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Getting to know the industry
Is your web designer really a web designer?
That old chestnut! If you’re starting to have concerns about the web designer you’ve hired, perhaps you have good reason to be.
I often come across people calling themselves Web Designers, when clearly they are so much more than that. Or on the flip-side, people that aren’t Web Designers, but want to be. How could this be?
Firstly, the biggest confusion out there seems to be the different roles in the web arena.
In a super-simplistic breakdown, I’ve put together a list of the most common roles. Hopefully some of these descriptions will help clarify some of the confusion:
Often mistaken for the User Interface Designer, the User Experience (UX) Designer works at the ground level, getting to know your biz. They get right into the nitty gritty about who your customer is, what they are looking to do, and how they can do it. They don’t touch code or design at all. Their job is to make sure your site works for your customers, meaning more business for you. Essential for any business web site that is serious about getting ahead!
Education: Tertiary qualifications or some serious industry experience (think Business Analyst skills) are required for this role. It’s not for the feint hearted.
The UI (User Interface) designer takes the information from the UX designer and creates the layout of the site. They also plan out every single interactive piece on the site, even the tiniest of things – think icons, colour palettes, imagery, layouts and buttons… everything! They tend to build the prototypes in programs such as Sketch, Balsamiq and Invision.
Education: Tertiary qualifications are needed for this role. BA skills would also be handy here.
These folks are hard-core. They are building and developing *real code* to create the systems that we use and take for granted every day. Staring at screens tirelessly coding and taking pleasure from it. I only wish I had this passion and determination.
Think Guilfoyle & Dinesh from Silicon Valley. Hard core.
Education: Mixed, some are tertiary educated, some are self taught, but always passionate.
A Web Designer is somebody who can comfortably build a site from scratch using HTML & CSS, but these days is most likely to be using existing technology such as WordPress, Drupal or Joomla etc. A true web designer’s tool of choice would be notepad, sublime text or even Dreamweaver.
They know how to configure and arrange everything to create a site that is unique to your needs, not some ho-hum copy of everybody else. To consider yourself a designer, you need to know HTML, CSS and jScript as a minimum. PHP is a bonus!
A good Web Designer also considers (and tests) their work across different browsers and devices to make sure your site works everywhere.
Education: A large portion of web designers have a tertiary education in web design, but there are also many that are self educated and are top notch.
This tends to be the most common predicament where Creators call themselves Web Designers, when it isn’t the case. The Creators may have built a few web sites using an online web builder (think WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, Shopify etc) and base their business on repeating this process for other people. Technology makes it so easy for people to be able to build their own web sites quickly and easily, so who can blame them.
The danger of engaging a Web Creator is that they often don’t understand how the systems or technology works and find themselves in big trouble when:
a) they try to make significant changes to the style sheet or code,
b) the client needs something that their ‘easy’ web system can’t accommodate, or
c) the client wants a site that is unique and doesn’t look like everybody else’s.
Quite often Web Designers find themselves having to step in when a Creator has gotten themselves in too deep. I get jobs like this all the time, so I’m not complaining. It’s not ideal for the business owner though.
Education: None, web creators tend to be self taught with not much experience.
If you’re lucky, you can find a gem who can do all of the above! It’s pretty uncommon though as (from experience) coders prefer to stick to code and leave the pretty stuff to the designers. Personally, I can do all except the intense back-end development. Disclaimer, I’ve been in the industry a very long time. HTML & CSS are my jam, but I can code with php & jscript (even cold fusion) if I need to.
There is no rule-book out there saying who can and can’t be a web designer, or graphic designer for that matter. But what really matters is if your skills can back up your claims.
If you’re just looking for a really simple web page (or site) for now, there’s nothing wrong with hiring a Web Creator. Just be aware of the limitations and risk. Don’t be driven by cost alone because your web site is an investment that will pay you back over time. Remember, it’s your 24/7 sales person.
Think of the time and energy it takes to find the right employee. Your web site should be treated the same way.
Sure, there is web building software out there that has pre-made templates and layouts that make things beautiful. But a real web designer can get right into the site, make it unique to your business, get it working seamlessly and driving traffic to you!
How can you have a competitive edge if you look exactly like your competitors?
Food for thought.
If you have concerns about how your web design project is progressing, or want to find out if a particular designer is the right fit for you, book in a quick online chat with me to discuss your concerns and get an unbiased opinion. I can even recommend some stellar (professional & experienced) developers and designers who produce amazing work at a surprisingly reasonable price.