Who builds the web?

Considering the massive amount of time many of us spend using websites and apps for both work and play, isn’t it a wonder how foreign the process of actually creating those tools can seem to most people who aren’t directly involved in the tech industry? The truth is that building websites is complex, but it doesn’t have to be impossible for a layperson to understand.

A useful foundation is an explanation of the various roles that make up a team like We Are Mammoth. While there are many people in many roles on our team who facilitate the work we do, the process of building a website can be best understood by focusing on two key disciplines – design and development.

What does a designer do?

A web designer is a visual problem solver. They excel at creating something from nothing.

If a website was a new restaurant being built in your neighborhood, the web designer would be the one standing in the empty storefront considering how a person would move through the space from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave. Their goal is to shape the way people feel when they dine there. They would plan the arrangement of the furniture as well as all of the little details that set the mood – the wall color, the lighting, the weight of the silverware. Their plans would be highly influenced by research about the type of cuisine being served, the preferences of the owner or chef, and the needs of people like you who live nearby and might become regular patrons. Their output might be a blueprint or a virtual tour – a visual representation of their vision.

If we take our designer back to the realm of the web, their job is to consider how you, as a user, will experience a website. They have a dual focus on how a website looks and how it flows for users. A website needs to have a structured hierarchy of information and an appealing style, but the path must also be clear for users to reach their goals, whether that is reading an article, signing up for a newsletter, or making a purchase. Designers work closely with stakeholders to translate nebulous ideas into an actionable prescription. Their output might be a wireframe, storyboard, or a high-fidelity mockup – a visual representation of their vision.

What does a developer do?

A developer solves problems through code. Developers are certainly creative in their own right. Like translators, they are thinking in [at least] two languages at once – one that a human could understand and one that a machine can read and execute.

In our restaurant example, the developer would be the person who takes the designer’s blueprint and makes it a reality. They are the ones with the allen wrench putting together the IKEA furniture. They are the carpenter, electrician, and plumber – working to make sure the walls, light fixtures, and industrial dishwashers are in all in place. Although most customers won’t ever see this side of their work, they’re also planning out the most efficient way to store food, spices, and equipment in the kitchen. They’re installing the point of sale system that allows the wait staff to run your credit card. Their output is the real deal- both what you sit on and what you can’t see but know is there.

Back in the world of the web- when you click a button to initiate an action on a website, toggle open a hidden list of links on your smartphone, or fill out a form and submit your content in an app, a developer had a hand in making all of that possible – from what you actually see on the screen to what happens behind the scenes in a browser, on server, or in a database far far away.

Developers bring the vision of a designer and the goals of a customer to life. They break down complex business requirements into an organized web of pieces that fit harmoniously together into one working program. Developers are tinkerers who are driven to create and iterate on solutions that work accurately, efficiently, and securely. Their output is code – not just the zeros and ones of binary code but really expressive language that performs complex algorithms, establishes repeatable functions, declares values as variables that can be used in multiple places, and more. If you’ve ever written a function in an Excel spreadsheet, you’ve seen a glimpse into the world of a developer.

Using their unique perspectives and skill sets, designers and developers work in tandem to envision and build the online resources you use every day. Together, they ensure you can reach your goal smoothly and securely.