When it comes to building a website, there seems to be some amount of controversy as to just who does what. Sometimes you hear the person referred to as a ‘web designer’ and other times that person is referred to as a web developer. Then there is a webmaster and just why there are so many titles, often with overlapping duties, is anyone’s guess. Sometimes these terms are used synonymously and other times they have very distinct roles, which is probably how it was meant to be.

So then, if you are in the process of starting a web development business, you might want to consider donning all three hats from time to time. If you want to seal the deal and grow your business rapidly, it pays to offer a wide range of services to capture the largest client base. Here’s a bit about the traditional understanding of each title and why you should be able to offer the services implicit within that title.

An Overview of Web Development

What many people confuse as being a webmaster actually pertains to what it is that a web developer does. Before getting into the specific tasks of a webmaster, it might be wise to look at what the original function of a web developer was meant to be. A web developer’s duties can be subdivided into three main functions. Web development consists of:

  1. Scripting on the client side.
  2. Scripting on the server side.
  3. Technology pertinent to databases.

So then, a web developer is responsible for the technology that goes into building a website. It involves the use of various types of code and scripting, all of which involves the actual mechanics of how a website functions and what a viewer will see and access on the web. Yes, this is extremely simplistic, but it gives a general understanding of what a web developer does.

A Step Down in Hierarchical Order – the Webmaster

While this might imply that a webmaster is somehow less important than a web developer, the responsibilities are on an even plane of importance. The web developer is responsible for creating the site and the webmaster is responsible for what goes on the site once it is developed. A webmaster is charged with making sure visitors have a great user experience and that is often accomplished by keeping Google happy. From the content that is published on the site to the way in which traffic is generated, a webmaster is in charge of these duties.

So now you can see the basic difference. The web developer is like a general contractor that builds the house and the webmaster is like the realtor who is charged with selling that real estate. Somewhere in between the two is a web designer who works to make the ‘real estate’ visually attractive with ease of navigation. So, with the web developer being the builder, the web designer functioning part of the time as a developer and part of the time like an interior designer with the webmaster determining what features should go in the house and then making them fit, it’s definitely a team with overlapping responsibilities.

An Example of the Distinction in Roles

One really good example of the differentiation in roles they play would be when a webmaster is helping a business utilize apps for ecommerce transactions. The data needs to be synchronized within the company’s platform which just happens to be located in the cloud. Integration between the main platform and applications added along the way saves time and money if all the data can be synchronized and pulled to one central location. Here is where a web developer would come in because this would be the person with the technical expertise to handle an iPaaS cloud integration platform for connecting your apps and synchronizing data.

While these tools are becoming more and more user friendly, some tools outside a system like Celigo would necessitate coding and manual setup for the synchronization. At any rate, this is one clear distinction between the roles. The webmaster loads the apps onto the website, but it will take the technical knowledge, in many cases, of a web developer to synchronize all that data.

Then What Is a Web Designer?

Now you are almost certainly wondering exactly what a web designer is and does. To tell the truth, this seems to be a blend of the above two professions. If you look at the services of web design companies, they offer custom websites, built from the ground up like a web developer does, but most also offer content creation and the visual attributes that go into making a website both attractive and user friendly.

While it isn’t always clear what the difference is between a web designer and a web developer, it appears as though a web developer leans more toward the technical side of building a website and a web designer deals with some of the technical aspects of a site but also leans heavily towards building the ‘look’ and ‘feel’ of the site. Again, just like the architect and builder (developers) build the home, the interior designer gives it that comfortable look while seeing to the placement of all those little extras that make a home more livable.

The Bottom Line for a Web Development Startup

In the end, it would behoove a web developer to offer an assortment of services that go into building a lucrative website because it seems as though that’s what most people expect. Perhaps you could have three distinct people on staff in charge of the various components of a site, but if your budget doesn’t allow for it, you’ll need to be a jack of all trades and hopefully a master of all as well.

Perhaps as time goes on, the distinction will become clearer or some titles may become obsolete, but for the time being, a really good web development startup will have all of the above – and more!

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