Web Designers vs. Developers - A Royal Rumble

arm-wrestle.jpgThe beautiful and useful sites around the web are built by two opposite groups. On one side we have the designers. These are the people who make sites look good. They understand not only how to make a site look good but how to make the look of the site fit the theme of the site and it's content. On the other side we have developers. These are the people who bring the functionality to life. Interactive websites, frameworks, content management systems, and web applications are what they provide. The problem is, in many ways what and how these two groups of people do tends to oppose the other. Before we can build truly beautiful and functional sites, I think, each group has to learn to understand that other and learn to work with them.

Web Developers

Web developers tend to be geeks who can write code, run web servers, know information architecture, and bring great functionality to life. The interactiveness of Facebook and their tie in with other services is just one example. Developers concern themselves with the code, the data interactions, and the architecture of both the site and the system. This is a great advantage for designers as many of the open source systems, like drupal, provide the functionality most designers are looking to use but can't create.

But, there is a downside to this. Developers can forget about the look of a site. They can turn the way a site looks from being one of design to one of looking at a site as just a user interface. The beauty and elegance of a sites theme can be replaced with the cold genericness of a bland user interface.

And, what developers build thinking it will be easy to create a great look from can turn into a nightmare for many designers. Where the systems is so tough to mold into a themed site that designers sacrifice part of their vision.

Web Designers

Web designers tend to be artsy and look at the world from a different perspective of a developer. They see a website as, almost, a piece of art. They are able to tie in the look of the website to the theme. An example of this is leuvenspeelt.be.

Yet, designers can create sites that are not only stunning to look at but take away from the content. Where someone would rather stare at a site as art than to read the content and absorb it.

And, designers can see such a strong tie of content to design that the design gets put into the content and into the database on database driven systems. This kills aggregate services, data reuse, and many of the other functions designers, developers, and end users are looking for.

Coming Together

At this point I think designers and developers need to come together. Developers need to build systems that are as easy as possible to mold and theme while retaining the functionality that is key. And, developers need to build tools to aid the designers in producing great looking sites without sacrificing functionality. Designers need to learn to use the tools and methods provided as well as why certain things are developed the way they are. In both cases it's one side not just learning about the other but catering in many ways to the other.

Over the next few posts here I'm going to dig into some of these issues, try to explain them, give some examples how to do some things, and try to highlight some of the weaknesses so we can work towards improvement.