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Website designer, website developer or website assembler?

Category: Website Design & Development Published on Apr 30

Website design is a very broad term used and can cause confusion for most people that are looking to get their business online. In fact, it is so confusing that many companies that provide the service of getting your business online, are not even sure what category they belong to. Hopefully this will help you understand who does what, which then can help you decide which one is best for you.


Website design is a very broad term used and can cause confusion for most people that are looking to get their business online. In fact, it is so confusing that many companies that provide the service of getting your business online, are not even sure what category they belong to. Hopefully this will help you understand who does what, which then can help you decide which one is best for you.

These will be very general but should give you an idea of who does what, what the different terms are, and guide you in the direction of which type of online solution you should be looking for. Before you go through the selection process of what type of company to work with, you should have someone create an IA document for you (any half decent website designer will be able to help you with this one), and figure out your base marketing strategy. These two are the key to increasing the chances of success online and are more important than who you work with on developing an online solution for your business.

Website Design
This is typically done by a graphic designer, this includes the actual design of your website that the end user will see. A sub-category of the website design would be content layout, but that can typically be done by anyone. These are essentially all the visual aspects of your website, anything from colors, layout and down to the little things such as font selection and other things like that. For companies that are looking to cut costs on their website development, then a cheap option would be to purchase a license for a “template”. This can be done on website like templatemonster.com. You will not have a custom website design, but you will have something that was professionally done by a graphic designer.

Website Development
This work is done by an actual programmer, and refers to all the coding that drives your website. Developers normally will sit and look at code all day, and are the ones that make things “function” on your website. There are many companies that do offer custom development, which means, in layman terms, that they can customize a process that fits the way you do business, instead of you having to do what the “software” dictates. There are many developers that focus on developing for Open Source solutions, but there are just as many if not more that work for custom developers. The custom developers can normally do more things for you specifically, since open source developers are normally developing for the masses and do not have you as a specific client in mind when developing. Developers are also the ones that normally will convert your design to an actual functioning website online, be it using simple html code, creating the CSS, or even custom programming your back end. Cost for this can vary depending on what the developer specializes in and how they go about developing your website.

Website Assembly
This seems to be a big trend where people learn how to assemble a website, using other developers tools and code and in many cases templates from other designers (This is what most companies that use Open source do). This can in many cases be done by anyone that has sufficient knowledge about computer and software and they really do not need to know any design or programming at all. All they do is take the pieces from others and put them together. Many companies out there today that call themselves developers or even designers fall into this category, and in most cases they truly belong in neither. Some of them can offer custom development, where they hire a 3rd party or possibly have someone in house that can create custom processes for programs such as wordpress, drupal, or other open source CMS.

In most cases these will all overlap to a certain extent, and you can work with companies that do some, all, or only one of these. For example, there are companies that will only do the design part, companies that will only do the development part, and then there are quite a few that only do the assembly part.

Here are two examples based on companies that use CMS for their websites (there are more versions of this but hopefully this will explain the biggest differences):

Company A – Website design and development company
This company works with a proprietary CMS, they will have the flexibility to modify the code behind your website to fit certain processes. They will normally have a graphic designer on staff that will actually do the design part of your website. The assembly part, in this case, will be done by programmers as well since there are very few restrictions on what the software itself will allow you to do, so this will be customized to your specific needs. Many companies in the development industry have gone to a modular format, where they have the base development of a process or feature done, which they will then customize to fit your specific needs if needed. This also means these companies have more freedom with tying modules together and this should make the management of the website easier for whoever will be working with it long term. Most top websites in the world have been developed using some kind of proprietary code.

Company B – Website design and Assembly Company
Most of these companies will use someone else’s code. Be it an open source or proprietary system they use to create your website. Many of these companies will start with a template and then do simple changes such as change the colors, and replace the logo and images. They will then find suitable “modular” elements that fit the general needs of whoever they are working for and put all the pieces together. With proprietary systems these will normally all work together fairly easily because they are developed to work together. With open source many times you can´t have multiple modules working together as one because they have been created by different developers that did them with a specific purpose in mind (which was not tying them in with other elements). As an example, a very common OS system that is widely used is OScommerc. We see more of those types of OS assembled websites than any other OS software websites. Many of these websites are quite good, but many of them do not do what they should do because different elements do not work together. There are quite a few successful website that have been developed using this concept, but unfortunately there are quite a few more that never take off because they are too cumbersome to manage.

Some other terms you may come across in this industry are; website implementation, search engine optimization, internet marketing, search engine marketing and pay per click campaigns. Even though these terms are related to the internet marketing industry, does not mean that it is something you have to have the companies you hire to do your website, do as well.