Do I need a web designer or developer/programmer?


I have an idea for a web startup. I really feel that it doesn't need any complicated technology, can I just use a designer instead of developer? And if I do, and my website proves popular and I want to expand, will I run into more problems with a non-custom developed website?

Here's an example: The way zappos started, he would get orders online and go buy the shoes in a store and ship them himself. That's how mine can start (totally different concept, just trying to prove a point). But eventually he had to automate that transition harder? Is it maybe good to start with somthing really basic and see if it gets off the ground?

Thanks for your advice.

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asked Mar 12 '11 at 12:04
214 points
  • Tony Hsieh (Zappo's CEO) graduated from Harvard with CS degree, had previous experience as a founder and CEO of successful startup, Zappos had $500k in funding etc. It was such a different case that you can't draw any analogies between Zappos and your idea. – Krzysztof Kowalczyk 13 years ago
  • If you read his book, it says how he would take orders for shoes online, go to an actual store, buy them and send them. That's what I'm comparing, not our skills or funding. – Aslyesnow 13 years ago

6 Answers


-Most of these answers are good. Here is my two cents:

To do it well, you need both. The more you focus on "consumers" or B2C, the more I think you need a designer to "brand" your site, give it personality and make the way it works really intuitive (which is important for sales conversions or stickiness, i.e., getting people to stay on the site). Branding and user experience is what we're good at doing.

Developers make it work correctly so that is the first place to start. However, the more complex your shopping or check out process or whatever it is that your site does, the more you will need an experienced designer.

The web development process looks something like this:

  1. Definition: define your goals clearly in writing. (Project owner)
  2. Research: information you need that will help you make good decisions (Project owner)

    • Your audience: Who are they exactly, what do they need, what do they know or not know? Answering these questions, will help you make a site that is tailored to the level of your users. If they are subject matter experts or tech savvy, you don't need to make the site too basic. For everyone else, you need to make the language and the site user experience really basic.
    • You content: what content will you need. Note: gathering and creating content is extremely time consuming!
  3. Site design (designer)

    • Information architecture: inventory all existing content, describe what new content is required, and define the organizational structure of the site. At this step you want to develop a site map.
    • Navigation and page layout: Now you sketch out roughly what content goes on each page and you try to give the different pieces hierarchy (what gets emphasized). You will want to develop wire frames (sketches of where everything goes on each page of the site map) and some basic user tested prototypes demonstrating site architecture.
    • Visual design and branding: the last step in the design process: here you define branding and all that goes into it: the grid, the typefaces and their sizes, the colores, etc. You also commission and select photos, illustrations, and audiovisual content, etc.
  4. Front-end development (designer and/or front-end developer/ and/or back-end developer)

    • In this step, the finished design mockups get turned into HTML and CSS so that the site is visible in browsers. If you want to do it cheap and easy then you can probably do it with a backend developer. If you want the visual design and user experience reflected accurately in the browser then maker sure to hire either a designer with strong front-end skills or a pure front-end developer. Many programmers don't care about visuals, so if design is important to you keep this in mind as a lot of details that make up a design can easily get lost along the way.

  5. Back-end development/build and testing (back-end developer)

    • All programming in place and linked to pages, ready for user testing
    • All database components in place and linked to site pages, etc.
    • All graphic design, illustration, video and photography in place
    • Final proofreading of all site content
    • Detailed testing of database and programming functionality
answered Aug 10 '11 at 20:27
Miguel Buckenmeyer
482 points


You can use both, but not on a full-time basis. What you're attempting to do may not be real complicated, but having people work outside their element can be counter-productive. I've had people ask me to build a website, but graphics are a weakness. Even if I can get something to look OK, it takes me too much time. I can do the database stuff a lot easier.

I believe in doing things manually at the beginning and then automating. You may get over-whelmed with orders, but with the money coming in you can always find help. Then you build your systems and automation.

answered Mar 12 '11 at 12:46
Jeff O
6,169 points
  • Thanks, and what would come first? Do they have to be able to work together? – Aslyesnow 13 years ago


Typically you want to have designers and developers on the same team. They do not have to be full time employees, but should at least be able to form a three way communication "triangle" with you, they will need to be able to share your concept of this website, what it does, who its for, etc.

You will also need to consider your target audience to decide whether you need a great site design from the get go. If you are facing toward consumers, you should have at least a eye catching website to begin with. If your target is businesses, the connections you establish might be a lot more important.

When you move from manual to automated product fulfillment, you will need more programming power at your disposal to help you setup automated payment, invoicing and security features on the website.

As others suggests, is a great place to hire programmers and designers for part-time work.

I would also suggest you try to gain some basic knowledge in web design/programming yourself, since it would make life easier for you to understand the language when dealing with the hired guns.

answered Mar 12 '11 at 17:45
131 points


Since you said it's a simple site, at first, you need neither.

Registering a domain name and finding a suitable host are simple. Then you install WordPress and find a theme (commercial or free) suitable to your idea.

Most important are content and some skill at writing persuasive copy for landing pages.

Later, as your idea/site begin to grow, you can revisit spending money on designers/developers. At the beginning, it's largely wasted money.

WordPress is very SEO friendly out of the box. It's also scalable. And, it's free.

answered Aug 12 '11 at 02:13
11 points


You need both. Yes.

Perhaps a designer first to build mock-up screens (e.g. PSD -> XHTML) and build up the user experience and then a programmer to hook the web UI up with databases and handle the programmatic aspects of the web application.

answered Mar 15 '11 at 05:21
Ron M.
4,224 points


If you have a plan, create a mockup (f.e. with - there are free alternatives) to express your ideas. Write a few words on complicated stuff, if any. Make sure your mockup is perfect. It is the document which needs to be completed by designer/developer.

Then speak to a designer, explain everything and ask him to create a design and a styleguide (a guide after which a programmer can create elements like buttons, without asking everytime a designer).

When you have the design and the styleguide, go to a programmer. Tell him what he should implement, following the guides.

Sometimes the designer creates html out of a for example photoshop file. The HTML is sometimes pretty bad, so you need to discuss with both, deisgner and programmer, who might be more suitable for this job. Sometimes programmers do not even have photoshop installed.

You'll probably need the designer for a few hours (forgotten elements, questions) when the programming phase starts. It even does make sense to utilize the programmer for a few hours to the several design outputs before they are agreed upon. Some elements waste tons of time, even when they look easy. So it is good to have a programmer there who can tell if a specific element wastes money or not; sometimes it can be designed another way.

answered Aug 10 '11 at 19:37
3,590 points

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