Digital Marketer vs. Web Designer vs. Web Developer

Designer Developer Marketer

Digital Marketer vs. Web Designer vs. Web Developer

So you need to refresh your website or you need to start one from scratch. One that represents your brand, conveys your value proposition, and attracts customers. But custom web development can run up a tab that makes downtown rent look cheap. Luckily, your friend – or friend of a friend, or cousin’s husband, or the personable cashier at Starbucks – “does websites.” For super cheap, too!

What does “doing websites” even mean, though? Is this “web guy” a web designer, a web developer, or a digital marketer? The difference matters, big-time. It’s the dividing line between a static digital brochure that lies dormant and a lasting digital strategy that drives your business for years to come.

Who do you hire? Before you start your project, understand the limitations and capabilities of the person you’re hiring.

Web Designer

Your company’s website is your online headquarters. It’s the all-encompassing resource for customers to buy your products, learn more about your services, and connect with your brand.

If your website is your digital storefront, then a web designer is like your interior designer. They know how to decorate your brand both functionally and aesthetically with color, shape, size, spacing, and other visual elements. They’re going to make sure your website “feels” like your brand. A web designer’s goal is to keep bounce rates low and customer conversion rates high through informed, strategic, user-friendly design. They know how to do what every coffee-chugging creative director asks: “make it pop,” which usually means roll out the Size 24 Comic Sans with the drop shadow and alarming shade of purple (designers will find that hilarious).

Digital Marketer

Behind the curtain of any profitable and growing business is a savvy digital marketer who has likely guided the organization through a website build or redesign. The digital marketer examines the entire experience in a very purposeful way. They look at the structure of the digital storefront AND the design experience to make sure customers can purchase from you easily. Think of digital marketers as the “architects” of a website’s overarching strategy and execution, often leading the project team altogether. They are the brains of the operation, responsible for everything from creating your brand voice to nitpicking micro-flaws that might hurt your site’s conversion rate.

Without a digital marketer onboard your website project, you will have major challenges with project management. You also might end up with a pretty website that fails to generate leads, a turbocharged website that looks like regurgitation from the 1990s AOL dial-up sound, or worst of all, a sucky website all-around.

You should never forego consulting a digital marketer about your vision for your website, as their insight will both inform the concept of the site and act as the quality control keeping your brand’s purpose at the heart of every feature.

Web Developer

Think of the web developer as the person who built your building. This is like the general contractor who makes sure all the doors open correctly and that the building doesn’t flood. The web developer translates the designer’s layouts into an efficient, fully-functioning website. They ensure that your website not only works well on the outside, but also functions seamlessly and integrates with any third-party systems (such as a CRM) on the back end.

In order to understand which platform, hosting and integrations your site will need, a web developer should ask you tons of questions, including:

  • Do you plan on blogging?
  • Are you integrating any social media accounts?
  • Are you planning on doing any PPC advertising that will require landing pages?
  • Do you have an email newsletter?
  • Do you want to collect email addresses on your website?
  • Are you going to sell products on your website?

With that, you should begin to understand that very few “web guys” walking the planet truly excel in both web design and web development.

Let’s Break it Down a Little Further

Before hiring, you need to know what crossover skills your potential employee has. There are print designers and web designers. A good web designer will understand enough code to make sure their designs will translate well. We’ve come across a lot of gorgeous designs, but they would be so complex to code that it would make the site really slow to load.

There are also a lot of considerations in design work. For a quick test, I like to ask prospective web designers when they would use a png, jpeg, or svg file to get the highest resolution and lowest file size. It’s a super technical question, but if they can’t answer it, I’m not hiring them.

Seeing how the three positions approach things differently can help you understand each of them better. Here are a few general examples.


You might think blue is just blue, but these three roles see color very differently.

Web Designer

A designer is going to look at color and see thousands of shades of blue.

Web Developer

A developer will likely have 5-10 different shades that are their typical go-to blues.

Digital Marketer

Digital Marketers likely don’t actually see blue, just conversion makers. They may test a few colors and choose the shade that’s causing conversions.


A picture is worth a thousand words. But the three roles see pictures quite differently too.

Web Designer

Designers are going to create a gorgeous image that evokes emotion and is authentic to the brand.

Web Developer

Developers will see a 1200×628 px png with transparency that needs to fit into a 600px wide spot on a page. In other words, they see something very functional.

Digital Marketer

Digital marketers tend to see a credibility marker that builds brand loyalty that drives conversions.

It’s Confusing

We realize it can all be a bit overwhelming and often technical.

If you’re ready to jump into a website project, check out what our friends over at Jabr Marketing have to say about where to start with a website project.

Michelle Tresemer
[email protected]

Michelle is the owner and founder of Tresemer Group, creating and implementing effective, data-driven digital marketing strategies for our clients. Michelle brings expertise in SEO/SEM, web analytics, social media, lead generation, and conversions. Connect with me on LinkedIn