Most people may not know this, but web design has two distinct sides. You’ll notice this when you begin to build a site and learn you need to hire a designer and a web developer, or one of those rare few who are great at both. But, what does this actually mean? Why do you need two separate people to build one site?

The Designer

To understand why web design has these two distinct facets, you have to understand the basics of how a site is created. A web designer creates the look and style of your page using graphics and design software such as Photoshop. But, this design isn’t a functional site. To bring everything to life, the design has to be coupled with code.

The designer is generally considered to be creative side of the team. Their job is to work with the client to dream up a look and feel that matches the brand. These are the artists who you imagine working to create a website. A web designer succeeding in the current market will be able to tell you all about color and typography, the importance of spacial relationships, and how these effect your audience.

The Developer

The developer is the “behind-the-scenes” person who makes everything run. These are the people who actually build the skeleton and muscles to the designer’s skin. They use HTML, Javascript, JQuery, and CSS to make everything technically work together.

This is the technical side of the creation process. These people usually have a degree in computer science or programming, and are very technologically minded. While a designer may be creative, a developer will likely be more detail-oriented.

Why Not Both?

While these sound like separate jobs, they are both working towards the same goal. You can’t have one without the other. But do you really need two separate people for this? In the current market, the answer is most often yes. While many designers are relatively informed on coding, and developers are aware of the creative process establishing the look of the site, these are both complex jobs which require specialized talents.

There are those who bill themselves as both, and many are perfectly capable of building an entire site by themselves. However, these are few and far in between. The best designers and developers have read up on the other side of the process, and may even have a fair amount of technical skill. But, you’ll benefit from building a team instead. The extra set of eyes will spot any flaws before resources are invested in the wrong areas, and you’ll have someone specially suited for sides on either side of the aisle.

Some people think that no matter what URL structure you have, search engines will be able to make complete sense of it and be able to index the site. While this is true, to an extent, they then use this idea to say that there is no such thing as SEO-friendly URL structure. Clearly, they missed part of the point of using “friendly” URL structure.

While making sure a site is crawlable and loads fast enough are important to an SEO, because they require both to do their jobs, SEO is more focused on getting people to the site, ranking that site as high as possible, and getting a solid ROI.

Web developers are the other people working on a site that are concerned with URL structure, but they are usually those thinking any URL structure will work. They have different focuses than SEOs and as long as the URL is indexable, they have been successful in that aspect. In other words, what web developers consider to be an alright URL structure may not work for the SEO working on the site.

There are a few simple rules to making a SEO-friendly URL structure. Firstly, the URLs should be straightforward, with absolutely as few redirects as possible. Making everything organized helps keep the site structure more cleaner and keep visitors from getting confused. You should also make the URLs meaningful. Keywords, or just in general some form of language, is better than seemingly nonsensical numbers and punctuation. Most importantly for SEOs, it is important to know which URLs are most important, and which need to be hidden from search engines.

Alesia Krush explains SEO-friendly URL Structure at Search Engine Journal, but most importantly she shows how you can achieve it on your site in just five easy steps.

Think about the programs you use for design. You probably think of Photoshop, Illustrator, or one of a few prominent desktop code editors. You probably didn’t immediately think of your web browser, and the numerous online tools you can use that a large amount of your workflow relies on. While there aren’t any web based graphic design tools that rival Photoshop (yet), the same can’t be said for the code editors that developers use.

While in the past, the web was just where you went to see simple HTML and find the vast number of programs you would have to use offline, now only extremely specific things require actually installing programs. Web development is one of the few arenas that has been slow on taking up web integrated tools, but that has changed significantly over the past year.

Now, I understand anyone’s reluctance to shift from a program they have been using for years to a web based coding interface, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Online tools allow for faster and easier collaboration, and they can help keep things much more organized than the endless folders could ever do. Matt Pass breaks down why you should make the switch over at Webdesigner Depot. Change is hard, but sometimes it is very worth it.