Can Web Developers Put Lipstick on a Pig?

There are a lot of great web developers out there, but can they create a website design as well? Today, I talk about a rare breed of developers.

Written by Jonathan "JD" Danylko • Last Updated: • Develop •

Piggy bank with cash on each side.

As a web developer, you don't think about how pretty your website is supposed to look.

Most developers focus on functionality. Get it working and pass it off to design.

However, when you're done coding and everything works, you aren't done.

Granted, yes, you are done with the heavy lifting, but now you have the other end of the spectrum which requires your attention: the design! (And there are others which I won't go into with this post).

My mother always said presentation is everything. This is especially the case in web development.

It has been proven when a visitor comes to a site, it doesn't matter how functional your website is, you have 3 seconds to capture their attention with the website design.

After that, it's ADHD-land, folks. They can easily close the tab and head over to another website.

Of course, developers love to do one thing: write code. Not all programmers know how to create striking art for an awesome website design.

I'm not talking about grabbing a piece of clip-art and slapping it on a website. I'm talking about using two hi-tech devices known as a pencil and paper and actually "developing" their artwork and translating it from analog to digital format.

Don't believe that you need a designer for your website? Check out this website design of

Screenshot of a bad website design

If you want more of Ian's story, check out how he built a maintainable Web Style Guide along with the slidedeck on LinkedIn.

Fortunately, the website design went through a huge revamp which, in my opinion, was absolutely necessary. ;-)

Create a Work of Art (through experience)

Once in a great while, you come across a rare breed of developer who can design or a designer who can develop.

I call these people devigners, who combine a developer and designer mentality in their process of building a site.

Take it a step further and you have what are called full-stack devigners.

These individuals are worth their weight in gold.

Why call them full-stack devigners?

  1. They know how to architect, design, build, test, deploy, market, AND monetize an entire website design from soup-to-nuts.

  2. They use graphic tools like Paint.Net, Photoshop, Illustrator, GIMP, and Inkscape like it was second nature to them. They create the visual part, or front-end, of the website design.

  3. They've designed and built databases that work with the entire site.

  4. Besides, the name devigner almost gives it a spiritual aspect to those who "see" things differently. ;-)

As I mentioned, these types of individuals are very rare, but they usually put development first. Most coders find sanctuary in code.

Don't get me wrong. Developers do have a creative side to them, but it's artistic in a different way.

As a developer, I feel the best way to become a designer is to build as many websites as possible so your experience in building exceptional front-ends will speak for itself.


The bottom line is that it doesn't matter how solid the database architecture is or how it provides quick access to the domain objects. If the developers don't have a visually stunning presentation, the product will not make it to market.

This is why there are specialists in the field dedicated to this particular function and your layout, graphic, and usability designers will play a big part in selling your application.

Can developers be visual designers? they like doing design or is it strictly a coding lifestyle for them?

If they created a functional "pig," sure it will work, but can they add an attractive and stunning front-end to it using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript?

So, I ask you developers out there...can you dress up a pig?

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Picture of Jonathan "JD" Danylko

Jonathan Danylko is a web architect and entrepreneur who's been programming for over 25 years. He's developed websites for small, medium, and Fortune 500 companies since 1996.

He currently works at Insight Enterprises as an Principal Software Engineer Architect.

When asked what he likes to do in his spare time, he replies, "I like to write and I like to code. I also like to write about code."

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