Are we designers or developers?

On the about page of this site I used to call myself a “developer/designer/occasional writer”. It’s a bit confusing, and I still find it hard to know what to answer when someone asks me what I do for a living. Am I a Web designer? A Web developer? A Web programmer? All of them? Neither? It really is a difficult question to give a simple answer to.

My answer depends on who is asking, when, why, and under what circumstances. Sometimes I’ll say that “I work with the Web” or “I build websites”, both of which are true but don’t really say what I do. It would be easier to be able to give a short, simple, reasonably precise answer.

In a way I am very much a designer, despite doing little to no graphic design these days. Many make the mistake of thinking that design equals graphic design, but design is also about making things work. And since that is what I do, maybe I should call myself a Web designer.

I don’t though. “Web designer” to me is a job description that is badly tainted by my experiences from the dotcom bubble. It reminds me of the masses of unskilled people that were hired just because the big Web agencies wanted more employees. It also makes me think of hobbyists using the WYSIWYG mode of a cracked copy of Dreamweaver or GoLive to build sites. So I find it very hard to call myself a Web designer.

As an alternative, I’ve been using “Web developer” for some time. The problem with that is that many people assume that a Web developer does mostly back-end programming, which I don’t do a whole lot of. It does sound more professional than Web designer though.

What other options do we have? Well, there are titles like User interface programmer, Front-end developer, User experience architect (argh, I’m allergic to the phrase “user experience”), and others. There are many titles, but few that actually describe what I do in a way that makes it understandable to people who do not work in the Web industry.

Is this really a problem? Most of the time, no. But it is a bit awkward to not be able to tell the hairdresser or your neighbour what you do for a living and have them understand it. “I work with the Web” or “I build websites” seems to kind of work, but that doesn’t tell them if I do graphic design, programming, or both.

And so I would like to ask those reading this who do not really do graphic design, but mainly work with HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and accessibility two questions:

  1. Do you consider yourself a designer or a developer?
  2. Do you call yourself a designer or a developer?

If you’re up for it, feel free to motivate your answers.

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Posted on August 8, 2007 in Web General

Comments

  1. August 8, 2007 by Alejandro Moreno

    I consider myself a web developer, or front-end developer, and I totally agree that both these titles mean the wrong thing to people.

    How about web-code developer? It’s ugly, but it’s not a stretch to make “web-code” encompass (X)HTML + CSS + JS.

    (Btw, I’m allergic to the group of phrases “[computer-term] architect”)

  2. I’ve always understood the terminology to mean the following:

    • Web Designer: Someone who does the front-end design, who handles graphics and UI design.
    • Web Programmer: Someone who almost strictly handles the HTML/back-end programming of a project.
    • Web Developer: Somewhat of a hybrid of the two. Someone who does both design and back-end development.

    I always call and consider myself a Web Developer, because I do both design and programming, albeit, I don’t design very well. =)

  3. We had this discussion today at work funnily enough, we came to the point just to call ourselves developers.

    I’ve always said I’m a developer anyway. Feels like a better word to use IMO.

  4. I generally call myself a web developer, but unlike you, I work equally with front-end and back-end code.

    It doesn’t seem to matter much though, because after I tell anyone this, I always get either: “Oh yeah, what does that mean?” or “Yeah, I have a website too”

  5. I’ve struggled with the same title issue for a while, but not for a lack of a title I feel comfortable with. It’s because people don’t know what the heck my title means (it even confuses people in the industry sometimes).

    My title is “Senior Site Developer”, and my job description is pretty much exactly what you describe plus team management. I often find myself trying to edit my title depending on who I’m talking to, but because of my industry comment above it’s not always successful.

    I think I’ve finally made the decision to use my title as is, and then just define it when asked. It’s either that or become a motorcycle mechanic.

  6. IIRC, Garrett Dimon calls us “front-end architects,” which I quite like.

  7. August 8, 2007 by Johan Sahlén

    I know exactly what you mean—and like you say, it always comes up in the ‘hair dresser’ situation. It usually goes something like; “So, what do you do?” “I build web sites—I do programming and so on.” “Oh… Like… web design?” “Eh, sort of…” [awkward silence]

    To family & friends, and when meeting people at parties (who, admittedly, often are industry people), I try to actually take the time to explain exactly what it is I do, and most people seem to get it after a short while, and are quite interested.

  8. My title at work is “Web Developer”, even though I do consider myself a “Web Designer”, so this question has been weighing in my mind as well. Any of the options are a far cry better than “Webmaster”.

    But it seems that to some friends and family, no matter what I tell them, all they hear is “Computer Serviceman”. Since apparently, if I can make the web, then surely I can figure out why an application has crashed their system.

  9. August 8, 2007 by Johan Sahlén

    To clarify my previous comment; what I do is mostly front end-development, plus some structural design and technology-related customer/partner relations (I work for a consultancy).

  10. I usually refer to myself and a web designer & developer, as I do both. I do a lot of freelance work, and I typically do all of the work, so there isn’t a clear segregation of duties.

    Although, if I were just explaining what I do in passing, I’d probably just say that I make websites. Or the very basic, “I work with computers” just to avoid any silly questions. (Although I have gotten the 3 second blank look followed by, “I saw a Dell commercial yesterday…”)

  11. August 8, 2007 by Michael Thompson

    Web Developer.

    Since I do both design, markup, scripting, and back-end work I have no problem with such an all-inclusive term.

    Because I usually state such a title in conversation, I will generally say something like, “I’m a web developer. I make web sites.” That way if someone has a bit of web knowledge they’ll understand that I wear a few different hats, but the less-informed will understand that I don’t sit at a terminal in the dark all day writing pr0n scripts.

  12. Yeah, this is a tricky one. I’m in the position of partly working (as in earning money) with building stuff for the web (both front-end and back-end), and at the same time studying to eventually be able to put the title “Information Architect” on my business card (not that I know if I would ever want to but..). It feels weird, but I really don’t know when it’s OK to start calling yourself one title or another when you’re still learning - but hey, if I ever stop learning somebody should “put me down” quick.

    I have also been sliding towards web developer for a while, but at the same time, I feel that it sounds a little bit too much like I develop “web software” which is true in a sense, but sounds a bit too techy for me. Web designer - agree with Roger there, sounds a bit ‘99. I like the term “information design” though - could fit anything from Tuftean illustrations via typography to server-side stuff, but “information designer” just sounds corny in my head.

    As for the use of “[techy phrase] architect”: yeah, it’s a bit annoying, but there are actually a few good arguments for it that I know of, but a little too long of a discussion for this space.

    In conclusion: I would probably call myself a (web) developer, but I’d rather consider myself a designer of some sort, and if that phrase wasn’t so worn, I’d probably use it more.

  13. Is someone that makes photoshop mocks and doesn’t even know what HTML stands for a web designer?

  14. August 8, 2007 by Robert

    Like the other commenters above I too have struggled with an appropriate title. On the one hand I probably dable more in editplus messing with HTML and CSS then I do in photoshop. I haven’t quite learned javascript or ajax yet but when I do I am sure that will push me more towards developer then designer. For a while I was calling myself web developer until I looked up a few definitions and it seemed as if it was geared more towards that of a back-end programmer so I was getting alot of people asking if i do J2EE, php, javascript etc. Which I do not.

    Sometimes I think Web Designer is a cheap description because alot of us do so much more. As stated above the term web designer has been sullied by the dot com bubble and all of the 15 year old SOB’s that claimed to be them when they fire up dreamweaver and use design mode and draw a couple of tables and use pretty colors.

    Whenever I feel a bit odd or misplaced in telling someone what I do i simply relish in the fact that I can charge 80/hr and get away with it ;o)

  15. August 8, 2007 by David

    I tend to go for Web Producer. That’s what it says on my day-job business cards and I think it works quite well, especially as part of my role is to marry together the design and programming which are done by separate people/departments. If people ask what that means, I tell them that I coordinate and write the code which holds the design and the functionality together.

  16. August 8, 2007 by Dan Boland

    I have the exact same problem explaining what I do to people. When I just say “web designer,” I feel like I’m discounting the web development that I do and vice versa. And when I say both, I get weird looks, like I can see the wheels turning….. “isn’t that the same thing?”

  17. Having just started properly in the industry (just over three weeks now!), I haven’t had the problem of explaining to too many people what I do.

    My title at work is Developer (they don’t even bother with the “Web” part), but I call myself a web developer. I don’t deal with any of the graphics and, so far, it’s all been code.

    However, the few conversations I’ve had about my job title with people so far have gone like this:

    “I’m a web developer,”

    “Oh, like a web designer?”

    “Yes, but the code, not the graphics,”

    I think the problem being that no-one sees the code, only the front end graphics and text. Therefore, if you work with the web, that is what you do!

  18. To me, the term “web designer” applies to someone who spends the majority of their time in Photoshop or Illustrator creating the graphical elements of a website. A “web developer” works mostly in a code editor such as Textmate, Textpad, Dreamweaver, etc. and occasionally creates graphics in Photoshop such as bullets, background images, etc.

    I refer to myself as a “web developer” to someone I know is not very tech-savvy and as a “front-end web developer” when I need to be more specific. I spend much more time coding, even though I am proficient with using Photoshop and Illustrator, so I don’t really call myself a web designer.

    Just as you and several others have mentioned above, I completely agree with how being a “web designer” has been severely tainted due to the millions of people think they can create a website because they know the basic functionality of using a WYSIWYG editor.

  19. August 8, 2007 by Jim D

    Like David, I’ve gone with “web producer” a lot.

    I’ve thought about “web architect” but I can’t help but feel it’s a bit pretentious. Still, it’s quite accurate given that I am responsible for conceiving and executing my employer’s web initiatives.

    As with many commenters here, those responsibilities are equal parts development and design, so neither developer nor designer feels complete to me.

  20. God, this sooo rings a bell for me. After the term “webmaster” went out of fashion, I called myself a Web Designer and Developer for several years. It took me a while to be comfortable with that, as I also don’t have a lot of respect for “designers” who live in Dreamweaver and can’t hand code. I worked with a guy like that a few years ago who used to yell at me every time he saw me in DW’s code window.

    I can do back end stuff, but not quickly and not as well as someone who does it full time; I’m definitely more of a front end person. I’ve been hand coding HTML since a time when the most appropriate editor was vi. So when the term “Front End Developer” came along, it sounded right, although I agree that “design” means more than graphic design, and my troubleshooting skills make me a designer in that sense. Part of it, I suppose, is that it’s the term used for the work I do best by the kind of businesses I want to work for.

  21. See wiki-whiketty-whack common failings of pigeonholing. That being said I’m a designer by terminological correctness, and the fact that there is a real programmer “in-house”, but I like to throw in some fancy-schmanc-i-ness now and then.

  22. I typically refer to myself as a web designer (easier for people to understand- if you say ‘web developer’ people usually ask a followup question). I think of myself as both, really. I agree with your comments about the connotations the term ‘web designer’ carries but it’s typically the easiest term for people to immediately grasp.

  23. I used to call myself a webdesigner, but then I realised that many people thought that I made the graphical designs and I’m now instead calling me a web developer.

    What do I consider me? Well, I’m quite comfortable with being a web developer - I develop stuff no matter if it’s javascript or php and since I mostly only do the technical part of xhtml and css, that’s development to me - not designing because I don’t care why it looks, just that it looks.

  24. I call myself a “web and interaction designer.” As far as I’m concerned, a web designer handles visual design, xhtml, css and maybe some javascript. I tend to think that hard-core javascript should be done by those more fluent in the computer sciences than I. I throw in the term “interaction designer” because I also enjoy doing site architecture, usability, accessibility, and behaviors and I think that’s a good solution rather than calling myself a “web designer, information architect, accessibility consultant, and interaction designer.” Granted, I get to exercise these skills far less often than I’d like. Terms like “web developer” and and “web programmer” I think are for those who are far more back-end code intensive than xhtml/css/javascript. But I’ve always equated “developer” with “programmer” and maybe I’m wrong on that assumption.

    1. I’m a developer, cos I’m mainly good at writing code, even if it is just HTML and CSS (i.e. not programming) and semi-laughable JavaScript.

    2. I call myself a web developer.

    When explaining it to colleagues and employers, I think front-end or client-side web developer is good, if HTML, CSS and JavaScript are your strengths. It clarifies that you’re a front-end guy.

    If you do more of the holistic user experience architect-y stuff, I don’t think we’ve got good terms for that yet, because I don’t think the role is properly recognised. Mitchell Kapor nails it, in my humble opinion, in his software design manifesto.

    And as for explaining what I do to non-techy people, web developer is as good as anything. They’ll never understand anyway, just like I’ll never understand what different types of marketers do.

  25. @Stephen Caver: I reckon that developer suggests some technical chops, but if you’re writing good HTML and CSS, then you should know about Not Repeating Yourself, and isolating bugs, and other programming-type skills. So I think developer is appropriate. HTML and CSS deserve as much respect as programming, especially as so many programmers are so crap at them.

    I should also mention that in addition to Mitchell Kapor’s article, there’s also the idea of information design being what we should pay more attention to, in Bret Victor’s Magic Ink article.

  26. Interesting debate. In work my job title is Web Developer, but in a workplace environment, a job title has a more political dimension to it. Often what your job title is, is an indication of wider attitudes to the Web Development field. There are four web developers in my team , with a range of skills. The advantage of the term seems to be its breadth.

    btw I think that the metaphor of building sites is a little out of step with developers do these days. Less of the construction metaphors and more of the gardening ones!

    So that would make us all HTML gardeners, CSS shepherds or AJAX surgeons!

    Try explaining that to the neighbour.

  27. August 8, 2007 by bill h

    We should re-invent the terminology.

    Draftsman (draftsperson for the politically correct inclined) - One who designs web interfaces through the use of graphic design software and techniques.

    Builder - One who develops the structure, presentation, and behavior layers of a website through the use of a markup language, CSS, and Javascript.

    Programmer - One who programs. Not really inventive but pretty straight-forward.

    Master Builder - One who does all of the above.

  28. August 8, 2007 by DigitaLink

    Web Architect is good. I like that one. Architects envision, design, and play a hand in the creation of something. Maybe they do the work themselves, maybe they sub-contract some of it out. They can be freelance, or part of a bigger company.

    I’ll put my vote in for Web Architect. Although I’ve been brandished with webmaster and site administrator way more than once too. Reality is, I’m a one man wrecking crew! Why? Because nobody else in the building has the foggiest notion how to do what I do. It’s good for job security. LOL

  29. August 8, 2007 by jason Wehmhoener

    There’s a similar discussion here: What’s a “Front End” Developer?. via PPK’s Elsewhere on the Net links.

  30. August 8, 2007 by sjef

    Interactive Developer / Creative Technologist

  31. I’ve always thought about this too. I am a jack of all trades so I design, script, and program the back-ends.

    If I am talking to a nontechnical person I simply tell them “a programmer” because they more than likely don’t understand (or care) the difference between front-end and back-end programming. It’s all the same to them.

    In fact, on my [freelance] business cards I don’t even list a title, I just list my skills — in a fashionable manner.

    “XHTML/Design/CSS/PHP/Standards”

  32. Here’s the terminology I use:

    Web developer: The most ambiguous term, this could refer to any aspect of designing, implementing, or maintaining websites.

    Web graphics designer: Primarily making the graphic art or webpage design mockups.

    Web design implementor: Primarily work on the HTML/CSS/JavaScript, with the actually designs and backend done by someone else.

    Web designer: Somewhat ambiguous term which may include web graphics design and web design implementation.

    Backend web developer: Primarily work on the server-side scripting.

    Web programmer: I don’t like this term, but I find it best conveys the mix of backend web development and web design implementation, without including the graphic design element.

    Web goblin: ahem “mainstream” web designers. ;)

  33. August 8, 2007 by Matt

    Associate Web Developer is what my company calls me. They don’t have a title that I really fit into. I only do XHTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Graphic Designers do PhotoShop mockups.

  34. August 8, 2007 by David Ross

    I tell friends my job is the Internets.

    Lol, Actually I really do, just simple and easy and funny or if they want to get specific and know more my job title here at work is Senior UI Engineer…where I do front end coding. But I also have a degree in design and design a lot of nice sites freelance. So I also say web designer sometimes, just sounds knd of childish or something for some reason. I just happened to get better with html/css than the other kids so they stuck me here. :)

  35. I always think along the same lines. i like to dabble in both the design and code of websites and web applications. I guess you could always call yourself a webmaster but I always found that too corny.

    Web developer is my favourite as even creating a design for a website is helping to develop that individual online presence.

  36. Personally, I consider myself more of a designer. Some time ago I decided to also learn programming and I’m now on my way to a Master degree in Computer Science. Currently I could call myself a Web Developer although previously I just told people I’m doing graphics design… If someone is really interested in what I do, I take the time to explain it to them and otherwise I don’t really care what they think.

  37. If you would really split it up you would have something like this:

    1) Web designers think of how the site should look and feel. They use graphical design software like photoshop to create the art work and then provide mockups of the what the finished website should look like.

    2) Web developers take those mockups and turn it into (X)HTML/CSS/Javascript pages or templates. They mostly create static pages using notepad-like tools and maybe do a little Javascript programming for client-side animation.

    3) Web programmers use the templates created by the web developers to render the site’s data with the desired look and feel. They do most of the server-side programming and use more advanced IDE’s for debugging code.

    4) Webmasters work with the content of the website, like adding, removing or editing news articles.

    I mostly do 2 and 3 but I call myself a web developer.

  38. yea, I’ve gotten tired of calling myself a ‘web designer / developer’

    I’m a developer first, doing all kinds of back end/front end jobs, but I also started getting into design, designing graphics, logos etc..

    I’ve thought about some of those titles mentioned above, and came to conclusion to call myself a ‘web media freelancer’

    Web Media Freelancer - I like calling myself this because I work with “media” on the web and it really doesn’t have any limits. Meaning that I could literally say that I do web designing and developing, and if I learn something new that involves itself with the web I’d add that too, e.g. web administrator or user interface designer etc.

    Theres really no ‘official’ definition for this term but I’d still serves its meaning in my book.

    Does anyone agree?

  39. Graphics designer, front end developer, typographer and sometimes copywriter ;-)

  40. August 8, 2007 by Arnaud

    Same problem here. For me, the “badly tainted job description” is the webmaster. But it is the one that people understand best here (in Brussels, so mostly in a French speaking environment). I find that webdesigner sounds good, but as you say, it is too often confused with graphic designer. Web dev/prog sounds too geek (and definitely back-end) :) So I generally say something like: “I make websites, webmaster if you want” with a shameful look when using the word :)

  41. I refer to myself as a webdesigner because I do mostly graphic / interface / html+css work. But, when I code JavaScript I refer to myself as web developer. A programmer, but with web twist, if you know what I’m saying. ;-)

  42. August 9, 2007 by Sean

    I have gone back and forth many times at my current job. I prefer Web Designer, but most people call me a Web Developer. I also have a problem with the term Web Designer, as it seems…weak is the word that first comes to mind.

    All in all, I think the best title I have ever heard is Web(site) Architect. Though a strict definition of the word architect puts it in designing buildings, if you replace “buildings” with “websites,” there is some nice parallels that can be drawn.

    Other benefits are that it doesn’t come with a lot of baggage that some of those other titles do, gives a quick insight of what you do to non-web folks, and doesn’t sound all that pompous to web folk (at least not in my opinion.

  43. In my opinion a graphic designer who works with the web is not a web designer. You have to know your CSS, XHTML &c to call yourself one.

    If you do know your way around stylesheets, semantics and user experiences, chances are that you actually know a lot more about how websites work than a graphic designer who just makes comps.

    So what I think every web professional should do is to start calling him/herself web designer. And if you do primarily graphic work you can call yourself visual web designer.

  44. I’d expect someone to come up with the generic expression “Web Worker” by now, which imo is a nice description for a person, who does a combination of all of the above mentioned things. most of you might also know the blog that uses this term “Web Worker Daily”.

  45. Hmm. Interesting one.

    What I am is a writer. I write stuff: comments, blog posts, a little short fiction from time to time. I don’t get paid for that, though.

    What I do, is to be a web and database designer. Developer. Usability and Accessibility engineer. System tester. Program manager. Data migration and integration.

    Which is why it’s easier just to say ‘writer’ :-)

  46. I just normally say “You know what Amazon is? Yea, well I make stuff like that. No, not the actual Amazon…” Then I normally counter the “oh, so can you fix my computer” question with something like “yes, can you afford £200 an hour for my services?” and then if they’re actually interested I’ll enlighten them with the knowledge that I do front-to-back with project scope-and-manage.

    If they’re not interested, they walk away safe wondering why someone who earns £200 an hour looks so dishevelled. ;)

    I’ve always used web developer, as I sat more on that side of the line while employed. Now, I’m a (Chief Programmer|Lead Developer|Project Manager|Production Manager|Technical Manager).

    Copying the trade’s titles would be a step in the right direction, IMHO.

  47. I do “User Interface Design and Development.” I find adding UI to the front qualifies that I’m not just a pictures guy - although I do do standard graphic design on occasion.

    It’s funny how I read this same type of post every couple of months by people like us. We should have a vote! :D What’s the name of the school that Zoolander started?

  48. Titles schmitles. Who cares what you call yourself.

  49. IMO a web designer is someone with the Photoshop/Illustrator skills and web developer is the server-side programming guy/gal.

    Whilst front-end developer is the title that most accurately describes what we do, it’s also that which is the most likely to be met by a blank stare from anyone outside the industry.

    Lately I’ve heard the title ‘UI Developer’, which I actually quite like.

  50. I call myself a ‘Web Professional’ or just tell people ‘I build web sites’, depending on the mood and context of the conversation.

  51. On my business cards it says “Internet Communications Specialist/Webmaster” — which is not bad as such things go.

    I’m a one-woman-band: concepts, design, programming (front and back), usability, writing/editing. Plus doing all of the same for email newsletters, planning online advertising and shepherding a knowledgebase.

    I liked the title I had at my last job, which was “Web Manager” and that was a good description for the experience.

    I hate the developer/designer question, because my answer changes depending on the day of the week, the project, or my mood.

    In the “hairdresser” conversation, I usually say Webmaster (or previously, Web Manager), which gets a quick follow-up question. Answering that very briefly seems to be sufficient. “I make websites” is a decent shorthand.

    And yeah, this topic comes up insanely often. Comes from sitting at the edges of half-a-dozen professions, IMHO.

  52. We had the same definition problem at work. Until recently we were named “Web Masters” and we switched to “Web Integrators”.

    This does makes more sense to me as some other people in the company are called developers or designers; furthermore, our work is “only” to handle (X)HTML, CSS, JS… and AS. No design, “just” translate a mockup in a web document. No server-side development either.

    Though this appellation fits best to me, I sometimes think it lacks a “developer” term in it when we do Javascript or Actionscript. So for those 2 languages it’s more “Client-side developer” that pops to mind. Should we have both titles…don’t know…double income then ? ;-)

  53. I’m a self–facilitating media node.

    (Only kidding!)

  54. In my most recent round of job-hunting (in February of this year), I had a head-hunter chastise me for listing myself as a ‘web designer’ on my resume. She said that when people saw ‘web designer’ they thought all you could do was work with Photoshop, and that I should call myself a ‘web developer’.

    But all I know is HTML/CSS/Javascript. And barely enough PHP to change someone else’s code around a little to suit my needs. I’ve always had ‘engineers’ around to do the heavy-duty back-end stuff, and I think when people hear ‘web developer’ they think you at least know PHP and MySQL.

    So, I guess front-end developer is the best description but there’s an alarming number of non-web people who assume anything with the words front-end and back-end in it is lewd. So I say, “I make web sites” and leave it at that.

  55. Insightful and thought provoking as ever Roger.

    I’d say I consider myself a web developer because to me a web designer only handles the front end. A web developer seems like a person who handles a bit of the front end as well as some of the back end. I guess it’s entirely up to the individual person though.

  56. Cameron Adams call us (or himself, rather) Web Technologists. I like that, but I don’t really call myself that. I tend to use “Web Developer” more often than not, as I see “development” as an all-emcompassing term. Looking up on dictionary.com, almost all results for “developer” seem to include both design and creation as facets of what “developers” do. That’s good enough for me, and gets general satisfaction with most people (except from those who have never seen the internets before… them I’m in trouble.)

  57. I just say “I build websites” which is what I do after all. All this fussing over titles seems to betray an underlining inferiority complex that I’ll have no part off :)

  58. a question i ask myself frequently… great to see this article about it. of course, things have to be labeled to understand them, i just wish there was something to tell people at a cocktail party that nicely summarized all i do.

    at work my title is webmaster, at parties my title is steve, and if you ask, i’m a web designer. it certainly has a more elegant flair… but i want to imbue it with as much meaning as it needs. let’s try to make the title “web designer” mean all that we do. let’s move it as far away as possible from meaning the kid down the block that makes websites for a few hundred dollars, and make it mean the professionals that we are.

  59. I’m glad you posed this question its a good one to ponder as fellow businessmen.

    The only time I use web developer/designer is on a resume where I have to list a specific title.

    Normally my “Position” is “Partner”, and my occupation is Marketing, Advertising, and Media Production.

  60. I just consider myself a web developer because I mainly deal with the code, and not the design. However, I would like to hone my skills as a web designer. Then you could call me a web deveigner.

  61. August 9, 2007 by Jamie

    I always like to think of my self as Web Engineer. Probably because of my background in Software Engineering.

  62. I wear many hats (graphic, design, architect, analyst, developer, etc.) but really I have been calling myself a Usability Consultant.

    Seriously, it covers everything I do. If the web application has good usability it needs all the ingredients of all those hats.

  63. This is the best post I’ve ever been a part of, thus far.

    I too have been wearing both hats starting as web designer till I fell in love with writing good code, and even back end code, an for years settled with Web Developer. Now that I have employees that are either either straight designers or coders, so now my title is Creative Director. I like that title alot.

  64. I call myself a web developer as I’ve generally assumed (perhaps incorrectly) that web designers stick to the design end, developers work on html/css etc and programmers, well, program.

  65. I have been leaning towards developer or front-end developer, as there are so many aspects that come into the making of a website. They reach far beyond Photoshop graphics. Information design, organization, interactivity, user demographics all come into play before you even touch the code.

    Even if you outsource your ‘programming’, it is often the case that most of that programming has been conceptualized and/or designed by the ‘developer’.

  66. August 9, 2007 by Andrew

    Web developer, definitely. Designer is a term that will forever be associated with using Photoshop.

  67. Haha it seems this is one of those secret questions that have we all asked ourselves about, but never each other - and so never really worked out an answer.

    I use developer most of the time myself, but have the same “not quite right” feel about it that most other people seem to have.

    Great post, its good to know other people have thought the same thing as me. Chur.

  68. Definitely Web Developer. I don’t design much. Most of my work is in the backend - even though I do a bit of JavaScript.

  69. Design is an integral part of our lives. We are constantly touched by it — from the lowliest utensil in our kitchen to the most high-tech device in our office. From doorknobs to cars. Matchbooks to magazine layouts.

    Some people think of graphics and colors when they think of web design, but it’s so much more than that. It’s usability, it’s accessibility, it’s positioning, and more, in addition to the graphics and the colors.

    All of this is design.

    Web sites are developed, sure. We’re web developers. That is technically correct. So I can call myself a web developer. But those developers who excel at their craft, well, they’re really designers. I’d go so far as to say good development cannot exist without at the very least a thorough consideration of design. So I will also call myself a web designer.

  70. Are the choices really limited to “Web Designer” (graphics/icons/screens in PShop), and “Web Developer” (HTML/CSS/JS, + maybe some server-side)?

    Who handles IA, wireframes, IxD? And why is “Design” assumed to = Graphic Design, something generally trivialized by Developers?

    Some large content sites have separate roles for IA | IxD | UI | Visual Designer | HTML Monkey | Front End Dev | Software Engineer | DBA | Etc. That’s a lot of siloing! But it captures the skills required to handle some big commercial sites.

    Where I work, we lump IA | IxD | UI | VD under the UED title, and hire folks passable at all but best at one. The other 2 legs of the triangle are Front End Dev (what you’d expect, plus XSLT) and Software Development (nasty .NET).

    Not surprisingly, most of the UEDs are pretty good standards-based coders, and most of the Front End Developers started out back in the day as “Web Designers.” It’s these folks I like to call “Hybrid Designers”.

  71. August 9, 2007 by David Rodger

    Most people here seem to be considering the question from the point of view of marketing or employment. These are of course entirely legitimate responses.

    It seems to me that if you’re “coding” (X)HTML/CSS, you’re giving browsers instructions for rendering, but you’re not affecting what might be displayed within it (the content). Since browsers render (interpret the HTML and/or CSS) differently, the instructions are indrect. Most of the time you can predict what will happen, but sometimes a browser completely stuffs it up.

    Writing Perl, PHP, Ruby (whatever) is giving direct instructions on the web server which, among other things, will determine the content sent to the browser. With very few exceptions, you can reliably predict what the response of the server will be to those instructions.

    So to me the latter is programming whereas the former is not. Therefore, I’d prefer to call those who do the latter developers. (Which is not intended to belittle the work of those who do the former. Hell, I couldn’t design my way out of a paper bag!)

    Javascript? Well, you’re giving the browser instructions to do things to or with content (or even to get new content in the case of AJAX). So I’d describe purveyors of fine JS developers too. I think it’s still the case if you’re using Prototype or JQuery or sometning. After all, .NET programmers use APIs extensively.

  72. I usually write my title as Web Developer, and when people ask I tell them I build websites. If it turns out they’re somewhat familiar with the web and they ask what I do specifically, I can just repeat “I build websites.” It’s pretty funny (to me.)

  73. I’m with Michael McCorry

    I also like Cameron Adam’s description of himself as a web technologist, because (being a one-man-band) I end up doing all sorts of stuff.

    However, like most people commenting here, I tend to call myself a term web developer.

  74. I call myself a web designer for several reasons: first, I’m not a developer; I know HTML and CSS, and precious little PHP, MySQL, AJAX or Javascript. So I can’t honestly call myself a web developer. My partner is the graphic artist on our team but he doesn’t call himself a web designer because he doesn’t like to code pages. (I am a fast typist and love that part of it; for us, it’s a match made in heaven.) So he’s a graphic artist and I’m a web designer and we have a web design shop. At least that seems to keep folks from thinking we write scripts of develop entire backends on our own. :-)

  75. Personally I don’t have a problem with either tag. I think I have the skills to cover both terms. Whatever the client wants to pay for…

  76. August 9, 2007 by Jonas

    My new title (new job = new title) is “Interface developer”, wich I’m pretty comfortable with. It’s enough mumbo-jumbo for ordinary people (never let them know what you do), and it’s enough specific to those who know the business.

    “Web developer” was what I called myself before this job. Pretty accurate.

    The worst title I’ve had was “Internet communications design” wich was just totally unaudible…

  77. Well, Rudi and Bela, that is me and my wife, together are one good web designeveloper :) so the problem we are having when being asked what do we do for a living is to make people understand that 1 + 1 = 1. On a more serious note, she is the one doing the mockups, imagery and copy, considering herself a web designer, and I, The Developer, am converting it to XHTML.

  78. For the ambiguity of the terms we simply use the terms designers and developers, it is a pity that there is such a lack of clarity even in the industry as to what makes a web designer, web developer and even reading posts on here a web programmer.

    For my tuppence worth front to back you might have the following roles on a programmed HTML site:

    Designer: Look, feel, style. Starts with a blank canvas, instructions as to information architecture requirements and brand values and stops once the image is created.

    Slicer: Takes an image and slices the image into static HTML, sub images and CSS. May involve elements of JavaScript, usually pre-written. Creates a HTML template (key pages only), that can be browsed around, but has no functionality.

    Coder: Works with whatever back-end systems are in place to integrate these into the HTML template. If there is a additional JavaScript required then they would also integrate this and be expected to write their own if required. The coder produces the final product.

    Developer: Creates the business logic of the website, integrates with any web services and / or databases, often writing them as required. Produces the back-end systems for the coder to integrate.

    Of course there are more roles in site creation, but these IMHO cover the core bases, normally people will fall into one of more of these camps depending on size of company and/or project, regardless of whether they are termed a web designer / web developer.

    For my part I sit in none of these roles and I guess I’ll just leave my title as dogsbody ;-)

  79. August 9, 2007 by Niels

    For a while now I’ve been using front-end developer. I think from an industry point of view, this covers the job description quite nicely.

    But I recognize the hairdresser problem. I “make websites” too whenever a not talking to web savvy people.

    As for the word architect, I myself don’t use it that much. I think that’s best reserved for people laying out the basics of a site (information structure etc).

    In short, I call and consider myself a (front-end) developper.

  80. I often call me Web Front-End Engineer

    i do a lot of user interface and interaction Design , as well as a lot of front-end programming. I think the term ‘front-end engineering’ contains a lot of things about front-end.

  81. August 9, 2007 by Victoria Pavlova

    Heh, I prefer to call myself Web Designer (meaning more graphics and sketching and stuff as it’s what I wanna do) yet now I’m doing mostly front-end coding. And my official job title is… User Interface Specialist (OMG!)

  82. Here’s the thing… if you create graphics, HTML markup, JavaScript behaviors, back-end code or databases in all of those cases you are designing. To design is, by definition, to “decide upon the look and functioning of”. Someone who creates the UI layout or graphics is very obviously a designer. But any programmer of worth can talk about the beauty of well designed code. Especially if your code powers an entire system, it must absolutely be designed, not just programmed. Programming is about coding to get something working as intended (planned/designed). Elegantly, simple code must be designed.

    So, designing is fundamentally solving problems.

    For me, doing both front-end and back-end work, I have to call myself a web designer. Web developer seems to generic and clumsy.

  83. August 9, 2007 by Anagha

    So..What will i consider myself?? I can design front end templates in HTML and CSS as well as Coding in PHP and ASP..Please tell me am i developer or Web designner

  84. I think when we all look at it we design web solutions - function and form - as well as developing those software solutions into direct products…

    I don’t really see the contradiction especially when there are so many ‘self-created’ titles out there to compare to…

    perhaps it would be better to ask which one is better at giving clients the perception of our true skillsets?

    food for thought roger

  85. IMHO, this question has already been answered entirely on December 6, 1997.

    But that’s not the only reason why I call myself a developer. I do quite more than moving pixels (which is my understanding of the term ‘designer’), I do php, perl, some shell scripting, write markup and css and yes, sometimes I move pixels around, but I’m not pretty good with the latter one.

  86. I guess I am lucky be Web Manager :D

  87. A short list of roles we may already be playing in web design / development:

    designer / developer, information architect, interface designer / interaction designer, graphic designer, front end coder backend programmer (of various ilks), copy writer, database specialist, accessibility / usability expert, photographer, systems architect, project manager, requirements / specifications analyst, entrepeneur, marketer, server administrator / security consultant, e-commerce specialist

    … so perhaps web designer / developer includes all those PLUS accountant and financial portfolio advisor lol… sorry for the long post.

  88. I’m interested to see there aren’t more ‘Interface Developers’ on here. It seems to be quite a common term in the UK (at least within the agency scene) to describe someone whose career revolves around HTML/CSS/Javascript.

    I like it, it doesn’t give the impression that I have any graphic design skills and is generally well understood by people within the industry.

  89. I vote for “Web Architect” too.

    It fits the profile of anyone who’s mainly into the research, analysis, problem-solving and wireframing/blueprints phase of web development but who can also be involved in the implementation/coding aspects of it.

  90. The main problem there are too many words that could describe web work: coder, programmer, designer, developer, user interface designer, usability expert, accessibility expert, engineer and tonnes more.

    To general public I think it is better to dumb down your job title to sound less nerdy and be more understandable.

    To Joe public I “make websites” and I will scale that up to “PHP web developer”, this still doesn’t cover everything though as I do a lot of templating work.

    Tough task but never mind.

  91. August 9, 2007 by Matthew Pettitt

    I tend to go for Web Developer, and I do a mix of back-end code and front end layout/scripting. The department I work in has never settled on a formal name: started as Online Media, then Web, then Web Publishing, and we now generally go by Online (formally) or the Web-shop (internally - it was better than Department of Sales Prevention!)

  92. ‘Frontend Web Developer’ who designs web applications but my role is organising, structuring and coding web pages and web applications.

    I get jealous of people who are creative and make imaginative visual designs.

  93. This has turned into quite a discussion. I think you’re right - it depends who you’re talking to.

    Most clients probably won’t care whether you call yourself a designer, developer, engineer or architect. They just want the job done and see it as a single task.

    But people in the web industry will instantly make an assumption about your role:

    • Designer => PhotoShop pixel pixie
    • Developer => database/backend code geek
    • Engineer => server-fixing spanner holder
    • Architect => no real title, no real job

    It’s probably best to be as vague as possible. Web worker perhaps?

  94. August 9, 2007 by Rory Fitzpatrick

    My job title, when I applied for it, was Software Engineer but these days I very much call myself a Web Developer as I do everything from the graphics to the database, although its the ‘in-between’ bits that I’m better at. I’ve had many discussions over the past few weeks about what exactly it is I do and it often takes an hour or two for someone to really get it (and if there isn’t an hour or two to explain I say “building websites”)

  95. 94 comments in 12 hours? heh

    Anyway, I’ve not got time to read over all those comments, so I’ll just respond to the post.

    1. Neither, I always think designer is more to do with the graphics (like you said, it shouldn’t, but in the web world, it does to me), and developer is about the programming.

    2. Though I mostly do HTML/CSS, I also can do some basic programming (I can do more PHP then JavaScript), so I tend to call myself a Web Developer. Also my job title is CSS Developer… When I explain what I do to people, I tend to come out with some kind of awkward sentance along the lines of “I’m a Web Developer, I build websites”, which sounds weird.

    It does make searching for jobs a PITA, different people calling it different things. If I search for Web Developer, I could get all kinds of programming jobs come up, and web designer tends to list photoshop focused jobs. So I end up search for generic terms like HTML or CSS to pick out jobs after my skills, rather than my title.

  96. August 9, 2007 by Justin

    UX designer :) (jesse james garret is the the king of b-s), UI designer…

    It’s a nightmare trying to come up with an appropriate job description for someone who does graphic design, branding, css/html/javascript, flash, a bit of backend and whatever else the ‘programmers’ and the boss can’t grok. My boss gave up and labelled me ‘designer’.

  97. I stick with “Front-end developer”. I found out that not having FRONT-END explicitly stated everywhere, makes them thing you make databases in .NET.

  98. A good question indeed. My official job title is “Web Developer” and, yeah, it is what I do - if that includes writing, designing and building the website and then the web app for the reporting portal as well! I’d never use the term designer for fear of my “designs” being mocked by REAL designers, but when you know and work with all aspects of the web because you’re the only guy in the company who des (and were employed to be) it’s a difficult one. Web developer it is, but it still sounds too techy and geeky to me! Still searching…

  99. I consider myself as a web developer. Leaves space for explainations. I’m both working back- and front-end.

    Usually my explaination goes like this: I develop applications, both the front (interface) and the back end (program logic). Of course I had some examples, like I’m the guy who gets your webmail client working, both the interface and the background logic, but you certainly know lots of better examples ;)

    cu, w0lf.

  100. August 9, 2007 by Paul Decowski

    My job title is “Computer programmer” even though I develop web applications (design, UI, behaviour etc.). To best describe what I do I’ll tell you what tools I use: from pencil and a piece of paper to PhotoShop to XHTML, CSS, JS and PHP.

    —What do you do for a living?

    —I am a web applications developer.

    —So you make web sites?

    —No, I develop web applications.

    My case is probably different to those of most of you as my job is focused on delivering complex web based systems rather than websites (well those applications are websites as well but I hope you get my point).

  101. August 9, 2007 by Casper

    I just call myself a webnerd, and if they arent scared off then i’ll tell them in more detail of what i do.

    But if you’re interested, my job involves designing webpages (not entire sites) to accommodate surveys our company runs for its customers. I also make sure those surveys operate properly, so i also tweak/program the backend of our survey software…

    See? You still know that i’m a nerd who does something on the web, but i havent won the buzzword bingo :-)

  102. August 9, 2007 by Paul Decowski

    Sorry for double-posting but I couldn’t find a way to add on to my previous post.

    de·sign(d-zn) v. de·signed, de·sign·ing, de·signs

    1. To conceive or fashion in the mind; invent
    2. To formulate a plan for; devise

    de·vel·op(d-vlp) v. de·vel·oped, de·vel·op·ing, de·vel·ops

    1. To bring from latency to or toward fulfillment

    I’d say design should be strictly assigned to working on visual aspects of a website whereas programming to development (bringing to fulfillment).

  103. Isn’t the problem here that most of us do both design AND development. Design is the process of innovating and creating (a website) and development is the process of taking that idea (post-its, sketches, white pages, etc etc) and making it real.

    Websites also need developers since they’re never “finished” products, they can/should always be imporved. The people coming up with the solution (designing) and making the solution into a real product and imporving it over time (development) are often the same people :)

    So why not Web Producer?

  104. August 9, 2007 by Ben Rogerson

    I like to call what I do ‘web design & development’ as I deal with graphics and code.

    A simple ‘I work with the web’ can usually start a decent conversation though.

  105. I’ve found that the term ‘developer’ is sometimes misunderstood to mean someone who works on existing websites and ‘develops them further’ rather than building from scratch!

    I consider myself a Web Developer but usually just say “I make websites”.

  106. Although my primary occupation is managing and planning website projects, I also happen to spend a great deal of time actually developing websites, both on the front and back-end.

    Considering what I’m basically trying to do is to figure out how to make something work (visually/programmatically), I tend to think of myself as a “Web Architect”. Since most the initial work that goes into a thoughtfully developed website can be considered as building a solid foundation, architecture makes sense in this context.

    However, when people ask, I just say “I build websites”. The detail level I provide is directly related to their interests and or geekness level.

  107. I always use ‘web developer’ as I think it’s the most generic terms out of the many options available.

  108. August 9, 2007 by Joel Birch

    I like Cameron Adams’s “Web Technologist” as it seems to cover many things whilst avoiding people’s pre-conceptions. However, it ignores the fact that I was very much a print designer and finished artist for ten years or so. Hence, I tend to write “Designer and Web Technologist” which sounds suitably—and fittingly, I think—intriguing, whilst also being technically accurate. I do everything from visual concept through development of all code, front and back, and hate to belittle the skills I have spent a huge part of my life learning by pigeon-holing myself with titles. So great post Roger!

  109. as a graphic design student and a part time web development company odd-job boy i suppose my title is even more etheral.

    i tend to go with “im a graphic design student”

    following the inevitable “where does that lead you?” (man, you’d think i was studying math or something else beautifully ambiguous - or maybe fine art that leads to nothing) I tend to answer “oh im looking into web design” or if they seem the slow type: deadpan look “graphic design.”

    it tends to work.

  110. August 9, 2007 by Michael

    I work in a small company, and as such I do a little bit of everything with regards to IT here.

    I do both windows and web programming. So I usually end up saying I’m a developer or that I write computer software. People seem to understand that.

    But sometimes I do say I’m a web developer. I think it suits what I do. This leads to me having to explain WHAT I do, but I’m ok with that.

  111. August 9, 2007 by Ben Boyle

    I call myself a “multimedia developer” simply because my degree is specifically “multimedia”, though most of my work has been with web.

    I’ve had horrible job titles: Web Content Master, Information Architecture Officer, Web Usability Officer. There are so many different labels today who knows what we do :)

    Allergic to “user experience” eh? I find substituting “quality” to be effective (though I don’t recommend calling yourself a “quality designer”!) most of the time.

  112. A “web designer” works with the front-end (graphics, HTML/CSS), a “web developer” deals with the back-end. I go with “web designer/developer” because I do both.

    I avoid bringing up the subject all together by calling myself a seamstress. A recent conversation with my boss went like this: “so what is your experience with computers anyway?” “well, I program… and I do art…” “can you do websites?” Truth is, I just don’t enjoy doing it for others because it’s not stimulating (they usually want the same boring crap everyone else wants).

    Someone who just does mockups in Photoshop is not a web designer, they’re just a graphic designer.

  113. August 9, 2007 by Satya

    the kinds of people i meet identify ‘web developer’ as web programmer, so i introduce myself as ‘web designer’ or simply ‘i make websites’.

    besides i use cracked copy of dreamweaver in WYSIWYG mode, so i shouldn’t mind :)

  114. Ah yes Roger - the ‘What is my job role actually called?’ situation.

    To most people outside of the web industry, the matter seems a bit trivial - as anyone making a web site gets referred to as a ‘Web Designer’ by default, but it is far more important to our own vocational identity. Like you’ve stated Roger, the term ‘Web Designer’ - which seems too general - is often associated with the highly unprofessional amateurs. But is that a thing of the past? Has some credibility returned to the literal meaning of the term Web Designer - ‘someone who designs web sites’?

    In contrast, the term ‘Web Developer’ specifically means ‘someone who builds/maintains applications found on the Web’ - and this extends with developers being programmers, people who’s skills are based more in PHP, SQL, Pearl, and JavaScript more than the more common markup code of HTML or the styles of CSS. If your work involves coding markup and css - but very little of the programming-like languages, then I’d say you’re not a Web Developer in the literal sense of the word. This is why I don’t call myself a ‘Web Developer’….sure, it definitely sounds more professional than ‘Web Designer’, and ‘Web Developers’ are more in demand than ‘Web Designers’, but I’d be lying if started claiming I could develop reasonable apps for use on the Web. It’s just not what I do.

    I’m not a Graphic Designer - so I don’t call myself one, and I openly admit that my art skills are not as strong as other peoples, but what I do is design and then build web sites. I suppose I’m more front-end than back-end (that isn’t a kinky reference to anything else!)…but it would be a bit odd if I started saying I’m a ‘Front-End Web Developer’. Potential Customers wouldn’t have a clue what that is (and it would take too long to explain)…so it is certainly easier to keep with the term ‘Web Designer’.

    Certainly, what this topic shows most is that the title of ‘Web Designer’, and possibly the words ‘Web Design’ too, are simply too general and vague for current use.

    Referring to yourself as a ‘Web Developer’ as a way of avoiding the tag of ‘Web Designer’ is certainly becoming more widespread among Web Professionals right now…but isn’t that misleading for Clients? Doesn’t it appear less honest too?

    If someone designs for the Web - then they ‘are’ a Web Designer! If they don’t do much with the graphical side of things but mostly code HTML/XHTML and CSS…but nothing more complex than that - then they are (still) a Web Designer..and not really a Web Developer at all.

    I consider myself a Web Designer, and I refer to myself as that. Maybe if my coding skills in those other languages increases - then I’ll start calling myself a ‘Web Developer’.

  115. I suggest to chain all terms together, like for example:

    I am a “web designer, web developer, web analyst, graphic designer and a web marketing consultant”.

    Kinda long, but precise and accurate :-)

  116. I just redid my business cards, and used Web strategist as my title (the joys of being the boss, I can be whatever I want).

    I’m not sure I like it 100%, but I wanted something more than either web designer or web developer. I do a fair bit of database and application development.

    Usually when asked I say web developer, but the cards are only a few weeks old, so I’ve not remembered to use the new title. :)

  117. I use diferent titles for diferent situations, but usually I say:

    I create solutions for Web.

    That’s works very well for me.

  118. I agree, it’s definitely a confusing issue. On my blog, I call myself a “front-end developer / web designer” to cover both ends of the spectrum.

    At my full-time job, we used to be called Webmasters, but we convinced our company to change it to Front-End Developer because that is what we do. We are not some lowly webmasters! We develop the front-end: HTML, JS, and CSS.

    Although I do like the phrase “I make websites”. It’s got an A List Apart feel to it.

  119. Im a Web Duuuuuude!

    Seriously though I always use the following 3

    Web Designer = PSD/Design to basic HTML/Layout Web Dev = Code Monkey UI Dev = Cleans up the output of both!

  120. I have always used the title of New Media Designer. It may be that I am young but I feel that title encompasses all of my skill sets since they do not entirely rely on the web. I have done a lot of DVD and CD-ROM work as well as POS interfaces and Kiosks.

    To me the idea of being a New Media Designer says that I am responsible for the design and development of interactive media and the future of this field.

    In any case, no matter what your title, to me we are all designers. We create something from nothing and to that is the core definition of a designer, someone who takes ideas and thoughts and puts them to good use.

  121. I fit your description perfectly, and I would classify myself as a web designer. Recently, I have found it easier to refer to myself as a web professional because it is basically the same as web designer, but without any of the negative connotations.

  122. I consider and call myself a Front-End Developer.

  123. August 9, 2007 by Kevin

    Though Roger is allergic to the term “user experience”, I think the title User Experience Engineer best fits my role with regard to the Web. I cover everything from information architecture, to design, to front-end development. I’ll even dabble a bit in back-end work (ASP and PHP). Neither Designer nor Developer completely cover that breadth of capability, but UE Engineer rather sums it up.

    That said, I do kind of like the Web Producer title mentioned previously as well.

    In a more general sense, I describe myself as a visual communications specialist, which covers branding and print realms as well as the Web.

  124. Most people who ask you “What do you do for a living?” really don’t care. They are just trying to be polite. So my standard answer is: Computer Geek.

    If they really want to know more I’ll go into detail. But often that is enough.

  125. I like Matt Robin’s breakdown of designer/developer. While developers DO essentially design code, I think most people associate the word “designer” with the strictly visual.

    So for me personally, “web designer” (which I think has become a little less dirty of a title over time) generally is someone who designs the look of a site, including the use of HTML/CSS.

    Developer is anything more technical. Javascript, hardcore ActionScript, PHP, etc.

    I think it gets hard to define rolls because for one, web design is still a young field and people are still finding the best ways to organize teams. That, and within all the roles people have mentioned so far, individual skillsets vary a lot in and out of those roles.

    What I find unfortunate is that most places expect their web designers/developers to be jacks of all trades, which makes it harder to define these roles.

    I personally list my title on my resume as “Web/Graphic Designer”. Since I do a lot of print as well as web, I like to note both. But in specifically web design, I am a designer. I concern myself with the visual- design, HTML, CSS. I stay away from complex JS, PHP, etc.

  126. August 9, 2007 by Dawn

    I consider myself to be a designer and front-end developer or even a user interface designer, as I do graphic design, HTML, CSS and limited javascript, as well as a bit of accessibility, usability, seo and sem.

    What I call myself depends on who I’m talking to. To my hairdresser, I say I’m a web designer, which usually gets responses like “oh, my 12 year old nephew makes websites too!” I find that insulting, but at least they sort of “get” what I do and I don’t have to spend hours explaining it to someone who can’t even turn on a computer.

    To colleaques who understand what I’m talking about, I usually say I’m a front-end developer.

  127. Great article and great feedback.

    I posted something similar asking if developers can design AND/OR designers can develop.

    Can a developer dress up a pig?

    JD

  128. August 9, 2007 by Bob Simonette

    This is really interesting for me because I’m neither a designer nor a developer, I’m a teacher. I teach at a technical college and my department offers both Web designer and Web developer degrees.

    While students in both programs take XHTML/CSS/JS/PHP/PhotoShop etc. the designers get stuff like Illustrator/FireWorks/Advanced CSS/Flash while the developers get ActionScript/DOM Scripting and Ajax/ASP.NET.

    So I guess for us the designers get the front-end skills and the graphics and the developers get the front and back-end stuff.

  129. I use the title “Web Developer”. Although I’ve had some formal training in graphic design, it is by no means my strong point. I think it would be misleading for me to use “Designer” in my title. I’m technical by nature so I think “Developer” is a better fit. Since I started way back in the Dark Ages of the web(1998), I’ve had the pleasure to work on all types of web based projects. In the process, I’ve learned a lot more about the web than just programing. Now I understand the importance of things like findability, usability and accessability. I’m involved with information architecture, site structure and planning. Sometimes I work with clients to develop business cases for their web sites.

    It boils down to this: I help clients use the web to their advantage.

    I think “Web Developer” is the correct title for me.

  130. I use both designer and developer, but design more frequently. Design is by no means limited to graphics, although it is associated with it very often. Design can be anything to do with making things line up. (Ha, ha.)

  131. August 9, 2007 by Kayla

    I have always struggled with deciding on what to call myself. I am both a designer and programmer, including backend scripting. Judging by others’ comments, developer may be the way to go. This is still hard for me because I never wanting to stick myself into one side or the other, I love both.

    Unfortunately, my job title doesn’t reflect this. I got hired as an in-house ‘Graphics Designer’ of all things. Most my work is web based but you wouldn’t know by the title.

  132. If I had to pick a title, it’d be Web Application Engineer.

    On the other hand, I’m pretty much a does-everything person (graphic design, front-end, back-end, software engineering process, UI, UX, etc etc), and I don’t think that there’s really a good title for that other than maybe something like Web Guru.

  133. This is an interesting debate because I myself am a designer/developer/writer. I generally just market myself as a Graphic Designer because that’s what people look at first and I think the term “Web Designer” is more often than not confused with “Web Developer” by the general population.

    Though personally, I’d rather be called a “Web Guru” if only it doesn’t sound a bit self-conceited :)

  134. August 9, 2007 by Roman

    I’m a Designoper

  135. That question has been really difficult for me too, finding a niche is often hard enough without having to explain/justify exactly what you do to others. When I started my current job I was hired as a “Web Programmer.” Since there wasn’t actually any programming involved they changed it to “Web Developer” which more or less covers the basics of the job. However, if you ask some of my coworkers they wouldn’t call me a developer at all since I can’t program in C++/Java/etc. to save my life and to them that’s what the title “developer” implies. Eventually my boss decided to change the title to “Visual Media Developer” to also show that I deal with more than just web, like the “new media” title also gets at. The thing I like about the title is that it does cover the fact that I’m dealing with both visual things like the web, some video production and CD/DVD creation and it does allow me to use the same title while coding/scripting for the web. I would have also been fine with the title “web designer” since to me design deals with solutions, some members in the organization would have disagreed since I’m not the primary caretaker of the look of our site, though I am the person that interprets our graphic designer’s work for the web. So, I guess it’s all in how you spin it and how others choose to analyze the rhetoric.

  136. “Web developer” here, because between “designer” and “developer”, it’s the less tainted one. Also, in the end I don’t just design websites, I develop them as well.

    “Web Guru” has a quite nice ring to it too, though. ;)

  137. Hmm. I detect more than a bit of disdain between the two “sides” of the equation:

    “Me, I’m a manly engineering type, I don’t deal with all that frou-frou graphical stuff, that’s all just icing on the cake.”

    vs:

    “I make sites designed by manly engineering types actually usable and accessible by 99% of regular humans, using UED techniques.”

    Ok, that’s stereotyping a bit but…I’ve seen plenty of real-life examples of both. And I’d say I have fallen into the latter camp more often than I prefer.

    I’d call myself a web consultant. I’m not really a back-end coder or scripter at all; I work with freelancers who know much more about this than I ever will — I do know the potential of different web technologies, though. I make a lot of Photoshop mockups, but I’ve done a fair bit of xhtml/css templating for Movable Type-based sites and I’m moving on to ExpressionEngine.

    Beyond design and techie stuff — what I find missing here is client conversation. Without talking to the clients a lot about their business and their goals, we can’t find concrete ways to reach their clients / audience via the Web. Otherwise we’re just throwing whizzy technology at a problem without really understanding it. Whether you’re a designer or a developer or a mixture of both, you can’t (and shouldn’t, in my opinion) duck that responsibility.

  138. These days I’m partial to “Web Arts & Science”.

  139. August 9, 2007 by Teddy Zetterlund
    • Usability skills makes me a designer?
    • Accessibility skills makes me what?
    • Programming skills makes me a developer?

    On my business card it says Web Developer.

    In the project I’m working on right now I’m mostly focused on front-end, but my skills goes further than that so even if I wouldn’t mind if it said Front-end Developer on my business card it isn’t really fair is it?

    I’m not sure what title I should have, but I do know we don’t have any good terms that everyone agrees on :)

  140. This a difficult question, it is very hard to answer. You’re born and you work in a country where the web development and programming are well considerated. Here in Italy most of people prefer a person who use a “cracked copy of Dreamweaver” because it’s cheaper; the other ones are not considered and they’re underestimated: I’ve read that in New York they were looking for a computer programmer for $ 50.000 each year plus benefits: here it’s impossible.

    I don’t think that the characters should be distinguished: a person should have advanced graphic skills but should be also able to communicate with computer programmer and be specialist of User experience, and this is a real web designer, etc, etc…

    Then there are also skilled persons who want to do anything, also at professional level, who are good elements of a team, but in a big company they have to choose necessarly a particular field.

    The characteristics are not as important as to be able to communicate with all the others characters.

  141. I am a ASP.NET developer and I find that if I tell ‘common’ folk what I do by saying ‘web developer’ they automatically assume I am a graphics person (which I am most certainly NOT).

  142. I agree with Beau West: I’m a hybrid so I refer to myself as a web developer.

    If I were going after a position in a company (but I’m a freelancer now), I’d probably seek out Front End Developer jobs as that’s where my main interest and ability lies, but I’m pretty comfortable with PHP/MySQL and building e-commerce sites, etc. So I call myself a web developer, not a designer.

    I think to a lot of my potential clients ‘designer’ implies ‘graphic designer’ and I do much more than that.

  143. August 9, 2007 by Alejandro Moreno

    I like Web Producer, but I would have to do a lot less tinkering and a lot more coordinating before I call myself that.

    My most effective one-liner job description? “I work with Web stuff.”

  144. August 9, 2007 by Noelle

    I call myself a “web developer” but usually qualify that.

    I do: web design print design html/css/javascripting/asp flash motion design/interaction and actionscripting video taping some video editing art direction usability/accessibility audits and fixes

    but “web developer” is short and generic. Although I feel like “front-end UI specialist” COULD cover it, sounds a bit too pretentious. Wish I could just say “I’m the Creative” and leave it at that… as long as it doesn’t sound like I could FIX the computers. Being everyone’s tech support is annoying to say the least.

  145. My title goes in phases. One month I consider myself a designer, then I’ll get excited about some new framework and I’ll be a developer for a month or two, then after a few migraines it’s back to a designer.

  146. August 9, 2007 by Johninho

    “Presentation Layer developer” or “Presentation Layer champion” to those who can understand what that means. To those who can’t, “I’m on a team that makes websites” makes it clear that you’re part of it but not the whole.

    I’m trying to add the code wrangler side of dev to my skill set, and then I’ll just say, I’m a web developer, or I make websites, and completely mean it.

  147. It’s been years since I called myself a web designer, because that’s such a limiting title. I do more than design web pages, I develop websites…thus, I consider myself a web developer.

  148. How about “Internet Technologist”

  149. Web geek?? :)

    I would personally go with web developer

  150. Though question. I usually say I’m a Web Designer & Developer.

    I mostly do HTML, CSS and some PHP, so I don’t really do graphic design, but I agree when you say design is also about making things work. Anyways, I get the feeling people either think I’m a graphic designer or just a programmer.

    I actually like the term Front-End Developer (although it’s kind of obscure), but I also do a bit of back-end development. So Web Designer & Developer it is.

  151. I had this dilemma a while ago, but after some time thinking and discussing with some friends, I sticked with the Frontend developer title, even if a do all the wireframes, design a little, css+xhtml the whole site, and use a little of cake for the backend.

    I just call them like this.

    1. Web designer - User interface design, illustration and animations
    2. Frontend developer - Client-side programming
    3. Backend developer - Server-side programming
    4. Flash designer - Illustrators, and animators who only use flash (and I know a lot of these)
    5. Flash/Flex developers - Flash and Flex programming, some server-side programming for RIAs.

    There always other terms, and more specialized guys like SEO, Accesibility, Usability, Project/Team managers, blah blah.

  152. I think I’m a developer,because my work also is make codes such as XHTML CSS Jacascript DOM

  153. Web guy.

  154. August 10, 2007 by Andrei Gonzales

    I always say I’m a Professional Interactive Design Developer :)

    Although it is a bit-long winded, it sounds very professional and respectable, and I garner curious interest, rather than awkward pause. :)

  155. Just for you guys, for I don’t call myself a web-anything at all, two funny suggestions for use depending on the situation and audience:

    • Web Wizard

    • Web Goeroe

    But in serious environment I would certainly prefer Web Developer or Web Professional, where a developer just makes while the latter does more thinking.

  156. My co-worker-buddy, who works mostly in HTML, CSS, and Javascript, refers to himself as a Semantic Engineer.

    I like that one, but since I do back-end code, front-end code, I’m inclined to go with Web Architect.

  157. August 10, 2007 by chris

    developer

  158. August 10, 2007 by chris

    developer

  159. Personally, after reading all of the posts above, and agreeing with almost everything said, I can proudly say that I am a

    Technical Developer

    In conversation, usually in a cab coming from some meeting, it goes something like this:

    • So what do you do?
    • I build websites
    • Oh! So you’re a designer?
    • No. Look at it this way… You know everything you don’t see? That’s what I do!

    It usually works…. usually!

  160. August 10, 2007 by Natasha Banegas

    At work: front-end web developer, which is a title I am quite comfortable with, since I don’t consider myself a web designer.

    Everywhere else: web designer :=) (or “I build web sites”) - people seem to better understand this.

  161. How about designoper? Devigner? No?

    Seriously, I’ve wrestled with this for a while. I HATE the term “web designer”. I prefer “interactive designer”, but that still doesn’t really communicate all that well.

  162. 1) I consider myself a developer, since i am not actually creating the photoshop creative work.

    2) My title says i am an “interactive programmer” i do deal with a lot of javascript and and backend work.

    for the non tech savvy i tell them i am a web designer, it’s easier for them to understand.

  163. August 10, 2007 by quik666777

    According to my company I am an Associate Creative, on the Front End Design track (first job out of school)

    but yeah definitely in need of something better than I design and develop the client facing side of websites .

  164. It’s really interesting to see how the majority of people work. They are clearly defined in their roles working with either front end scripting OR graphics OR back end code.

    I LOVE the fact that working for a small company I do all of the above and I also think it realy helps me produce a better standard of work in a shorter space of time. (Communication between our graphics and programming departments is EXCELLENT)

    Of course this means I have even more trouble defining what I do… I tend to stick with web designer though my business cards say ‘Design and Development Manager’.

    I guess it boils down to wether your hairdresser really cares if you do the code or graphics (or even understands the difference). Mine doesn’t and to her I just design websites…

  165. Interaction Designer (IxD)

  166. This is a tricky one. I do HTML/CSS/Javascript/ASP/Database work, which covers both front- and back-end. I build web sites AND web applications.

    I’ve settled on “web developer” as kind of a catch-all term for that sort of work.

    The problem, however, is that most normal, non-techie humans don’t know what all of what it catches. To them, a website is just a website; it is a singular thing. To us, a website is markup and visuals and UxD and script and a database.

    If you mainly do web apps, simply calling yourself a “software developer” should suffice, but I suspect that doesn’t do it either when trying to explain what you do for a living. I’ve gone by that title as well.

    It doesn’t seem to matter much though, because after I tell anyone this, I always get either: “Oh yeah, what does that mean?” or “Yeah, I have a website too”

    Ugh. The “Yeah, I have a website too” folks are the ones that have FrontPage-built sites using 1998 design & markup sensibilities.

    Is someone that makes photoshop mocks and doesn’t even know what HTML stands for a web designer?

    That’s tricky. Can you really do a good job of creating site designs if you don’t know ANYthing about the web? I would think that good site design would have to be informed by a knowledge of the medium. There are too many print designers moving into web design without understanding how the 2 mediums differ, IMO.

  167. August 10, 2007 by Evan Smith

    I am a web developer and I am a web designer. I also do photography, graphic design, and interactive applications. If you are a lover of learning like I am, don’t be afraid to show people how much you know and how hard you work. In short, I created my own title in my work place. I’m the “Web and Media Specialist.” It’s short and vague, but encapsulates a lot of what I (and a lot of us here) do.

  168. August 11, 2007 by madr

    I call myself web developer, since I’m into the whole package; I do both back-end and front-end.

    For me, The term “designer” is nearly equal to say “I start from the visual and work backwards”, which isn’t really the best workflow for web standardistas.

    On the other hand, “architect” or “programmer” make me think of socket servers and assembles, which services and applications don’t actually “speak” HTTP at all.

  169. I believe I’m a web developer (hired as a PHP programmer), but I too feel that this doesn’t cover my HTML/CSS/Javascript skills. But because I mainly have to program for a living, let’s just forget all those semantic HTML and User Interface design, and call myself a web developer.

    When people ask me what I do, my first response would be to say I make websites. This because the people who ask don’t know websites are made in HTML, they don’t know there is a back-end, and have never heard of (web) applications. So I just make websites, and make sure their easy to maintain (via a control panel).

    When colleagues ask what I do, I can just explain I create web applications, maintain a CMS and create HTML/CSS pages. Depending on their response I can elaborate and throw in PHP, Ajax and the whole stick-to-standards stuff.

  170. I usually call myself a web designer. I do a little backend programming too, but not much. I find it difficult to tell people what I do — even at the office. I’m the first of my kind in the company and it’s pretty new to everyone there - even after more than 2 years on the job.

  171. August 11, 2007 by George
    1. I do design and development, so I’m both a designer and a developer.

    2. I usually tell people that I’m a web developer. If they don’t understand that, I say web designer. If both those fail, I just say I make web sites. But when I think about it, most of the people I say web developer to have no clue what that is… I guess I could say web master, but that sounds sooooo geeky.

  172. August 11, 2007 by Scott

    I consider and call myself a web developer.

    My definitions: - A web developer writes the back-end code (ASP, PHP, JavaScript, etc.) and most of the front-end HTML. May write some of the more advanced CSS. - A web designer writes a bit of the front-end HTML, and most of the CSS. May decide the actual look of the site if there is no dedicated graphic designer. - A graphic designer spends most of their time in Photoshop and/or Illustrator and doesn’t necessarily know any HTML or CSS.

    I see the web designer being responsible for the look and feel, and the web developer responsible for the actual functionality.

  173. I call myself a markup-engineer, not developer and designer. But people call me Nerd, not Geek.

    In Japan, we call markup-engineer or coder who mainly work with (X)HTML and CSS(sometimes includeing JavaScript).

    Thanks Roger for including link of my translating article from English to Japanese.

  174. I’m a web developer, more specifically with back-end development; however I call myself a designer since I frequently find myself doing that quite a bit as well—although it’s not necessarily my stronger suit.

  175. In our company the guys who actually build the websites (like me) are called sitebuilders. I think it has a nice, kind of “down to earth”, ring to it. It also describes our job quite well as we tend to build sites on a wide variety of technologies.

  176. August 11, 2007 by Beertigger

    At my day gig, I’m officially an Online Content Producer for a newspaper website.

    I don’t much like the term, but there isn’t a good alternative. I design mockups, code HTML, SEO, do graphics w/ PS etc, style w/ CSS, work with PHP/MySQL, do video production, report, edit and copy edit, and more.

    Some on this thread have suggested “architect” as a title to use. While wearing a different hat in the past, I’ve had dealings with architects who designed buildings that were impractical, and in one case, a building that physically could not be constructed as designed!

    The engineers are the ones who work out those troubles. “Architect,” to my mind, while sounding high-falutin’, isn’t much better than “designer” for someone who does front and back-end work.

    “Developer” and “Engineer” both sound back-end, and imply a lack of design/UI/whatever skills.

    Hmmm…

  177. August 12, 2007 by Matt

    It’s curious… I do print design, web design, heavy-duty Javascript, Flash scripting, PHP… It’s really an odd mix, but simply stems from being a designer who could program a bit, work got thin, did mostly programming for 3 years. So am I still a designer… erm…

    I’m a Designer and Web Developer… it fits on a business card, probably makes people wanting either suspicious of my abilities in one or both, but, hey, people pay me to do both in equal measures. Something must be right :)

  178. I don’t do either professionally (although I would like to), but I would consider myself both when it comes to my own projects. I’m not amazing at either but good enough to get the job done with time.

  179. August 12, 2007 by Francis VIllanueva

    At the company I work for, we’re called “Design Technologists”. Definitely one of my favorite job titles. Though I love that title, the odd/funny thing is that for my freelance work, I use “Interactive Designer” instead.

  180. I’ve always referred to myself as a “Front-end (or Front-side) Web Developer”, and then tend to say afterwards “I build websites for a living” to clear up the look of confusion on their faces.

    A couple of titles I’ve come across (I’ve been looking for a new job of late) have used anything from “Web Developer” to “Web Implementor,” “Web Designer (HTML)” to “Web Experience Engineer.”

    To me, a title doesn’t explain well enough, so I tend to rattle off a short blurb whenever I’m asked the question.

  181. I call myself a web designer. But I find myself naming titles like web designer/developer or CSS stylist - even more specifically. I work mainly with HTML/CSS/PHP but I also am a graphic designer/with stronger photoshop skills in creating web graphics, than I am for graphic design pieces. I’m not from the dotcom era of web design but certainly was around when people where doing it, long before i knew I wanted to study graphic design in college. So it is less tainted. I guess I feel that my JavaScript and PHP skills aren’t high enough to call myself a developer. But I have deep knowledge of CSS. And isn’t CSS design but just in code? Maybe I am a Web Architect since Webster Dictionary calls an architect: “a person who designs and guides a plan or undertaking” But I don’t guide it I hand code it myself. Or Web Engineer—- “engineer being: to lay out, construct, or manage as an engineer”

    Well I do all of those but an engineer just doesn’t sound techy enough for me.

    I guess for know I will stick with Web Designer and Developer. A long title but at least I get my point across.

    I hear some people call themselves a Web Technologist. Like Shaun Inman

  182. Sometime ago I consider myself a web developer, since I can do web design, XHTML/CSS, Flash/Actionscript and a little PHP/Mysql.

    But lately I use to consider myself a web designer since I design more than code and do the backend only for my personal projects, not for others.

  183. August 13, 2007 by Steve

    Great post, it felt a bit like you were posting this from inside of my head.

    “‘Web designer’ to me is a job description that is badly tainted”

    Agreed.

    “As an alternative, I’ve been using “Web developer” for some time. The problem with that is that many people assume that a Web developer does mostly back-end programming, which I don’t do a whole lot of.”

    Likewise.

    “What other options do we have?”

    Well, to be honest, I usually end up mumbling the unwieldy combination, “I do web design and development”.

    It’s hard to say that I do any more or less “developer” (as in, back end programming) stuff than I do “design” (as in, pretty visuals) stuff. I do roughly the same smattering of both, I guess, and a whole load of other gubbins besides. I have it particularly bad in that I’m practically the Only Web Guy in a 700-person, 40+ country organisation, so specialisation is out of the question.

    “My answer depends on who is asking, when, why, and under what circumstances.”

    Absolutely.

    Like at the weekend, when I was trying to chat up a hot girl into artistic stuff, I opted for the creative sounding “designer” rather than the geekier “developer” ;-)

  184. This is an interesting question. I consider myself to be a developer.

    I work in the eLearning industry. I started developing computer-based training (CBT) ten years ago and moved to web-based training (WBT) about four years ago. At my last job, my official title was “eLearning Application Developer.” When it comes to web content, I work with HTML, XML, JavaScript and CSS. For the training, I also use other software products.

    When I work on eLearning projects, I work with instructional designers. They design the training and I develop it into interactive lessons.

    The related question I have faced in the past was if the person who helps with the graphics should be called a graphic artist or a graphic designer.

    Mike

  185. I’m a graphic designer and I started doing web development (in notepad) when I was about eleven. If I were in your situation, I look at it the same way as if I told someone that I had just met and it turns out that they are a potential client, what it is that I do. Mainly for this reason, the term “web designer” tends to imply that you specialize in, well, graphics. Most graphic design firms list in their sales pitch or at least somewhere on their websites “web design” although several, typically those whose main focus is on print although they still exist, several of these companies completely outsource their “web designs” to development teams for the client. Also, many of the business people that I have known, some computer savy, others not so much, tend to associate the word “design” in general with visual elements such as images and logos. Therefore, to avoid confusion — I would tend to just stick with the term “web developer” unless you are actually working with Photoshop or Illustrator to eliminate the possibility of misleading someone who might really be looking for a web (graphic) designer and become confused due to the terminology used.

  186. August 13, 2007 by Chris V.

    My personal opinion is: When you use HTML and CSS with a some small chunks of JavaScript you are a web designer.

    In my opinion programmers are persons that use a PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE and not a LAYOUT LANGUAGE. I always get a bit angry when people say that HTML is a programming language. It’s “only” (only isn’t the best word to describe it) a layout language to describe how text should be displayed.

    A “real” programming language can do a bit more than this, as it’s use is more versatile. It can be used to solve problems occuring in the daily life which layout languages can’t.

    As I said I don’t want to discrimate HTML-designers. The best word is in my opinion developers, as it can be used for a real programmers (who develop a program) and a designer (who develop a layout). I would describe myself as a developer as I’m using HTML and CSS as layout languages but I also use PHP and Python as programming languages.

    But this play with words shouldn’t be too overrated. Because words can’t say how qualified you really are. ;D

  187. August 13, 2007 by Johann Morton

    If I’m talking to someone who has an idea of what goes into a Website (someone in our industry), I will say I’m a front-end developer, meaning I deal with markup, css, javascript and image optimisation. If I’m talking to someone outside our industry (for some reason most of whom will label you a web designer), I just tell them “I build websites”.

    People outsite the industry don’t care either way, they want to look at the pages and laugh, shop or …other stuff. It’s all about the content for them (something many a boss has yet to understand). ‘Back In The Day’, when I’ve been all “look at what I did at work today”, most folks couldn’t give a bollocks and this is still the case today. Coders, IT/SysAdmin guys and software engineers are the unsung heroes of the Internet. :-(

    Oh, and the whole

    you-use-a-computer-at-work-so-you-therefore-are-the -goto-guy-because-all-your-friends-and-family-electronics-problems -are-now-yours

    thing has been a painful thorn in my side for many, many years now.

  188. As someone who does the whole HTML/CSS/JS thing as well as design and server-side coding, I just call myself a Web Developer. I am, in the general sense, in the business of developing websites, so I don’t really see a more appropriate term available.

    Besides, I highly doubt your hairdresser knows what front-end and back-end coding refers to, much less has the knowledge to discern which category you may be in.

  189. August 13, 2007 by Johann Morton

    Btw, I use PHP and JSP in my daily operation too, but not to the extent that a back-end programmer (I call them software engineers) would. So I am a font-end developer, not an engineer making heavy use of “real” programming languages and certainly not a designer- I only use Photoshop to make amendments to designs and chop out (and optiimise) images. I have a suspicion that Web design is a little bit harder than that…

    [A previous comment hurt my feelings.]

  190. I know that to most people the idea of being a “programmer” suggests long hours with stale pizza and a stack of Pepsi cans in the corner. I do it all, maybe not so well, but I design and I develop. As soon as someone suggests dynamic content or databases or blog, or shopping cart (any “back end” application), I’m a developer (or “web programmer”). If they want a brochure site, I’m a web designer. You won’t find “web programmer” in too many job banks, however. Great designers have to anticipate the interface to the applications. And web programmers (developers), have to know how their data will be presented. Great design is 90% talent, but great programming is 90% sweat. My personal belief is that web developers can put together an adequate design, but few who are strictly designers, can put together an adequate web application. So, I’ll be a web developer for now.

  191. I have no problem calling myself a “Web Designer”, even though I hardly do any graphic design (all xhtml, css, javascript, and php). It might be because I assume people won’t remember the dot com bubble thing you speak of (I know I certainly don’t).

  192. August 13, 2007 by David Andersson

    Web Developer. Concerning about standards and information structure of your XHTML’s, CSS’s, and so forth makes me consider myself as a developer, even though I don’t do any backend. Although I would probably prefer web designer if it wasn’t for the bad end-90’s connotation.

  193. I got to thinking. Simply put, If your a web designer you have your hands full. graphic design, user-experience, front-end. Simply, the term ‘web designer’ needs more respect. And frankly, until anyone knows what the job is about these days, it won’t. But It feels to me that it is gaining a little more respect. Does anyone else feel that way?

  194. As I work not only as a web designer, web developer and web author, I named my one-man-business: Christoph Hörl Webfreelancer + Consultant. So not many people exactly know what I do. They ask and I can explain what I do.

  195. On my CV I would put client side web developer.

    Talking to my Mum I build websites!

  196. August 14, 2007 by Mike

    Web Developer.

    When people ask what I do, depending on who they are, I’ll say Web Designer if I think they don’t know what a “Developer” does.

  197. August 14, 2007 by Beertigger

    To pick a nit…

    Chris V. said:

    In my opinion programmers are persons that use a PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE and not a LAYOUT LANGUAGE. I always get a bit angry when people say that HTML is a programming language. It’s “only” (only isn’t the best word to describe it) a layout language to describe how text should be displayed.

    HTML shouldn’t have much to do with how text is displayed. It’s a way of explaining the hierarchy of and relationships between data, not how it should look. We’ve got CSS for that.

  198. The question is hard to answer because while design is part of development, design can mean many things, from what we make our Submit buttons read to a site’s color-scheme and type-face. It’s a constant question where I work. Say we’re launching a new section of our site. “Do we need to hire a designer?” I say “No, our site already has a design and the new section will inherit it.” So they hire one, and all the designer does is insert some new photos or a couple of graphic buttons. That’s not design.

    I design databases and data-entry forms, but I still don’t consider myself a designer. I take designs built in photoshop and turn them into valid code. Does that make me a web programmer? No, because XHTML/CSS are not programming languages. So I’m a web coder? A web markup specialist? Ack.

    Let’s just keep calling ourselves web developers. It’s easier.

  199. HOLY MACANOLI!

    Do you think you’ve hit a nerve here? I thought it was simple question…for me “developer” is back end/code, “designer” is front end/layout/graphics. Developers write PHP, ASP, JS, etc. Designers write HTML/CSS and maybe a little JS.

    But you folks have helped to blur this for me to a point where I don’t know any more. Yikes. All good points.

    I think we need to take a simple poll/vote…I stopped reading the comments after number 28; we’re now over 200!

    Can one of the developer/designers make us a poll so we can vote?

    j

  200. August 15, 2007 by Zhuoshi Xie

    I’ve had this problem also.

    At first I though a web designer is some one who makes web sites (does everything). Then later I realized there’s such thing as web developer, and I got quite confused.

    I think web developer is for the programming part of a website and designer is for the XHTML and CSS part of it, but when I tell non-web-designer/developers, they would think that I am a web graphic designer. I’m horrible with graphics.

    I wish there’s a strict definition of the two.

  201. My title that explains it all…

    WEB ROCKSTAR! :D

  202. Seems to me that only about 5% of des/devers out there can do design and development well.

    Here are the standard web design, web developer certifications offered by wow at W3C events: http://webprofessionals.org/certification/

  203. I have been called everything from “Site Author” to “Webmaster” to “Web Producer”, but one of my favorites has been “Front-End Technologist”. Unfortunately outside of work not that many people know what that is. I usually will say Web Designer when asked because to me I design not only graphics but also the information layout and craft the HTML and CSS.

    I do like the suggestions of designoper though… or maybe develigner? :)

  204. August 16, 2007 by Andrew R.

    I call myself photographer/multimedia designer first and secondarily a web developer.

    I was solely a photographer for the first four years of my career, that then led into a career in design. Eventually I started learning various development tools to understand how to design/fix (read as; make usable to humans) the code my clients had their programming teams put together.

    There are tons of developers who can’t design worth beans, and even more designers who cannot code to save their lives let alone understand back end technologies. I believe you need some combination of the two aspects (designer/developer) that suit your strengths. I have to be both as I need to be aware of the needs of users and the data systems that have to work on the back end of client projects.

  205. Hi,

    I would tend to call myself a web designer, but that term is widely not recognized as a serious profession (at least not here in Germany), because it has been taken by those who used to fiddle together websites during the Web 1.0 age. It’s not a recognized job title (at least not yet, but I hope that will change over the next 10 years or so), so anyone can use it. I would call myself a Web Professional, but there’s no meaningful translation for that in German :-(

  206. Presentation Layer Specialist/Engineer

    yes … yes indeed.

  207. I alternate between ‘web designer’ and ‘web developer’. Like you, Roger, I feel that the former seems somewhat lightweight, while the latter overstates the amount of programming my job entails. I have heard the term ‘devigner’ bandied around - a cross between ‘designer’ and ‘devloper’, and while it may be a more accurate term for someone who straddles both roles, it is also one of the wankiest job descriptions I have heard. Most of the time I’m happy enough with the term ‘designer’, as design is my first and foremost passion. If I had to choose between having the word ‘designer’ and the word ‘developer’ inscribed on my tombstone, I’d go with ‘designer’ for sure!

  208. Ahhh the age old question of designer vs. developer…

    I seem to remember once upon a time (years ago actually) reading over at what I thought was Jeffrey Zeldman’s site talk of forming an international guild for the Web industry that would formalize such things. Defining job titles and the roles/responsibilities conducted.

    ** Note that I could not immediately verify this via a Google Search. Regardless, this was years ago and we are still faced with the same question.

  209. August 19, 2007 by whiskey

    Well most of the time i tell people “Hago sitios Web” (i make websites), but i concur with you that this somehow fails to descript what one does for a living.

    The thing is that most people “making Websites” here do use such cracked wysiwyg tools (heck I’ve seen people selling Photoshop cutouts and Publisher made web pages), which kind of tarnishes all that’s web related for the dozen of us that do things kinda right.

    Some other times people think that what one does is comparable to what they can achieve with said tools… Some even think that this is somehow a “hobbie” more than some line of work.

    If you are to use your title on a card or resume you could say “WebWare programmer”, “Web Design Specialist”, or just plain old “Web Designer”. After all if they need you to do the graphics job you could get one of your friends who do such things to tag along.

  210. Sorry I’m late: Many in our industry are neither but mere decorators, web decorators. This certainly is a definition thing, and I’ll love to write about this problem in length really soon.

  211. August 20, 2007 by Carlo

    Hi all, as far as I’m concerned, I don’t think we should divide ourselves into groups based on front and back-ends.

    In my personal definition of web designer stick those who design web interfaces, with a deep insight into UX, Interraction design and Information architecture. This means to me taking your contents, shape them, then open your OmniGraffle and build a comprehensive UI. The next step of “drawing” the interface with Photoshop (or whatever…) is still included into the job of the web designer.

    The web developer is the one who take care o f technically building the website, i.e. programming, both front and backend.

    This makes sense to me. And to you?

    Carlo

  212. I have a very strong opinion about this, so please forgive me, and understand that my experience is anecdotal and may not reflect your experience. I am a designer. I have two degrees in design, one in Graphic Design (Fine Art) and the other in Graphic Communication (Technical Design for Production Environments). Trust me, I feel you, just having to explain the difference between those is a headache enough in itself. I am also a self-taught hand-coding XHTML/CSS/PHP web developer. I did not learn these things in school because when I was in school the latter did not exist. I am now a professional web designer. So, what do I refer to myself as? A Designer without hesitation. This is because I have met many developers who come from programming backgrounds and like to fancy themselves designers just because they know how to use Photoshop and can skin a website. However, I feel that this really robs true designers of their deserved title. I spent years learning not only the software but also principles of design, visual communication, composition, color theory, history of design, etc. It really takes a certain type of eye, discipline, and a high degree of anality to be a (good) designer. This goes both ways of course, because I never regard myself as a developer for respect of my colleagues who are far more adept and have a much deeper understanding of programming languages, scripting, databases, and AJAX. Don’t get me wrong, I also know a few developers who are fantastic designers, some people are just born with it (read: attention to detail), but I just think that there are enough people out there who give themselves a little too much credit and I think as long as a little respect is paid where due then we will all appreciate each others’ skills and trade to the fullest. Thanks for the topic, great article!

  213. I was comfortable being an unnamed jumble of different things until I realized I had to turn out a concise resume. I’m a liberal arts student carrying a major in Media Arts and Sciences, so I don’t have the benefit of official graphic design degrees to settle the issue a bit more. I’m an expert at HTML and CSS, and am quite comfortable with JavaScript and PHP. My problem lately has been that on my business card I want to market the fact that I’m a traditional graphic designer AND a web designer AND a starting developer…

    Of all the terms I’ve seen above, I like “Multimedia Designer,” “Interactive Designer” and “Web and Media Specialist.” Yet I feel like the first two are dangerously vague, and the last one is frustratingly long. Reading this article and the comments have definitely helped me feel a bit better, because at least I’m not alone in my confusion!

  214. August 21, 2007 by Kula bácsi

    I’m a rockstar web mofo

  215. Some designers have specific skills, like drawing, modeling, writing, developing… I’m a designer with developing skills.

  216. August 22, 2007 by david a.

    I consider myself primarily a developer as i do front-end/back-end/sql/javascript/html/css/.net/etc

    I also consider myself a designer as i do usability advocacy and user interface/interaction design.

    So what’s a master builder web whatever to do?

    As an aside, I firmly believe that writing good, well formed, syntactically correct, and semantically sensical HTML/CSS actually does qualify as programming with the web browsers serving the role of interpreter/compiler. Name me another programming language where the software has to work “cross-compiler” (concurrently supporting multiple versions each of several different compilers across several different operating systems) as the norm!

    Anyhow, at work, my job title is web designer as i’m not supposed to (and in most cases not allowed to) touch the back-end or any server-side code.

    That said, i was once listed on an official document as a web specialist and i am never letting go of that title.

  217. August 23, 2007 by Johan

    A designer can develop as well, but with different levels.

    Though you cannot turn this statement around:

    You cannnot call yourself a designer if you cannot design, but people that cannot design, they do design sites as well…

  218. Sometimes I use to call myself “CSS Designer”, as this is what I do most - html/css coding. I also do a bit of graphic design (for Web, mostly)… so sometimes I simply add a slash, and then become:

    “CSS/Graphic Designer” :-)

    Yes, it’s a bit hard sometimes to explain what you do. Should you call yourself designer, if you’re mostly HTML/CSS coder? And what if you’re both - coder/designer? What if you do back-end and front-end programming?…

    Good question you asked:)

    My $ 0.02 :-)

  219. August 24, 2007 by Richard T

    “Software developer”

    I’ve struggled with this one for years, alternating between ‘web designer’ and ‘web developer’ and agree that both stink a bit of late 90’s dotcom charlatanism and naivety.

    With the web becoming more object oriented and interfaces becoming more mechanical (as opposed to ‘solid state’), that makes us all software developers in a true sense. Unless of course you really ARE a designer!

  220. It’s comforting to see so many people in the same boat. I usually tell people that I am a Web Developer, because I do the XHTML/CSS aspect of the design, rather than the graphic design, and the general public I’ve spoken to seems to think that Web Design = Graphic Design. I usually still have to explain, and I too have found that it’s usually quickest and simplest to just tell people “I make web pages.” although even then most people ask if I do the graphic design of it. I guess people not familiar with the industry just don’t understand that there is more that goes on with getting sites on the internet than just the pretty pictures.

  221. August 26, 2007 by Gabriel

    Being asked what I do, my standard answer is:

    “I’m in the construction business.”

    And then, couple of seconds later, I add:

    “I build web sites.”

  222. I tend to tell the great unwashed that I’m Batman, but at work my title is Web Presentation Developer as I deal with design (storyboarding and element design) as well as prototyping with XHTML and CSS. The final build is usually wired up by the Developers who lurk in the background talking gibberish and feeling very pleased with themselves for being so clever. If only they could write compliant XHTML. It’s the real quiz though.

  223. 2 things -

    1) I vote we take a poll so we can see the numbers/percentages of which titles we go by

    2) I have been calling myself a Web Designer because I am a graphic designer who works in print and web. Until my primary focus is web only I think I will remain a web designer. I do use XHTML & CSS but I am a designer first and foremost.

  224. Hmm Roger, it is a tricky question and i believe each one of use do nto have the same wide responsabilities. I have done web designing since 1996 but today i feel more like a developer, i also use to do designs but today i get a psd delivered and i convert it. I also do search engine optimization, on-page and strategic marketing solutions.

    I think im a creative developer as i am a designer using CSS and i develop everything by hand as a programmer… I think creative developer is a good name and its says more than web designer.. it also depends on whom i talk to… for mama im a web designer but for my colleagues im web developer …

  225. Given my background in Computer Science, I prefer the title “Web Developer”. I think to be a Web Developer, it’s assumed you have a higher level of training/education. So, it comes across as more professional (IMHO).

  226. September 5, 2007 by ERNESTO

    Why do you all people, think that a WEB DESIGNER implicates only a guy that works the graphic and fassade side of the Internet? I call myself a Web Designer because I believe Design is communication, graphic, metaphoric or simbolic, design of identity. And in the most of the cases this identity has a relationship with the global image of the client, or a special strategy of communication that involves the web. In both cases I work in the GUI of the web, with multimediatic resourses, to improve the accesibility and usability of the mesage. Internet is a media.

  227. I have a degree in Visual Communication (?), professionally practice as a Graphic Designer and write CSS to display my graphic designs as web sites in users’ browsers.

    I refer to myself as a Graphic Designer, CSS Web Designer, or Graphic and CSS Web Designer - hopefully distinguishing myself from both the hobbyists and the programmers.

    ps. All my male relatives are engineers, so it would be nice (if a little poncey) to be referred to as a Visual Interface Engineer.

  228. I consider and call myself a Web Developer, but that phrase also makes me think of WYSIWYG “developers” … ugh.

  229. web designer.

  230. Hi Roger, I’m Yu Morita working at Business Architects Inc. (called “bA.”)

    I think you may state without reservation that I am a MDE(Markup Design Engineer). bA hopes that MDE’s working scope is defined as below:

    • Markup of HTML/XHTML.
    • IA (Information architecture), and document structures’ design.
    • Design and development for enterprise CMS’s templates.
    • CSS design and coding.
    • Design and development libraries of JavaScript (and/or any languages.)
    • Coding JavaScript using JS libraries.
    • Research and development for: XML and related technologies, Accessibility, Usability, all authoring tool, and all development platform.

    We feel the title named MDE is comparatively popular in Japan…

    I am one of MDE at bA. :-)

  231. Hey, frankly speaking, guys like u r the jack of all trades in web. :) I think Web Solution Provided can fit appropriately with you.

    To create a complete website u need to be a little expert of design, development, coding and perhaps SEO too. Thats why I prefer the term solution provider.

    However, thanks for this article.

    susenjit

  232. We had a client, who asked for a web design services. But he thought that web design include all other things like development and programming.

    So what do you think about this. Is “Web design” just Photoshop mocks or the whole site?

  233. I think it’s entirely a matter of opinion. In a corporation a website designer may be someone who does strictly graphics (front end), where as out side of a corporation such as freelancing or smaller business, a website designer may possess all of the skills necessary to to complete the job. Many find this preferable anyway, less chance of getting burned by a sub contractor, less over head (meaning cheaper prices and more profit), and your better able to accomplish everything you need to without reliance on someone else.

    For instance, I am a PHP - MySQL Programmer, Graphic Designer, Server Administrator, HTML / CSS programmer, etc. But I consider myself a website designer. Because building websites require all of these skills if you do it like I do. (Freelance)

  234. Web Deviner

  235. Ive been running web projects for close to 12 years now and have always split people into three roles, they seem applicable here:

    1. Web Designer. Experienced in Illustrator / Photoshop, HTML and CSS.

    2. Web Developer. Experienced in .net / PHP and Javascript with either MySQL or SQL Server. Also lives and breathes HTML and understands markup.

    3. Web Integrators. Understanding of the graphical side and can probably knock out a button + understands some of the development and can probably edit a db, bug fix a form etc. 110% solid understanding of HTML, XHTML, CSS, Markup, CSS hacks (gotta love IE :)) , server architecture and SEO implications.

    Help or hinderance?

  236. I always call myself a Web Developer, since I don’t do Graphic Design and a Developer kinda envelope the design part in web design. So I guess that would suffice me :D

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