Getting a Programmer for Your Site

You may or may not need to hire a developer for your website. Just like with your site design, who you hire (and whether or not you hire anyone) depends a great deal on the type of site you are building. So let’s breakdown if and when you need to hire a developer/programmer/coder (they are one and the same) for your website.

 

Out-of-the-Box Websites

If you are building a site using one of the following website builders, you do not need a developer:

  • Jimdo
  • Squarespace
  • Weebly Wix

The whole point of these site builders is that you do not need a developer to build a website.

Yes, it’s possible to add some custom HTML to these sites but, if you are thinking of trying to further customize your site, you really should change your website to a CMS.

 

Content Management System (CMS)

If you are using a CMS, such as Drupal, Joomla or WordPress, you may or may not want a developer. There are two things a developer could do for you in the case of a CMS site:

  1. Installing and setting up your site
  2. Customizing your theme and other aspects

You should hire a developer for the first step if you are unfamiliar with installing the CMS on a server and setting up your theme. It’s more likely you’ll need a developer if you are using Drupal than if you are using WordPress. WordPress you can set up yourself, if you are willing to spend the time.

But hire a developer if you are not sure what to do. You need to make sure the developer has the following skills:

  • PHP coding experience (the code these CMSs are based in)
  • CSS (design and styling language)
  • HTML (the basic building block of the internet)

The customization of your site is a very, very different question: Normally, you should not overly customize a theme beyond making basic changes to its design (so that it no longer looks like a generic theme). The whole point of using a CMS is to not have a customized site. If you hire a developer to add customized PHP (or Javascript) to your theme, you will need a webmaster going forward, which is an expense you don’t necessarily need if you don’t customize the theme.

 

Custom Sites from Scratch

If you are building a site from scratch, you need a developer unless you know a programming language well enough to build a functioning website. But, as I’ve written elsewhere, you do not need one of these custom sites.

Who Should Design Your Website?

Unless you are using an out-of-the-box website creator, or a CMS template you find is perfect for your needs, you likely need a web designer. But there are a few things you need to consider.

Who Should Design Your Website?

The first thing to think about is, what type of site are you building? The type of site you are building should determine if you need a designer and what type of designer you need.

 

Out-of-the-box Site Creator

If you are using an out-of-the-box site creator, such as

  • Jimdo
  • Squarespace
  • Weebly
  • Wix

then you do not normally need a designer unless you do not like the template or you feel, like I feel, that your design skills are so bad that you would prefer someone arrange your template for you.

If you do want a designer, you should look for someone who has previous experience helping people with these templates. The last thing you want is someone who is going to create a beautiful picture for you which cannot be realized in your template. So do not hire someone who has pretty work but has never used your platform to create anything.

 

CMS

The point of a CMS is to use the pre-existing templates. However, sometimes those templates don’t quite look quite right or sometimes you don’t even want to set up the template yourself.

If this is your situation you want a designer who is comfortable customizing templates. In this case, and this case alone, that person might actually be a coder/developer. Just like with the out-of-the-box scenario, the last thing you want is someone who is going to create a design from scratch which cannot be realized in your template.

Make sure you’ve selected or purchased your template first, OR hire a designer who has templates they use (for your CMS), and don’t just hire someone because their work looks pretty.

 

Custom Site

If you must build a custom site, you must make sure you hire a designer who can design for the web. Usually, the company you’ve hired to build your website will have both designers and developers on staff. Make sure that’s true before you hire them! If you are working with one person to developer your site, know that this one person likley cannot be relied on to design it first. Designers and coders are not the same!¬†Just because a designer says he can code doesn’t mean he’s a good developer. And just because a coder says she’s got an eye for design doesn’t mean she can design. Do not hire one person to do both! Ever!

Who Should Build Your Website

Once you have decided what type of website you should have (choose a CMS like wordpress!), you need to decide who is going to build it.

  • If you are using an out-of-the-box website builder, you may need no help, especially if you yourself have an eye for design. (If you do not have an eye for design, you should get help.)
  • If you are using a CMS, you may or may not want to get some help, depending upon your expertise level. If you are okay with your website looking like this one you are on right now, you don’t need a designer, you can just buy a template. But you may want or need help setting up the CMS.
  • If you are getting your site custom built you will need two things, a design specifically for the web and a development team.

Here’s a handy chart:

What You NeedOut-of-the-Box Site Creator (Jimdo, SquareSpace, Weebly, Wix)CMS (Drupal, Joomla, Wordpress)Custom Built
DesignNot required, unless you are uncomfortable designing your site. But if you are, hire someone who has designed specifically using your site creator. Purchase a theme template. If you want more of a customized look, you can do it yourself, but you may want to hire someone with experience changing a template. Custom designs are not a great idea.You must have a designer familiar with designing specifically for the web.
Coding/DevelopmentNot requiredOnly required for customizations (not recommended)The only way your site is getting online is if you have a development team

One last piece of advice before we move on to the specifics: do not hire a designer to code your site and do not hire a coder to design your site. Under no circumstances. People will tell you they can do both. In most cases, they are lying to you.