Designer or Devloper
Websites use languages like html, PHP, and CSS to form the look and function of a site. Platforms like WordPress, Squarespace, and Shopify have their own language on top of this to manipulate the base PHP Html and CSS.
If you think about it like making a beef stew from a recipe you have the main ingredients the beef and vegetable (base code), but you can put the ingredients together in different ways. You can choose buy your meat and vegetables and cut them yourself, or you can buy pre cut frozen vegetables, add canned tomatoes, and stew meat.
Developers work from scratch and make everything themselves. Designers use the pre packaged short cuts platforms like Squarespace, or themes like DIVI for WordPress that let them drag and drop to design so they don’t have to code.
A person who is a designer and developer can mix and match to use any method. This may look like a custom Shopify site meaning, they use the prepackaged goods like shopping carts, but hand code other parts to have more control over the design.
What platform should I choose
It can be really confusing to know what you need when it comes to picking a platform for your website. There are so many options now and even for developers and designers it can be overwhelming. Designer and Developers specialize in different platforms. They should lead you to the right one for you, but it’s helps to have an understanding of what they are, to decide what is right for you.
Picking a platform isn’t based on what your site looks like, it’s based on function. You want to assess the needs of your site, decide if you want to manage your site, and calculate the investment you want to make.
Needs– Peoples needs vary for their sites. If you are going from an Etsy store to your own site you need an e-commerce site, but you don’t need a membership site. Decide what functions you need like, email sign up, blog, custom access pages, sales or lead pages. If you need a lot of customization WordPress is the option for you. If you need a few pages and an email sign up you can go with WordPress or a DIY platform like Squarespace.
Site management – Each platform has a content management system (CMS) which is the part that only you see to manage your site. This is where you upload blog post, products, and update content. If you want to manage your own site your designer/developer should offer training for you, or management services through a maintenance plan. You can always do a free trial of a Squarespace or Shopify site to see how they would function for you. For most people it’s just a personal preference or what they get used to. As far as updates a self hosted platform can be less maintenance and to easier upkeep as long as you are happy with their customer service.
Investment – Each platform is a different kind of investment. If you go with Shopify or Squarespace you pay a monthly fee. Fees for design can start low depending on how much experience your designer has and how much customization you want. The cons are that they own your site. You can’t transfer it, and if you are unhappy with their service you are stuck. A WordPress site will be completely yours. Its the difference between owning a home, and renting a home. Prices will vary depending on if you use a theme or have a custom designed site. Depending on your needs and the complexity of your site you may need someone to maintain your site and you will also have to pay for hosting.
What Should I Expect
Committing to working with any designer should include a proposal of project scope and estimate for cost, contract, timeline for finishing project, and clear communication. You should get design options for approval and be a part of the process. You should be offered ongoing support or training for updating and maintaining your site.
Services and experience can vary greatly and this is what you are paying for. When I was starting off on my own I just designed sites for people. I did what ever they wanted and made a great functioning site that looked nice. That approach didn’t work for me. I love meeting new clients and helping them develop a strategy and design that will grow their business. I would never feel good about showing them a site where I just took what they gave me and built a site that looked like everyone else. It wouldn’t be serving them and their dream to build a business.
There a lot of different people that you can work with, but only you know what you need and where you are in your business. The extent of services and corresponding value of those services is up to you to decide.