Partnering with a website developer

Shawn Bouchard, September 21, 2010 at 10:24 AM

part-ner-ship, noun: a relationship involving close cooperation between parties having specified and joint rights and responsibilities.

Web design is increasingly an important source of revenue for graphic designers. A poll of GDC members (Graphic Designers of Canada poll) shows that roughly 30% of respondents generate 50%+ of their business from web design.

As more and more traditional print designers make the shift to web design they have to decide if they want to code sites in-house or outsource that phase of the project to a third-party developer. Unlike the world of print design, the technical expertise and hardware infrastructure requirements for setting up a web coding department make it much easier for designers to take on the production and delivery phase of those projects. So, why should a design studio consider a website development partner?

I recently asked an international group of graphic designers what their preference was for designing/developing websites. I was specifically interested to learn if they preferred keeping the coding in-house or if they brought in an outside developer to render the final working website. The responses were quite interesting. 

I started off doing all the design and coding of websites myself but am increasingly sharing the programming part with programmers as my sites get more advanced. The learning curve was taking too much time and I, like others here, prefer to concentrate on visual design. – Rohesia

Leaving the technical side of website to a development partner enables design studios to focus on design and client management. Partnering also enables designers to keep pace with technological advances without having to have that expertise in-house and on staff. With so much to do to get a website off the ground (image prep; content writing, editing and population; site review; launch and promotion) outsourcing the coding of a site lets designers work closely with their clients to cover off the communications requirements for site launch.

Partnering brings additional expertise and passion to a project. Particularly in IT, a reliable partner can help you grow your business faster and make your clients happier. A Developer/Designer partnership is, no doubt, a symbiotic relationship. – Fernando

Working with a development partner means a design studio can bring in more web-design work than if the studio was actually building each site themselves. The tradeoff in keeping the development fees in-house our outweighed by the opportunity to develop expertise in user interface and site design as more and more businesses focus their marketing dollars on building their online profile.

In the case of Smallbox, we work closely with our design partners to deliver sites on time and on budget. Additionally, we're not just developing a static site but integrating a content management platform that enables the end-user to manage their own site. We also take on the site's ongoing support—freeing the designer from the headache of managing code updates, server issues, technology upgrades, etc.

I love to design sites. I have a good understanding of what works and what doesn't, but when it actually comes down to making that happen, I turn to those that know. You end up with a much better end product when a designer and developer work together. – Joe 

Of course, the challenge in creating a successful partnership is finding a reliable partner. Taking that initial leap of faith requires intestinal fortitude and a clear delineation of responsibilities for each partner. How can a designer evaluate a potential development partner?

Start by asking your peers. Who do they partner with? Ask them what works and what doesn't. Find out what they have learned from their partners. Would they recommend their current partner? Look at the sites they have produced. Ask customers for feedback. This last point is perhaps the most telling, since we're all ultimately in the customer service business, if the end client is happy then in all likelihood the developer is doing something right.

Finally, if you're still building sites in Flash because you don't want to code in html then perhaps it's time to find a development partner to take your web design business to the next level.