Designer or Developer? Determining Your Skill Set As a Student

To this day, I don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up. I went to college with the expectation of graduating with a Computer Science degree, but instead I walked out with a Design degree. If anything, I found that my college career adjustments would be a indication as to how I would eventually fit into the web design field. Even now, I wear many different web hats, but they all fit.

But what about you? What do you want to do? Would you rather be a developer – writing code to solve problems? Or, would you rather be a designer – pushing pixels to solve problems? How do you find out which is more interesting to you? There are a lot of questions you should be asking yourself, but don’t expect anybody to give you the answers. You need to experiment to find out where your strengths lie; and in experimentation, many new things come to light.

Blur or Focus?

First off, what are you more comfortable doing? Again with my example, I started down one path and eventually changed direction, but I made sure a lot of what was learned came along for the ride. If you want to get your hands dirty with both disciplines, I recommend the following right out of the gate:

Join a Small Web Design Team

Being on a small design team forces everybody to wear many hats. To be successful, it’s sometimes required of all involved to adapt in their duties and help each other out. Understanding what your partner is doing and having the ability to step up and work on the same project is important. You work fast and you learn a boatload of information in a small amount of time.

My first job out of college threw me into this environment and I loved every minute of it. Even though I had a design degree, I was expected to help with Flash development, PHP, JavaScript, ColdFusion, HTML/CSS, and even some video compositing from time to time. Small team environments allow you to taste a bit of everything, hopefully finding a new interest in a particular area.

While this scenario allows for gained knowledge on a lot of topics, it also comes with a price: the old “jack of all trades” axiom. Sure it’s great to be able to have a lot of different skills, but you are never truly exceptional at any one of them.

Sure it’s great to be able to have a lot of different skills, but you are never truly exceptional at any one of them.

Join a Large Web Design Team

More often than not, larger teams mean a higher chance of specialization. Here you could have a defined role. You may be able to spend a lot more time in a single discipline, work with others with the same skill set (it’s doubtful that you are the only web designer there), then gain valuable experience and insight.

In either case, you get to try both the developer or designer tracks out. With a small team environment, the structure is mutable, so you can quickly move from the designer role to developer and back again. Be warned that you may not stay on one discipline long enough to get all you can out of it. The learning curve is steep and the skill retention is not very long.

With larger teams, you can more quickly build on your knowledge in one area, but you may not have as many opportunities to try different skills on for size.

Designer and Developer?

A combination of both skills is extremely valuable these days. The “double threat” of a designer who can code a bit or a developer who has an eye for design looks excellent on a resume and is sought after by many a company.

If you are primarily a designer, it would be in your best interest to pick up a web development book or two. Even if you would rather focus on the design discipline, having the vocabulary of a web developer will get you far. It can make the workflow smoother between the designer and developer, and your designs can be better suited to the project since you know a bit of the code’s capabilities. If the site will be in Flash, design for it. If the project will be an HTML/CSS/JS combo, then your designs will reflect this.

I don’t mean to say that you should stifle your designs to meet the code, but keeping in mind how the design will be built will help everybody in the long run. By all means, go nuts with your layout.

Conversely, if you are a developer, speak with a designer from time to time. Learn the lingo, understand the basic concepts of grid, typography, and color. Your CSS will be all the better for it.

This may be a different path to take, but it allows for greater focus in one discipline, while simultaneously integrating knowledge from the other side into your workflow. It can only help you. This isn’t the same as a “jack-of-all-trades” situation. You are primarily a designer or primarily a developer with a small bit of knowledge of the other side – enough to be dangerous. You shouldn’t be claiming to be able to do both at an equal skill level.

Conclusion

Well, up to this point I have been writing in generalities. This was not an accident, and this article wasn’t really meant to tell you what path to choose. The point here is to give you a heads-up on how to approach the choice. If you have a little bit of knowledge in each skill, then you are in a good position to make that next step. If not, here’s your opportunity to learn from others more experienced than you.

If you have already made your decision, good for you! But you may want to think about bringing in some of the other side. Ride the fence a bit. Take a look around and make a smart decision that will benefit all who work with you.

Choosing a Website Marketing and Development Specialist

What to consider when looking for quality web site development

Once you are done planning and preparing for your web site, the next step in establishing an online presence is finding the right company, contractor, or consultant to deliver the web development services you need.

However important a website’s appearance is, the performance and results of any website rely largely on what’s beneath its surface; that which is not seen or fully understood by most. This article is not intended to be a general how to guide on comparing prices and services, but rather advice from an expert on what you should consider when looking for professional website design, web development, and internet promotion that you may not already be aware of.

Differences between Building, Designing and Marketing web presences

Understanding the differences between designing a website, building a website, and making a website visible online will help ensure that you choose a website developer that can meet all your goals and demands.

Building proper and professional web sites which perform and operate optimally is a highly technical process. This includes a website’s load time, certain aspects of its speed of operation, the ability for the web site to work properly and coherently across the many different web browsers and operating systems, and many aspects of potential online visibility. Each of these factors are dependent upon the build of the website – the way in which it was programmed and created. Properly building a website is something many web designers and online marketers fail to be concerned with or take interest in, and frankly they are often unable to handle the process correctly.

Creating effective and appropriate custom website designs on the other hand is an artistic and creative process. You want your web site to be easy and intuitive to use and navigate. It should be enticing and interesting to browse through, and you want the mood and emotion your web site portrays to reflect your identity and image branding. Not only will this catch your audience’s attention – it will enhance your credibility to deliver the products or services you are promising. The design of a website is extremely important, and should be managed accordingly.

Online Promotion and Marketing of web sites encompasses all aspects of a website’s online visibility, including internet advertising, visits from search engines, links from external web pages, and so on. Depending on a website’s goals and purposes, market, and competition, internet marketing is often the most beneficial and cost effective form of promotion available to a company. A website that pulls in around 10,000 visitors a month and generates, say, $30,000 a month in income, could possibly generate $100,000 a month if only it had 40,000 or so visitors. The problem is, as a highly technical and constantly evolving area, most websites are not developed with search engine optimization (SEO) or other important aspects of internet marketing for websites in mind. In fact, studies reveal that as many as 90% of all business-related websites currently on the internet are not built or developed with any regard to online visibility!

Evaluating prospective Web Developers

It is important for anyone who is seeking website development services to understand that many website designers know surprisingly little about properly building or marketing websites. Likewise, many website developers know very little about design and online promotion, and many internet marketers are not concerned with web design or properly building web sites. Understanding what you need and what you will be receiving is imperative to the success of your web presence, and automatically puts you at an advantage over 9 out of 10 websites.

Evaluating Web Design – Portfolios

The only place you should have to look to evaluate a web developer’s designs is to their own website’s portfolio. Any established website developers will offer a portfolio of web sites they have created for other clients, as well as links to the sites. Depending on what you are looking for in a web developer, some things you may want to look for in regards to this portfolio include;

  • Is their work generally similar in design, or do their clients’ sites look unique and appropriate for their purpose?
  • Are their designs and sites consistent and appealing throughout?
  • Are any of the sites flashy and largely graphical?
  • Are there videos, animation, or custom graphics?
  • Are there any e-commerce sites, shopping carts, or other interactive elements?

Evaluating Website Builds

Unfortunately, the people who can spot a good website creator are usually web site builders themselves. Whereas a website appears to most people as simply presentation and function, the truth is that the elements most detrimental to many online presences’ success rates are factors that most people and even many website developers overlook or are often simply unaware of.

There are only a few things that someone without a website development background can easily evaluate in terms of building websites properly:

  • Look for any inconsistencies across pages, odd characters, missing graphics, forms not working, pages not found, or any other technical problems you may be able to identify on the websites.
  • If you have access to several different computers with various operating systems (Windows Vista, Windows 98, Mac OS, etc.) and web browsers (Internet Explorer, Fire Fox, Opera, Safari, Netscape, etc.) you can visit the sites on different browsers and computers and check for consistency and functionality.

Evaluating Online Promotion and Web Marketing

Trying to evaluate web promotion services can easily become confusing. With all the technical terms and fine print, it is often hard to know what you are really getting. For instance, many Search Engine Optimization (SEO) companies guarantee such things as first page listings with a major search engine. Often, however, they will use technical terms to provide clients with something else – usually a paid advertisement that appears on the first page, which is not nearly as valuable.

The best advice I can give for evaluating online promotion performance is to obtain actual performance results, and preferably references. Evaluate what was promised by the website promoter, what was actually delivered, and the value of the marketing. There are no set limits to the performance of a website; all you can do is try to figure out who can provide you with the biggest return on investment and the service most valuable to your site.

Also, be weary of any companies that make specific search engine result guarantees – no one can directly control their results, as algorithms and competition evolve. No search results are set in stone.

Choosing the right web developer for you

There are companies and consultants who specialize in single areas of design, building, or promotion of websites, offering only these services, and others who specialize in the entire aspect of web presences. While choosing the right solution for your particular website depends on your specific needs and goals, having an idea of the various options and knowing what to look for in a web developer allows you to make a more informed and better decision.

Enjoy the Professional Web Design Services

Outsourcing web design and development is certain to make it possible to create an online business presence that is able to increase the quality and productivity at a faster pace than want you might be able to achieve by yourself. A skilled team of web designers will be able to create a customized site that is able to perfectly match the needs. Here are some of the main aspects related to sourcing the right web design agency –

Knowledge and Experience: To help with finding the ideal candidate for developing a website it will certainly benefit to invest the time into researching some of the finest companies in the industry. By reviewing the portfolio of completed work you are able to get a great appreciation of the qualities that a potential business partner is able to offer. Even thought it is certainly possible to locate a competent web design services offering the more budget-friendly prices, you still need to conduct the necessary due diligence to make sure you play safe in the process of hiring the right company. An inspection of the testimonials received, projects completed, and company information is certain to help with compiling a short list of the most promising web developers.

Prior to passing the responsibility of designing the website to the professionals you need to make certain they use a well qualified team of QA engineers, content writes, SEO experts, developers, designers, and programmers.

Proper Maintenance: Beyond the ability to develop and design a website it also helps if you are able to use the services of the web design agencies that are able to provide ongoing support. A web design project isn’t likely to be complete once the site is launched and goes live. Maintaining a site is likely to be just as vital as having it developed in the first place. Beyond the need to provide necessary updates in the future, you also want to make certain a web development service is able to provide the skilled personal that is able to help with the SEO. A more all-inclusive service is able to help with marketing the website to gain the required targeted traffic that is certain to be highly desirable.

All in all, if you are searching for the available services from the professional web designers, you will certain find a range of choices available to help with creating a high quality online platform for helping to market the services or products for sale.