Freelancer Faceoff – Designer vs. Developer

Chatting with Top Designers & Developers

For this topic I had the pleasure of getting feedback from renowned and successful designers and developers (and those that specialize in both)! Get insights into critical questions you’ve all had on your mind through their honest feedback. I hope their wisdom and perceptions will provide a clear understanding of these roles that are often thought to be interchangeable. Here are our interviewees:

As a designer/developer or both, which profession do you think is harder in terms of job scope?

Let’s start by addressing just what each party does. A Web Designer is responsible for the visual look and feel of a website. Their goal is to solve a quantifiable issue addressed by the client through the use of layout, color, and typography. While focusing on creating a unique branding experience, it is often common for designers to get lost on how things will function. On the other hand, a Web Developer’s role is to do just that – make a functional, accessible experience for the viewer. They’re focused on creating a website the “right way” and will be the first to point out something that doesn’t make sense.

It is often thought each role relies on either of the brain’s two hemispheres. The designer, often relying on intuition, relies on the right side of the brain whereas the logical, linear developer makes use of the left side. If you’re wondering how this may lead to animosity on either side I’ll point you to this article by Web Designer Depot.

Designers/Developers Verdict

As a designer/developer or both, which profession do you think is harder in terms of job scope?

AmberAmber Weinberg, Developer
“Designing is definitely harder in terms of pleasing the client because it’s so ambiguous. Development is harder in terms of skill because there are so many different languages to learn.”
SpeiderSpeider Schneider, Designer
“I’m a designer but I think both disciplines are difficult due to changes and “design-by-committee.” Whenever you have to make changes, you face either a lot of redesigning or re-coding. Both mean a lot of headaches and frustration. Even without changes, both are hard and need knowledge and technical know-how.”
KaylaKayla Knight, Designer & Developer
“I then got into design, though, and realized there’s a lot more to it. Over the years I’ve had to learn different user interface techniques, advanced photoshop tricks, perfect my understanding of basic design principles and finally how to put them into good practice. One of the biggest things I’ve noticed in job scope from a developer-to-designer is that designers have to work with a lot more clients that are uneducated in the field. As a developer, many of my projects come from designers looking to team up. They already know the business, they can explain to me exactly what they need/want.”
CameronCameron Chapman, Designer
“I think both have their difficulties. I always look at it as design is about 60-70% creativity, and 30-40% problem solving. Developing and coding is the opposite, about 60-70% problem-solving, and 30-40% creativity. Design is easier on the surface, if only because it’s more intuitive to an extent, and the technical aspects are easier to learn. Programming, on the other hand, is more complicated to learn.”
ChrisChris Spooner, Designer
“Being more of an artistic person I’d say Development is a harder profession simply because I don’t know as much about the subject, so I’d struggle with any development related tasks. Overall though there are difficulties in both jobs, a designer can find it challenging to capture the message that’s required in visual format whereas a developer might face more technical difficulties when ironing out bugs in a website.”
JonJon Philips, Designer & Developer
“I think both can be difficult and it’s a matter of planning. No matter if you’re a designer or a developer, good planning will make your job a whole lot easier. I personally prefer designing and working on interfaces and solving UI and UX problems to coding, but that’s my personal preference. I think both professions mean more than just designing or coding, each have to wear many hats (usability, user experience, etc…)”
DavidDavid Walsh, Developer
“As someone who considers himself 90% developer and 10% designer (and I use that term loosely), I would argue that the developer’s job is much harder. And in saying that, I certainly don’t mean to discredit the designer’s role or skill.Developers can be faced with extremely difficult problems and tasks. Getting technologies that aren’t meant to work together communicating, providing solutions to difficult logistical problems, etc. Look at some of the subprojects within Dojo’s “dojox” namespace: charting libraries, GFX (programmatic vector graphic creation), mobile frameworks, WYSIWYG editors – these efforts take hundreds of hours of development to achieve and are never truly complete.”

Do you feel one group is viewed more favorably in the eyes of the client?

You show your portfolio to a client and they can see all the great potential you can offer their product or service, but do they understand all the back-end development work that goes into their website? Do they even care? While it is important to note that appearance is vital in web design, functionality ultimately is something that will make the visitor stay on your website.

Before you say a client is likely to appreciate what a designer can do for them let me remind you that the design process isn’t always as smooth sailing as that first client interaction. With websites like Clients From Hell, it’s apparent the designer/client relationship can be rocky and there’s often a disconnect between what the client perceptions are and the seasoned designers point of view. It’s in the best interest of both parties to lay out the expectations and objectives of the particular project beforehand, removing any sort of confusions that may arise later on. If you’re at a tough spot it is often up to the designer to educate and advise the client, in these situations, on what is correct.

Designers/Developers Verdict

Do you feel one group is viewed more favorably in the eyes of the client?

SpeiderSpeider Schneider, Designer
“I think clients all believe they have a creative design sense but have no idea what it takes to do the technical end of web development. When drag-and-drop programs were out there for creating web sites with simple HTML, clients made their own sites and proudly told people they “designed their own sites.” That explains the infusion of prancing glitter unicorns farting rainbows, even on business sites! As far as pay levels, I think developers are more respected but crowdsourcing is killing all creative/technical fees. At least there are no contests screaming, “code our web site and win an iPod!” Are there?”
KaylaKayla Knight, Designer & Developer
“In contrast, a client can see a designer’s work and know whether it’s something they want to pay for or not. On top of that, a designer can talk about how a great design and user interface can be arranged to get the website more results (even though browser compatibility and fast loading times can do the same thing), but clients just seem to understand a designer’s view more clearly.”
DavidDavid Walsh, Developer
“I’ve always felt that the designer is viewed more favorably by the client because they can provide a picture (the design) that the client can smile about. The designer is considered creative and can easily illustrate to a client what they did and why. The client can point to something within the design and say “I don’t like that” or “Can we move this over there?” The process is much more transparent to the client.A developer is much less appreciated by clients because clients expect a website to work. The client has nothing to point to and has very little concept of the problems and pitfalls of doing what they ask for. When a website feature isn’t working correctly (or is perceived to not work correctly), the client usually cannot provide any detail. In my experience, clients generally just get mad and demand it be fixed as soon as possible.

In many cases, being a web developer can be a very thankless, “man-behind-the-curtain” type of job.”

CatalinCatalin Rosu, Designer & Developer
“I’m not sure if a group is viewed more favorably or not than another but I’d say that when it comes to coding/developing there are two options: you know how to code or you don’t. On the other hand, when it comes to design, clients tend to express their personal opinions more than they should.”
CassJacob Cass, Designer
“I don’t think that many clients understand what goes into making a website / app / etc. both in terms of design & development. Even some designers don’t know what is involved in the development process, especially with the more complicated back end work. It’s our job to educate & explain why they need something, rather than how it is done.”
GubeJacob Gube, Designer & Developer
“Not only do I consider myself both a developer and a designer, I’ve also worked with many, many designers and developers. In my years of experience, the only people I see being favored are those that do it well, on time, and on budget. I’ve seen developers and designers being well-loved by their employers because they work efficiently and produce high-quality work. I’ve also seen developers and designers fail, not because of their profession, but rather, because of their poor work. At the end of the day, it’s the product and the bottom line that ultimately decides whether you’re going to get another gig from the same employer. It’s a simplistic viewpoint, but one that’s grounded in reality.”
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4 Responses to Freelancer Faceoff – Designer vs. Developer

  1. Jonah says:

    Awesome piece of writing, We are checking back on a regular to look around for up-grades.

  2. Tessa says:

    I would really like to say thanks very much for your work you have made in writing this post. I am hoping the same top work from you down the road too.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Tessa – It was a great opportunity to not only write this article but get feedback from such great designers and developers. Stay tuned for more articles!

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