All Things Web Web Design Web Development

The ever changing landscape for the web “designer” & “developer”…

Quite a while ago during my job search I was coming across so many different titles that I needed to identify how to describe myself and specialties in order to market my abilities. The landscape for job opportunities has definitely changed in the last 10-15 years and find that the knowledge I have within my field has been siloed into various roles.

My job title at a previous place of work (8 years) was Production Assistant / Web Manager. My daily tasks varied from updating web content-copy and cropping images to a website, design and code html newsletters as well as maintain multiple subscriber lists, running web metrics, create simple web banners, UI designs, search engine optimization work, to social media marketing and some print design work. It was more like an overall maintenance ‘job’. So when I was search of new work, I had become really confused which job titles I was coming across and what I should be looking at. My web skills are focused on HTML, CSS and intermediate JS with a little back-end knowledge in PHP.

With a much more recent job my title became Front-End Web Developer. This is a blanket term that applies to what I do, but my job duties are so much more than that. I build sites from the ground up including light design work, back-end work, front-end work, SEO, content strategy, inbound marketing and more. I am essentially a jane-of-all-trades when it comes to building websites.

To me, however, I feel like this puts me at a disadvantage. I am not an “expert” in any one area, but instead “pretty good” all around. I don’t think my title should be Web Developer. I am not even sure any titles out there truly describe what I do.

The problem I see with using only “Web Developer” is that it means too little for companies and recruiters, so in order for your resumé to look “interesting” you have to jack-up your title with extra fluff.

A few years back a “Web Designer” did all the things, plus he/she designed and implemented his/her designs (HTML & CSS). Today, someone that does all that has to add to his/her title the term “Front-End Developer”. This also means that you automatically inherit the knowledge of being able to program in JavaScript, and not just a few jQuery functions, no, hard-core JavaScript. And that is a problem because not everyone knows JavaScript off-the-bat, a majority of us know some jQuery scripting, that’s it. What happens with JavaScript is that it is a programing language that runs in the “front end” (the browser).

Then because you have the term “Developer” in there now, recruiters and companies now think that you somehow also know .NET, Java, PHP, Python, JSON, Perl, Server and Network Security, Objective C, yada, yada, yada.

And because you have the term “Designer” as well, you automatically are a “UX Designer” (which by the way, UX Designers don’t exist because the term is flawed, but that is another conversation) and are capable of creating the most amazing wireframes the world could see. Uh? So now you start getting/finding job offers for titles like: UX Developer (WTF is that?), UI Developer, UX Designer (an “expert” at wireframing… o_O), Front End Designer and yeah, Web Developer.

As you can see there is no “Web Designer” in that list and that is because the web industry has mutated this title into the ones I just mentioned (and there are worse titles) making us cram our titles with a bunch of unnecessary crap.

Keep in mind that a Web Designer is more a designer that develops rather than a Web Developer that sometimes designs. A Web Designer’s strength is design. Anything extra, technical knowledge, only helps adding the term Front-End Developer to the title but that is secondary. You can, however, become good at both.

Just don’t even get me started on MOBILE.

WEB DESIGNER If “designer” is in the title the job is designing. Literally deciding and implementing how a website looks and works. “Web” is in the title because the job is specifically focused on the web. Specific skills would be design-tools-of-choice, HTML, CSS and light JS. The job is also designing for print, apps, signage, products, clothing.

WEB DEVELOPER Are masters at optimizing web site structure and interactivity. This job is focused on back-end work and working with languages specific to the web, like PHP, ASP, Ruby, Python, etc. Medium skill in database/server work, medium skill in JS, light skill in HTML. This is very different from a Front-End Developer as there is little working with the design and heavier on programming concepts and concerns, like security and structure. Synonyms could be Web Programmer or Web Application Developer.

FRONT-END DEVELOPER The job is focused on HTML, CSS, JS and light backend work. Not design. The lack of “designer” in the title is intentional. Because the job does not require design, deeper skill in the other technologies is implied. You likely have a grasp on some concepts beyond the core technologies, for instance regression testing or performance. A synonym might be Front End Engineer, has a deeper more specific skill-set with more narrow focus or at a higher level.

BACK-END DEVELOPER I often hear way too many times that these professionals are at the end of a butt joke with regards to their job title and prefer to be called “Software Engineers” – these people work heavily in programming only with the likes of PHP, .NET, C#, JAVA and etc. as well as database applications in SQL, MySQL, Oracle, and etc. They essentially build the logic and the user does never sees this (the code). Typically does not work in app development for the iPhone/Android/Microsoft.

Design + HTML/CSS/JS – This synonymous with Web Developer, Front-End Developer roles. I hear this term quite a bit as well. I believe it leans more to the developer side with at least some moderate design skills. Like they are meticulous with the aesthetics with how the UI elements appear in the browser and the CSS used to mirror the same look as from a PSD comp. Focused as well on the interaction the user has with the elements on the page.

“How it looks and how it behaves” – focus’ on the users experience and interaction > BRAND ALIGNMENT ~ VISUAL ~ CONTENT
Brand Alignment: is responsible for making sure the interface aligns with the brands, colors, fonts and identity.
Visual: based on the targeted user the web designer will determine the design trend that fits the interface.
Content: lays out the content in the interface in a visual way that makes it easy for the user to get information.
-Sketches and designs the interface and working that through wire-frames and Photoshop comps before creating it in code. Handles Graphic Design, Color Scheme, Interface Design, Photoshop/Illustrator, Navigational Design, Page Architecture, and File Preparation. A synonym might be a Visual Designer. Designs HTML prototypes, visual interfaces and interaction of web-based applications.

The professionals in this space are coming more from a marketing research background. A specific focus on studying and researching how people use a site > SYSTEM ~ USER ~ CONTEXT
System: Must have a knowledge of the system that the user is going to use and what it is that they want or are supposed to achieve with it.
User: Must have an understanding of the end user.
Context: UX must learn about the context of usage and how the content will fit in it.
-Handles wire-frames, prototypes, develops persona’s, users scenarios, navigation schema, site maps, and site audits. Does the user research, user testing and workshops with the user and business to understand needs then builds up a strategy for that experience before moving on to the user flows and information architecture before starting to sketch up interface ideas and then working with interaction designer/developers to get things happening. Maximizes functionality.

Primarily designs, just like a UI/UX Designer but with specific focus on how things are used and movement.

I cannot even begin to tell you the number of times that I see UI and UX used interchangeably for a lot of job postings. There needs to be a clear and yet defined definition for these descriptions. However at this time these job functions in the web industry space is still being sorted out so it probably explains the mess.

“Web Designer” is seen today a too generic as well as the old term “Webmaster”

>> What the #$%@ is UX Design
>> Job Titles in the Web Industry
>> UX Designers -vs- Web Designers
>”>>> Job Titles and Career Options
>> Making A Successful Web Product Is Hard

Graphic/Visual Design: how it looks
Information Architecture/Design: how it is organized
UI Developer: how it works before I touch it
Interaction Design: how it works after I touch it
Web Design: how it works in a browser
UX Design: how I feel about it
Front-End Development: coding that you see
Back-End Development: coding that you don’t see

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