I believe it’s important to understand the distinction between web design and web development. Individuals can be both designers and developers but it takes time and experience. No two people have the same education or career path. We all acquire skills in a variety of ways. At the most basic level, however, I think one is more of an artist and the other more engineer.
Web Designers often have a graphic design background and training in design principles like color, contrast, balance, and variation. They often use tools like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Great web designers may have studied something completely different, though. Maybe a physician has a solid understanding of computers and medical systems and is offered a job to consult with software developers. The developers need an expert on medical procedures to ensure their website has accurate information and is easy to access during an emergency. The physician becomes an amazing web designer.
Web developers can customize! There are usually several products to chose from if you need software to support your unique website or business. For example, there may be a dozen tools to add a restaurant menu yet not one is a perfect fit. A web developer can add necessary data fields and enhancements to help you run your business. Most importantly, a web developer will make sure a website is coded properly so it loads quickly, works well on slow connections, doesn’t drain your battery, is secure from hackers and is accessible to all users.
There is a marketing firm here in San Diego that has created some absolutely beautiful websites for their clients with restaurants. Unfortunately, the sites take forever to load and look pretty bad on a mobile phone. If you look at this firm’s team page you see the staff is comprised entirely of designers.
This question is not a debate of good or bad, better or best. The world needs creative people with good ideas and people with technical skills to build things. If you need a website you want an individual or team with a good balance of design and development skills. It’s not enough to look for gray hairs. Ask lots of questions and poke around in the portfolio of a potential web firm. Click on the links and check out how the sites look AND how well they perform.