Do You Need a Website Designer or a Developer?
So you want a new website - great! But who is going to build it for you?
If you're interested in creating a website for your business but have no idea where to start or who to contact, this is a pretty good place to begin!
You actually have quite a few options to choose from when deciding who will create your website, and each option comes with their own very different set of skills and cost too:
Website Designer (template design, often works solo)
Website Designer AND Website Developer
The Unicorn (custom design; can do design and development)
An Agency (custom design, with designers, developers & PMs under one roof)
So yes, there are some confusing overlaps going on here, and whilst these sound fairly similar, the differences are important to consider when researching who to reach out to for help.
What's the difference between template design & custom design?
To add even more confusion to the mix, I'd like to point out that some designers offer BOTH template AND custom design services. But again there is a big price difference between these services.
Whether you'll be creating your website using Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress, all the platforms have the ability to use templates (essentially pre-designed layouts) as a foundation for the website design.
Depending on the platform (or in the case of WordPress, which template you purchase and install), many of these templates will let you customise just about everything in order to fit with your brand and business - from colours, fonts and page layouts. It simply acts as a starting point for your designer.
Using a template obviously means it takes less time for the designer to create your website, which is why it is usually a more affordable option for small businesses, startups and freelancers.
(Learn about the differences between Squarespace and WordPress).
Creating a custom website means mostly starting from scratch and coming up with a brand new design and layout that is created for you, rather than customising/tweaking a template that already exists. This usually requires both a designer AND a developer, or someone who is adept at both, and is only possible on self-hosted platforms like WordPress.
Businesses may decide they want a custom design if they want to be sure their website is completely unique and tailored to exactly what they want, or if they have a lot of features and ideas that they can't find in a template.
With custom design, there is no limitations to your creativity and ideas, but because it takes longer, and requires both the design and development skills, it therefore means the process is more expensive. This is why it is a more common choice for larger, more established businesses.
What does a developer do?
A developer usually doesn't need to be involved with template design and customisation, unless the designer needs to outsource more complex customisation tasks that require coding.
However, custom design usually requires both a designer AND a developer (or someone who can do both!). While a designer will create the 'front-end' design/layout for your website in a program like Adobe Dreamweaver or Photoshop, and a developer will work on the 'back-end' of your website to put everything together and add functionality.
Sometimes there's an overlap!
Sometimes developers have design skills and knowledge, and sometimes designers will have development skills and knowledge, but most people have a strong suit that they will lean towards. Then there are 'Unicorn' people; those who can do both equally well!
Most designers, whether creating custom websites or designing with templates, will have some HTML and CSS knowledge. This means that if a template has limited customisation options, they are able to add code themselves to make the necessary edits.
What's the cost difference?
The price difference of a Website Designer & Developer creating custom websites vs. a Website Designer using templates is usually pretty big, due to the difference in time and resources required. The examples below are for simple websites (ie. no big ecommerce stores, booking systems or membership sites):
TEMPLATE-BASED WEBSITE DESIGN
averages from £450 to £1,500
The price range is so big because it really depends on so many factors:
- The skills and reputation of the designer
- Who their target customers are
- Their unique selling point
- Whether they're doing advanced customisations with the help of a developer
- The length and detail of their process
CUSTOM WEBSITE DESIGN
averages from £2,000 to £8,000
Again there is a massive range here, but I'm including what some agencies charge for websites as well, and they have overheads and several team members to account for in that price. It also varies depending on the points above as well.
What's the Best Option for you?
I JUST NEED A SIMPLE 5 PAGE WEBSITE
If you're a small business or you're just starting out, you may just want a simple, well-designed website with a few pages to show who you are, but that doesn't cost you a tonne. In this case, finding a Website Designer who uses templates is the best option for you.
I WANT TO START A BLOG
Depending on what kind of blog you want to start and how fast you're planning to grow, I'd suggest a template-based website designer, to keep costs low in the beginning. Plus, there are so many blog templates out there already it's likely you'll find one that has everything you need in it anyway!
I WANT A SMALL ONLINE STORE
If you're a small business owner with a boutique store, there are loads of templates out there that a designer could customise to suit your needs. But it is worth considering how fast you plan to grow and whether an investment in a custom website would be worth it in a few months anyway!
I WANT A LARGE ONLINE STORE
When I say large, I'm talking along the lines of Ikea or Asos! For this kind of store it's likely you'll need a custom designed website to keep up with all the categories and future-proof the business. Also if you're competing in markets with large companies, a custom design will help you stand out.
I WANT A WEBSITE THAT IS TOTALLY UNIQUE WITH COMPLEX FEATURES/SYSTEMS
Templates are great for simpler websites, but they are limited. If you have loads of ideas and want to get really creative with your website, then a custom design is for you. But make sure you've had a good look at the template options out there first!
I WANT MY WEBSITE TO LOOK DIFFERENT BUT I DON'T HAVE A LOT TO SPEND
When you're hiring a designer, make sure to ask what kind of customisations they can do and how unique they can make your template look. Ask if they have code knowledge or whether they'd be willing to outsource small bits to a developer etc. If not, then you can always look into custom design - but beware, if the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Custom design takes a lot of skill and time, and skimping on a designer/developer will only lead to bad results.
Thinking of hiring a designer? Check out my blog post on 'decisions to make before hiring a designer'!