site has worn off, and that initial excitement is gone.
So a website owner looks for things to change so they can feel excited about their site again!
The funny thing is, that if you ask an artist to make changes to a painting, it doesn’t improve the painting. It just makes you happier with your purchase. The painting is not improved, and maybe from an art perspective it’s worse that it was before the changes.
Well, with websites I see the same thing. A professional designer creates a beautiful site, and the client wants to change colors and fonts, move stuff around.
Just like the painting, these changes don’t improve the site. They just make the client happier, but maybe from a web design and UI perspective, the changes could be a step backward.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, that some changes are necessary. And you’re absolutely right.
Mistakes need to be corrected of course.
And some changes ARE necessary. For example, if analysis shows people are not clicking on a button, but clicking on other areas of the site, then perhaps the button needs to be move, or made bigger, or have a brighter color or all the above.
That’s a legitimate request.
Now Tara and Jen are not real, but story is, and one I’ve seen played out many times. I could tell you lots of stories, believe me. I’ve been on projects where the designer walked away right before the site was done because she was fed up with the client.
I’ve worked on sites that, later on, I came to find out several different designers also worked on the site. What happened to those other designers, oh I can take a guess at what happened.
Quick Tips for Working with Web Designers and Developers
Trust your web designer!
The less you trust your designer, the further you will push them away AND the more money you will spend in the end by requesting unnecessary changes and maybe having to hire new designers.
Assuming you vetted a good designer, one whose portfolio you like and has excellent feedback, and created a mockup you love. If you have all that and still want to make design changes, then it’s going to likely cost you more money and time.
Yes, you are the customer, yes, it’s YOUR website. But who’s the designer, who’s the professional, leave it in their hands.
Resist the urge to change your site based on feeling! It will cost you.
If you have evidence that your design can be approved, not “feeling”, but solid evidence, then making design changed may make sense.
Okay, next tip.
Overcome fears and other emotions.
Don’t worry about getting it exactly right the first time!
With WordPress, your design can be changed later! Go with your designer’s suggestion, you need to start somewhere.
Then, over time, as your site gains popularity and gets traffic, there are analyses you can do to find out if your web design, page layout or content organization can be improved.
And resist the urge to tweak and mess with your site. If you’re not feeling excited about your site anymore, start adding awesome content, start blogging add videos! Improve your site by adding valuable content!
Okay, last tip for Working with Web Designers and Developers:
Do research before for your initial consultation with a web designer.
Experienced designers and web developers probably have their own methodology for gathering the requirements for your new site and envisioning the design.
Some may ask who your target audience or target market is, others may want to know the purpose of your site, and some may want to know the avatars for your perfect customer.
I’m not a designer, but when I’m tasked to create a site I like specific questions like, “What is the best thing for your business when someone lands on your site. Is it to buy your product, pick up the phone and call you, watch a video to get to know you or your business? If they don’t want to buy something or call, what’s the next best thing? Sign up for your newsletter, read a blog post? What’s the 3rd…”
This approach helps me to understand how the site will be organized and I begin to visualize it. But how should the site look in terms of colors and graphics?
If my client already has a logo or other marketing assets, then I can brand the site according to their logo colors and logo itself.
I like my clients to show me 2 or 3 examples of sites they love, that might work for their site, understanding that I won’t copy these sites, but they will provide design ideas for their site.
I ask them to tell me why they love these examples, what aspects of these do they like. Would their target visitors also love these sites?
So that’s my approach and it may not be the best, I like it because I can get the information I need quickly.
Be prepared for this conversation and these questions. Also you may be asked:
They will ask you have a domain name yet?
Do you have a logo?
One of the best things you can do is look at other sites.
Sites that are popular and well-known brands usually have a lot of research and development put into them. These make great examples and guidelines for what works on the web, in terms of layout and organization.
I’d not talking about fancy widgets or animation. I’m talking about web site ease of use. For example, the site Medium purportedly spent a lot on researching reading articles on websites.
So the reading experience on their site is a great guideline for layout of the articles on your site.
That it for my tips, but I’m sure I’ll think of more and will include them in future episodes.
In the next episode we’re going to talk about protection your website and your business, and I’m going to answer the question of “Why web designers and web developer disappear after a project.” Which I didn’t get to in this episode.
So do yourself and your business a huge favor and subscribe!
That’s it for The Supertype Show this time around.
If you have questions about anything we talked about on the show, please find me on Twitter for continued conversation on these topics and more. Simply search Twitter for @ tomlitchfield.