Redefining Web Designers, Web Developers, and Web Hybrids for the modern market

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Is it time we rename the titles in the web industry to better reflect modern duties and responsibilities, and to add value to their roles?

The following Venn diagram depicts how I see the world of Web Designers’ and Front-end Web Developers’ skillsets and job responsibilities merging. As well as how the responsibility of UX permeates our world.


Front-end Web Developer

Web Designer

Web Hybrid

UX discipline


UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that I am missing/alienating backend developers as also capable of being Web Hybrids. They are very much part of the mix. My original angle on the article was the front-end side of the house, but look to amend this oversight. (Thanks Polly P.)

Defining the roles

Through experience in working as a designer, front-end developer, and a hybrid, I see the roles today being less rigid and fixed, and more fluid and overlapping. Below is the 35,000 foot view of their roles. Obviously actual roles and responsibilities fluctuate greatly across the real world.

Web Designer

Web Designers should be focused on the overall aesthetic and artwork, but also have an understanding of the capabilities and limitations (C&L) of development–not just the C&L of development as a process, but the C&L of the development team for any given project. There’s nothing worse than designing something and not knowing if it can be coded, but to have already sold the client or art director on it. Any understanding of the C&L of development comes from web-designers having done some coding themselves, or at least having presented the project to development during the wireframing & design prior to presenting it to the client.

Being “just” a Web Designer does not absolve you of understanding how it all gets put together. Knowing the basic C&L of HTML and CSS (and even JavaScript), as well as good UX & UI patterns is mandatory for good design. When can you use CSS instead of an image? Vertically flexible containers vs scroll bars? Repeating background assets?…you don’t have to know how to code it, but you do have to know that it exists and how to design for it.

Basic skillset: Photoshop, UX (namely designing for the subsets UI and IxD), color theory, typography, at least entry-level HTML & CSS, capabilities and limitations of web image file types (.gif, .jpg, .png) and more.

Front-end Web Developer

Let’s pause for a moment and read this description from DiplomaGuide.com

Front-end web developers design the actual page interface that users see when they visit a website. … In addition to using web programming and scripting languages, they also use graphic design tools to make site banners, backgrounds and other page elements. (emphasis mine) - source, Nov 2012

Is DiplomaGuide.com forward thinking, or just confusing the matter for new grads and hiring personel? (And yes, I don’t see DiplomaGuide.com being the definitive site for all info on Web Development, but you can see how easily these two fields are getting mixed up. Or merging. Or—more accurately—being merged.)

I view Front-end Web Developers’ job as focused on creating the HTML, CSS and JavaScript needed to accurately present the Web Designer’s work across multiple browser clients, platforms and devices around the world in a way that follows good web standards and practices.

Front-end developers must also have an understanding of how to explain why design might not work and present options to solve problems in design or in code. They too must understand the design process, but don’t necessarily have to be good designers.

Basic skillset: HTML, CSS, jQuery, UX (namely coding for the subsets UI and IxD), UI patterns, static vs dynamic websites, ‘old’ vs ‘modern’ browser C&L, cross-browser & cross-platform testing, capabilities and limitations of web image file types (.gif, .jpg, .png) and more.

UX discipline

I view UX as a discipline in that it is rooted in research, methods and instructions. Much the same way Physics or English is rooted. UX is based on the user’s interactions and response, and while UX is made up of UI, IA, IxD and other elements, the instructions given to Design and Development outline goal-oriented interactions and responses, and general real estate assignments. They often do not get into the minutiae of colors (branding), design elements (rounded corners and such), and pageload times which are the responsibility of Design and Development. This, of course, is assuming the UX team is not the same people as the Design and Development team(s), or a one-person project.

UX is the hypothetical blueprint any project is built toward, and then around, and then revisited, iterated upon, over and over again until whatever was originally intended is achieved (or given up on.) The initial UX blueprint should be web industry-specific in that it follows good UX practices and standards. It should be project-specific in that it is driving results for the project’s goals. And it should be audience-specific in that it is based on research and analytics. But, virtually in all cases, it is a set of instructions and guidelines for Design and Development to work out in a physical and dynamic space.

This does not limit the UX team to only handing out wireframes and instructions. They too must understand basic principles of design and development, the C&L of each, as well as trends in the industry (good and bad), and third-party connectivity (APIs.)

Basic skillset: UI patterns, UX testing (including A/B), accessibility, responsive web design, human behaviors, default human interface elements for various browsers and devices (as well as what is considered ‘custom.’)

Where are we going?

Lately, I have seen numerous UX job positions (and titles) floating around the job boards. The job descriptions are all over the place in terms of scope and skillsets, telling me that this area is not quite done settling out. The titles range from VP of UX, to UX Designer, UX Developer, UX Architect, to UI Designer and more. Many read like a Web Designer position, and almost all are for web products. The problem I have with this is that technically every designed product in the world has gone through some user experience modeling-planning-designing-testing (unfortunately not many go through the last one). When you say “UX Designer”, that job description is virtually limitless. I am proposing we in the web ecosystem call it “Web UX Designer”, “Mobile UX Designer”, or “Game/App UX Designer”. For those that fill the role of creating UX instructions I propose they be called “Web UX Architect”, “Mobile UX Architect”, or “Game/App UX Architect” (for when they are not actually designing the interface, but instead wireframing it.)

Why is this important? More emphasis is being placed on winning customers’ over through the experience, so businesses are hiring more UX savvy people and putting more products through focus groups and UX testing. Some agencies and businesses also need to show the world that they consider UX to be important, and have been adding UX job titles to their staff. With better titles like “Web UX Designer”, “Mobile UX Architect”, “Web UI Developer”, we not only help the industry understand the roles of individuals better, but also enforce better job descriptions and better market rates for those positions.

I’m also not afraid to propose “Web Hybrid Designer” and “Web Hybrid Developer” to denote roles where the position has responsibilities of Design with some front-end development, as well as Development with some UX/UI Design, respectively. You may take a minute and freak the hell out, but you know ‘Designer’ and ‘Developer’ doesn’t fit those of us doing both, and only suppresses the pay for the “Web Hybrid Designer”.

Rates

For those working in the hybrid roles of Design and Development, you may know all too well that the industry will typically only pay based on the lesser of the two: Design. It is no secret that Developers’ salaries are higher than Designers, but for companies to hire you for both skillsets and only pay for the Design side is deeply gouging the industry as a whole. No one is proposing the market rate be double, but instead help hybrids understand that the pay is commensurate with the roles and responsibilities of the job. If development is included, the rate should reflect that. An easy way to do this is pay the higher of the skillsets, or at least do the math: let’s say Design is 40% of the job and Development is 60%, the rate should = (market rate for Design x .4) + (market rate for Development x .6). Obviously the percentages can fluctuate, but you should estimate upfront the base percentage expected over the course of the coming year.

Discuss

This blog post started as a response to a question on a group on LinkedIn. My answer got favorable responses, but I felt that there were a lot of Designers and Developers out there that feel pushed into the other group, underpaid for doing both, or uneasy that they are now working in a gray area that doesn’t have a real job title they feel reflects the work they’re expected to do.

Feel free to discuss below how you feel about the industry’s move to merging the two fields (or are the Designers and Developers doing it?), your experiences, and where you feel the industry is headed. Or rant. Or disagree with me.

42 Responses to “Redefining Web Designers, Web Developers, and Web Hybrids for the modern market”

  1. Mathias

    Hello,

    I’m not a developper, not a webdesigner. I’m a passionate “Webmaster” (hate this name) and i learned WordPress for many many hours myself, just to make beautiful and valuable websites. Then i learned to custom the CSS myself. And to hack WP. And to touch some php. And i learned a lot on website like Smashing Magazine. Now i will learn webdesigner/developper technics to become a better web worker. I consider myself a “Web Hybrid”.

    Do you think Web Hybrid are people doing like me, too?

    for me, Web Hybrid are also autodidact passionate people :)

    Reply
    • tristan

      Yeah, “Webmaster” got abused as a name/term/title. I think it is difficult to say that you are a webmaster without being a web designer and web developer, to an extent. And, you don’t have to know it all in order to call yourself a web designer/developer. Even when you start to code your first lines or start to design your first site, you are a designer/developer.

      So, yeah, I think Webmasters were the original hybrids. And yes, I think Web hybrids are doing it like you too. Most probably started out as a Web Developer or Web Designer and needed to know the other side for their job, or just wanted to learn more. But, then there are some that started out having to do both as a Webmaster and grew from there.

      I don’t see anything wrong with learning it the way you are doing. I think everyone has different approaches to it, different things available to them, and might not be able to learn it in a traditional way (whatever that is.)

      Sounds like you are teaching yourself to code. I recommend you check out http://www.codecademy.com/ to help you learn development skills like HTML, CSS, Javascript and more.

      Reply
    • Andy Merskin

      I’ve also spent a lot of time taking a route like this, where I’ve familiarized myself with WordPress Backend code, a little plugin development, and lots of theme design/development. In addition to that, I’ve conducted some research to aid the projects I’ve worked on based on my clients’ needs. I have also dabbled in Sinatra/Ruby and have successfully begun building a backend development framework for myself, and am continuing to build that.

      I couldn’t agree more with this article. Because all of these fields tie together so closely, I think it’s absolutely necessary to at least understand the basics for each so that a team can work together more cohesively. This also gives Web Hybrids the opportunity to work more specifically in any of these areas.

      Reply
  2. Justin

    Tristan, I LOVE the fact that you took the information from the LinkedIn group that we were all discussing… Which, smashingmagzine took notice of and share on Facebook – which got me here, again! – Great example of the viral nature of the topic and the need to talk about it. Thank You!

    Reply
    • tristan

      Thanks Justin. I really appreciate your comment. I’ve had a lot of discussions about job titles lately, and the feedback I am getting is that we are feeling a lot more like star-shaped pegs being flung into gigantic round holes. Or worse, the trend of “adding more poles to our tent” thinking we are going upward, when in fact we are only go outward (as stolen from this article by Greg McKeown on LinkedIn.)

      Appropriate job titles and good job descriptions (as well as good, market-rate pay) is the start to a content (as in ‘state of being’) Web Designer/Developer/Hybrid. A badly-, or mis-titled employee is not going to stay long (no matter how well stocked the office fridge is.) That title is not only money, but cachet and an easier way to understand where you fit in the ecosystem.

      Reply
  3. Gemma W.

    I definitely agree with you regarding job titles, pay and skillsets. I’m a hybrid myself, a designer and front-end developer, and at some point I’ll be learning some PHP for WordPress-related work.

    There was an article on Problogger where the author said that developers are good at coding, designers are good at designing and technical people are good at supporting/troubleshooting, then he said these jobs should not be mixed (it was to do with WordPress). I immediately disagreed with him, and it’s weird how your article turned up in my FB feed a day or two later. So thank you for that. :)

    BTW are you able to link to the LinkedIn group you mentioned?

    Reply
    • tristan

      Glad you liked it, Gemma. I agree: The stand on Designers and Developers not ‘mixing’ is absurd. A web project needs both skillsets. If your Design and Development team have good communication and delivery skills, then that often massive roadblock is cleared. But, having a Hybrid on your team can really bridge the gap between the two teams, and often cut down on the amount of times each is pulled away from their work for those ‘knickknack’ questions.

      Whether it is WordPress, Drupal, Ruby or the next big thing, a Hybrid that is respected by these two sides of the project (Design and Dev – and yes, there are more than two sides to a project) can be very beneficial. It has less to do with the technology stack they are working with and more to do with depth/breadth of experience and communication skills of the Hybrid.

      Keeping Design separated from Dev/Eng is really shooting yourself in the foot. I sit 5 feet from Dev/Eng and Customer Service, and it really helps me keep a finger on the pulse of what is going on under the hood (when my headphones aren’t on, or course.) Do I understand all of it? No, but over time I do have a better understanding of the complexity of it, and I do a fair amount of Googling to keep up on the principles of the technologies I don’t know.

      As for the LinkedIn Group “CSS Designers & Developers”, they are a closed group, so this link (http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=128819) will take you to a ‘Join Us’ wall. Once in, the question’s page is here.

      Reply
  4. Nelson

    Tristan, thanks for bringing some more clarity to this subject.

    At first, I thought web design included the production and UX aspects of building websites. Discovering the term ‘web developer’, I realized that these are considered different task specific roles.

    In the past few years I have found that employers are stretching the requirements of the web developer to include programming like PHP and .NET. Mastering HTML and CSS just isn’t enough for the industry to label one as a ‘web developer’ anymore. I sense an effort by employers to create a developer/programmer hybrid.

    I also appreciate Mathias’ post. Freelancing in the field and practicing all three tasks to build websites, I too, originally considered myself a ‘webmaster’. The term Web Hybrid, according to your clear description, makes more sense – and sounds cooler. But because it potentially works in favor of technicians by adding value to their role, I do not think it will be easily adopted by employers.

    Reply
    • tristan

      Thanks Nelson. I’ll be blunt: I am straight up stealing your line “by adding value to their role” and incorporating it in the first line in the article (thanks!) That is exactly what these titles and definitions are supposed to do. Also, my intent is to seed this information deep in the Design and Development teams of today so that when they become the hiring manager (some of you already are) they can think about changing their team’s job titles to better reflect their roles and responsibilities. Make 2013 ‘Year of The Hybrid.’

      It’s unfortunate, but we should have reserved the title ‘webmaster’ as our version of karate’s black belt, the beer brewing community’s cicerones, or like academia’s fellow programs where one can be a Cornell or MIT Web Fellow.

      Reply
  5. Jordan

    You seem to be making new definitions and silos of these practices by unraveling the old ones. I agree that we need to break out of our silos, but don’t give us new ones to be trapped inside.

    Reply
    • tristan

      Agree with the silo part. But, we still need job titles (or do we?) and job descriptions that help others understand what we do. I am really looking for a way to say “I do this and this, but am not limited by it.” The title Web Designer fails to say ‘I can write markup and CSS’, as does Web Developer fail to say ‘I understand UX, as well as UI patterns.’ If your skillset goes beyond the bounds of Designer/Dev/Eng, how are you supposed to let people and future employers know? If your resume is chock full of “Web Designer” titles because that is what you were christened, then at first blush a hiring manager is going to picture a life of Photoshop. You are relying on them reading your job description, which is unlikely if they are looking for a developer or hybrid. It’s the equivalent limitations of placing placards on the toilets as only stating “Men”, “Women”. We all know that we can technically use both, but it (usually) stops us from doing so. Whereas “Men + Women” or “Unisex”, and “Family” allow us to use both without a second thought. Adding a term that breaks down those boundaries (or widens/merges the silos) is what I am looking for. I think our community is very open to discussion what those titles should be.

      Reply
  6. Jeff Parks

    The discipline of Information Architecture went through a similar process – and some still deem it to be of value – Defining The Damn Thing. In general what is Information Architecture and let’s work together towards a universal understanding of the discipline itself.

    Such conversations were valuable when the net was growing, discussion boards could be managed, and there was a common goal of creating such clarity for all involved. Today – and to your point Tristan – much of what we are doing is integrated. Roger Davis – head of the Jamaican Design Association posted on our workshop blog following the ideas of other developers “We don’t hire designers who can’t code” http://www.followtheuxleader.com/user-experience-design/we-dont-hire-designers-who-cant-code

    I believe that conversations are of value but must be done internally. Again, to your point Tristan:

    “More emphasis is being placed on winning customers’ over through the experience, so businesses are hiring more UX savvy people and putting more products through focus groups and UX testing.”

    I’ve been arguing for years the designers (regardless of title or process) must become better at facilitating understanding. The days of the University lecture – a single answer / process to resolve all – is long gone.

    Together, designers are accountable to their own end game. Buy-in continues to be the largest area of concern from those I’ve mentored the world over. We must – as Richard Seymour has so elequently noted – shift the conversation from what we “could” be doing to what we “SHOULD” be doing.

    Great post Tristan and a conversation that I hope will inspire other designers to bring greater clarity to their role, the business, and most importantly the value for clients and customers in general.

    Reply
  7. Virginia

    Interesting article! And, another reason it’s that much more important to talk about roles and skills that you have versus titles. As someone who first started building sites in the late 90′s, I’d referred to myself as a web designer with the understanding that I wrote the front-end code for the design as well. And, this definition seemed to work fine until sometime in the mid-ish 2000s when it became a question of “do you prefer designing or developing?” I’d always thought you couldn’t be a very good front-end developer without design skills, and vice versa, and because of that was never a fan of the siloing, and if the pendulum is swinging back towards skills overlap being a good thing, I’m all for it!

    Reply
  8. Eric Mobley

    I have been thinking about this for awhile. And I enjoyed this post.

    I am a big believer that we need to start thinking about the way we use terms like “designer” & “developer”. If people within the industry get it wrong so often how can we expect our bosses to pay us accordingly or write up job openings that are reasonable? How can we expect young people entering the field to know what is going on?

    I remember seeing a “guide” to help you become a web designer and the guide was actually setting people on a track to become a developer. Instead of guiding web designers to become experts in color theory, typography, etc this guide was focused on coding, debugging, etc.

    Designer & developer are two very different skill sets. There are hybrids and some roles may over lap at points but it remains that they are vastly different.

    Reply
  9. Tony Crockford

    I’ve been drawing a distinction between sorts of web folk based on this concept:

    Designers make pictures of web sites
    Developers build working web sites

    I think there’s much more of an overlap than you think between the skill sets and then there’s the designer that designs *in the browser*

    I think the desire to define the roles is admirable, but the blurring is far too subtle as a developer may have mostly browser related skills or server related skills but it’s unlikely they don’t have a smattering of each.

    I think designers that develop are probably what you mean by Hybrids, but there are also developers that design and they’re different.

    I think you’d be hard pressed to find any designer or developer that didn’t take some care with UX when doing what they do, so I’m not sure your diagram works.

    Good start though!

    Maybe we should have a few sliding scales that we measure ourselves against

    Art Code
    Browser Server
    Framework Bespoke code

    etc

    Reply
    • tristan

      I am definitely drawing on generalities here. There are going to be a lot of people saying I’m way off, others seeing it the way I outlined. We are in a fluid and ever-expanding industry. Until someone turns off the lights on our industry, we as workers/contributors need to be flexible too. I’m open to suggestions for a better/different diagram and descriptions, titles and so forth.

      Reply
    • Sarah Khogyani

      Definitely agree with you here, Tony. Design, Development, and UX are disciplines that should be put into practice when building a website– I don’t think it’s necessary to pigeon-hole people by these disciplines, as there is very little distinction between them.

      Reply
  10. jible

    I’ve been arguing for years the designers (regardless of title or process) must become better at facilitating understanding. The days of the University lecture – a single answer / process to resolve all – is long gone.

    Together, designers are accountable to their own end game. Buy-in continues to be the largest area of concern from those I’ve mentored the world over. We must – as Richard Seymour has so elequently noted – shift the conversation from what we “could” be doing to what we “SHOULD” be doing.

    Reply
  11. Irina

    May be I am very old school, but I do think that if one calls him/herself a web designer, one has to be equally good at both aetnetics and html/css/js coding. If all you can is make good looking mocks in PS, then be honest, and call ya’self advanced PhotoShop user:). Seriously, we expect good knowlege of pre press and color separation from DTP designers, but we are ok with “web designers” knowing only the very basics of markup writing?
    So, in my opinion, I am a web designer. And I do: UX, layout design, html/css coding, responsive and cross platform design, some jQuery, lots of WP and many other CMS integrations and setup, little PHP.
    If you’re a developer, then you do PHP in Notepad from scratch, with your hands tied behind your back, and communicate with devices via command line:).
    Well, IMHO:)

    Reply
    • Eric Mobley

      You are seriously underselling what web designers do when you say that non-coding designers are mere advanced Photoshop users. Photoshop is the tool but a great designer has knowledge and skills in many areas.

      Reply
    • Andrew

      I agree with you that Web Designers should be responsible for some implementation. The writing of HTML markup and CSS for your Photoshop design is essential for a Web Designer. The web is a dynamic platform and you just can’t fully design for the web in Photoshop. Fonts differ, widths change, browser differences, native form controls – all of which cause a single web page design to look different than in Photoshop. I don’t expect them to write JS, but they should be able to take a library like Modernizr, add it to the page and use it in their design. Web Designers should be creating static HTML/CSS files from their Photoshop files, and slicing all the assets. There is a lot that can be done in just Photoshop, but if you’re not involving the browser, then call it what it is – Graphic Design. Graphic Design is a respectable and vital ability, but it’s a different beast than Web Design. The concept of creating static designs solely in Photoshop, and showing them to clients is a key factor in why clients think their website should look the same in every browser. It’s a separate issue, but worth noting.

      Front End Developers should take these static html/css/image files and integrate them with whatever CMS (WordPress, Drupal, CodeIgniter) is being used, break them apart into re-usable components like headers, footers, sidebars. Front End Developers also make the page come alive with Javascript – They implement ajax calls, and are masters of the DOM and bend it to their will. They write unobtrusive, Object Oriented Javascript. They use frameworks like LESS and jQuery, and think about performance issues. They also know at least one server side language (PHP, Ruby, Java, C#.

      Reply
  12. Adam Jessop

    Great article and well written. I myself have a similar situation in that, not only do I pride myself on being a hybrid, my full time role actually depends on it. I have to work along the full ‘web creation’ process from requirements gathering / wire-framing all the way through to backend / frontend development, user testing and server maintenance!

    I started very much so as a PHP developer with ‘an eye for’ design and good UX practices. However the pressure of budgets and being unable to outsource such tasks meant I took it upon myself to develop my skills in these areas, and I am delighted that it did.

    However the issue is that being able to develop a full site from scratch and manage all those different processes should theoretically put me in good stead for future development and new positions, but it runs the risk of being pigeon holed as a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ as bigger firms / agencies want dedicated professionals in a particular area of design or development.

    I get a lot of people both developers and designers comment on the fact that they wish they knew the other side of the fence, but am I doing myself any favours being on it?

    Adam.

    Reply
  13. Jon

    Great article and helps me put some of my own thoughts into perspective. Although I’d also suggest that there needs to be some serious re-branding done to break up the umbrella term of “web designer” into more meaningful job roles.

    Commercial WordPress theme shops and their ilk are fantastic resources for small businesses and casual website owners who don’t have the resources for custom work, don’t get me wrong. Unfortunately, commercial themes also enable people with VERY minimal technical or design skill to bill themselves as web designers instead of the more-accurate “theme customizer” or another title along those lines. Even Dreamweaver’s barrier to entry was much higher in terms of skill.

    I’m finding myself increasingly turning to the corporate web app world for decent paying work. It’s generally bland and unfulfilling staring at JSON all day, but salary expectations in small-business web design are being hammered into the ground thanks to all the people moonlighting as “web designers” utilizing commercial theme foundries.

    Sorry for the mini-rant, I’m just tired of the almost obligatory front-loaded unbillable work necessary to even get to a proposal stage with clients who don’t know why my company charges so much more than the five million local “CityName Web Studios” because, after all, we both do “web design”.

    Reply
  14. Gaurav

    Hi,
    I jumped into the web as a web designer. I spent spent 2 years in designing web templates and banners etc. then i moved into development part. I started to learn HTMl/CSS/Javascript.. then after one year I Moved into PHP/mysql and worked on some CMS too like wp/joomla/magento.. Now in my present company I have a designation of ‘Team Lead Desgin’. although I have 2 other designers in my team and they do the designing and frontend work. what I personally gets other work also beside only designing. I code PHP/mysql also, I create Wp plugins, I design responsive templates, frontend/UI work, mobile web apps etc. At present I have 5+ years of total experience in the web industry. I am not sure that I am holding the correct designation here, a ‘Team Lead Design’. it sounds something like related to design only sometimes. Can you suggest me is I am holding the right designation or It should be something else.

    Reply
    • tristan

      You have web development skills for front-end and backend technologies. It doesn’t sound like you do any design, but it does sound like you are in charge of the designers, the design process and knowing good design practices.

      The title seems like it should really read “Lead, Design Team” (or “Design Team Lead”) for the position you are holding. But, you are a Web Developer, and your title makes you appear to be a Web Designer, until they read your resume’s duties and responsibilities.

      There is no easy answer for this. I would recommend coming up with a title you feel is suitable to the position and to your work, and present it to your company. They may be open to renaming your title, and your position. Based on what you wrote, maybe the following would be suitable: Product and Engineering Lead; Lead Web Developer; (or closer to how it is structured now) Team Lead Product, or Team Lead Engineering, or Team Lead Development.

      Reply
  15. Sunita

    While your article did clear out some of my confusing points in the IT world. Since in today’s IT world one has to be capable of multitasking so lets say if someone is a developer then to some extent he is expected to cover up basic design prospects.

    Like in a similar case, I would want to clarify my designation with respect to my skills and key roles. I am basically assigned a “web Master” designation. However, my key roles define partially all of the things combined. Like I am supposed to manage my project along with my developer and designer, and then I also have to manage at the support level also, I am also the admin of my project (precisely u can say a data entry operator), and at the same time, I am also required to do some work on testing level. Apart from these, I have to maintain a standard to ascent my project and increase the sales (I have an e commerce portal in my hand). Not to forget, I am also interacting with our third party clients.

    So, basically I am involved with everything happening in my project. I would not rather call myself Project Manager but would not like to be called as Web master either. So, I would appreciate if you would put some light on it.

    Reply
    • tristan

      It sounds more like a Project/Product Manager, but I understand you would rather not go by that title. I assume it is because you feel you align yourself more with the web development side? I see the role and title of Project Manager as a strong and viable role/title in today’s world. I can also undertand that having intimate knowledge of the technologies makes you more valuable. What about the following titles? Web Technology Specialist, Web Technology Lead, Web Product Lead, Web Engineering Lead.

      We are sort of getting into the problem of Gaurav (see comment above) where you do many jobs across numerous skillsets, but may be filling a position that is difficult to name. We have to be careful not to just make up titles that don’t make sense to future employers. A Web Project Manager and Web Technology Specialist are pretty easy to understand, though they do cover a lot of ground. If you do any coding at all, you will want to try and get ‘developer’ into your title. It’s worth more than any other word right now.

      Reply
  16. Owen

    Great article … the industry could use some revamping in terms of job titles and descriptions.
    So, what do you call one person who fulfills ALL of these roles consistently? Who can design, do front end development, do back end development, interact with clients, create custom CMS solutions, deploy search engines, SEO, content creation etc etc…..There is ALOT of multi-tasking taking place in the downsized work force.
    A web hybrid? While trendy enough, I don’t think it does justice to the skill set of a hands on working knowledge of all aspects of web design, development and deployment. It sounds more like a compromise than a description of the skills available. There should also be a distinction, I think, between those who can do it all, design, coding etc and those whose knowledge is limited to platforms like WordPress or Joomla. The two are not the same thing nor should share the same label.
    The term “Web Designer” is as abused as Webmaster was and is … many people calling themselves a Web Designer do not have the programming or application understanding to be able to truly design in this medium… they can do pretty graphics, and that’s it. I have lost track of how many graphic designers I have had to tutor who thought they were Web Designers.
    There are soooo many levels of skills, abilities and experience that are not addressed under the current labels. Perhaps, a martial arts “belt” or grade system would be helpful??
    A Black Degree Web Developer is someone who knows their stuff and has at least 10 years of experience to back it up…. just a thought… great discussion!!!!

    Reply
    • tristan

      Good point. My list was meant to be a conversation starter, and I certainly didn’t see it as being exhaustive. You bring up a good point that there are people out there that are doing it all. They are beyond the ‘Jack/Jill of all trades” (where one knows multiple disciplines, but not an expert in all or most of them.) The term ‘Webmaster’ (or ‘Web Master’) truly applies, but may never see a respectable rebirth in our lifetime. My suggestion is to explore dusting off what we already have and possibly use the Apprentice, Journeyman, Master prefixes. Or bring back the levels I, II, III, and so on. We could see ‘Master Web Developer’ or ‘Web Developer, III’ or ‘Apprentice Web Hybrid’ being titles you can not only start with and grow into much the same way an tradesman/person does with ‘Apprentice Electrician’, or ‘Electrician, II’. I the end, I am looking to make it much easier for everyone to find a title that fits (and pays) better, as well as one that can grow with you over time. Hmmm, “Master Web ______” is really growing on me. The last word can change over time from ‘Designer’ to ‘Hybrid’, as well as the first word as you go deeper with your skillset.

      Reply
  17. Carlo Rizzante

    Interesting article, Tristan, and good points overall. In the end you made me even more confused than I was before :)

    On the topic I’ve less and less an opinion. I’ve seen of any colors, from employers, clients, and coworkers. In the end, I do everything myself, research and UX, design, coding, hosting, SEO, even my own coffee and I’m so tired of the average customer that I’m just working on my own start up (which implies even more competences and it’s a privilege to have time and money to invest in that).

    What always surprise me is how we, ultimately communicators, fail in communicate to business men, managers and clients in general what we do, how we do, how much cost to us to get there, and why we expect a decent return for what we offer.

    I believe that we’re usually missing the point. People out there, people who we would like them to hire us and pay us, don’t have a clue about what we do and who we are.

    We complain a lot about that. But ultimately it’s only our fault. Isn’t it?

    Reply
  18. Liam

    I don’t see anything wrong with learning it the way you are doing.
    I think everyone has different approaches to it, different things available to them, and might not be able to learn it in a traditional way (whatever that is.)

    Reply
  19. Dean

    This is a timely post, as I have been very confused with my position in recent months.

    I work for an organisation with 35 people, however we have a very small web team. One front end developer, three back end, an engineer, and myself with the 1998 job title of “Webmaster”.

    My job has changed considerably in the past few years, it was basically content management, dealing with static pages, and administration of a large CMS.

    My recent task started with paper sketches, going into responsive prototyping (and it’s many iterations), iconography, building an entire style guide for the brand, usability tests (online and in person), accessibility, UI / UX, and yes content strategy to boot…. it’s been a wonderful project, and I have learnt a lot about various fields, but I have absolutely no idea what to call myself anymore.

    I feel the “Webmaster” title is dated, and does not really say what I actually do, but I have no idea what to actually call myself any more. My director says that I will change my title, but I am struggling to find that all encompassing one – I have seen “Web artisan”, and “Web craftsman” which sound equally pretentious… what do you think?

    Reply
    • Tristan Denyer

      Tough call for those of us doing it all. While you may not be thinking of leaving the company, be sure you think of your next step and how your choice in title will affect your ability to move into the role you want. “Webmaster” will likely hold you back, career-wise and monetarily, since it is dated. If you want to do more UX/UI/IA, I would choose a title that reflects that, like UX Architect, UX Visual Designer, Information Architect, and so on. If you want to work more in the design side, Web Designer, Web UI Designer, and UX Designer (though not much different from UX Visual Designer above) could work. Keep in mind that these last 3 are the titles I was talking about that I feel are being a bit abused, or lost, or stretched out. But, in the end, if you feel the title A) fits better and feels good, and represents you, then it doesn’t matter what the words are, and/or B) is a viable title to take with you, or use as a springboard for your next position, then I would consider it a good choice. (I’ll say it again) all things being equal, ask yourself what you want to be doing in your next position and set yourself up with a title that will help you get there (even if you plan to never leave the current company.) “Web artisan”, and “Web craftsman”… if you like them, cool; but keep in mind that they don’t immediately tell me what you actually do, and are not commonly used as job titles, so your LinkedIn profile will rarely come up in searches by recruiters. Think of your job title in terms of ‘good SEO’, and you’ll do fine. “Hybrid Web Designer” would work well for you. If development time tips the 50-60% mark, “Hybrid Web Developer” would do you very well. There I go again, pushing the ‘Hybrid’ term.

      Reply
  20. Lucy

    Tristan, thank you for helping to redefine the world we work in and our unique part in it. When I read what you write I am inspired and it awakens in me the passion I feel in what I do. I appreciate what you said that there are more than two sides to a project ( design and development) and that for the Hybrid it has “less to do with the technology stack they are working with and more to do with depth/breadth of experience and communication skills of the Hybrid.”
    I couldn’t agree more. I’m fairly new to this field, coming to it from a lifelong pursuit and identity as a visual artist. I have never been content not to know everything I can about technical processes so that I can use it as a tool in the creative process. People are capable of so much more than we give them credit for, including being able to think about things in new and different ways. Isn’t that what creativity is all about anyway? I’ve always felt that my job as an artist is to open people’s eyes to see things in ways they never have. Why should we be any different in the field of web design/development? I came into this field knowing that for me development would be an integral part of web design. . My experience has proved my point. I couldn’t begin to separate them and I am thrilled to discover there are a lot of people out there who can’t either. I am reminded of my work as a cast metal sculptor. The entire, lengthy, blood-sweat-and tears process informed my work in ways that made my work excel. I learned much more than the process; I learned about the soul of bronze, and its complex dance with fire. I believe there is a soul to the web as well and to find it you have to understand how it works. And that means coding. It’s the armature, and the blood, sweat and tears of what we do.

    I am so glad that you and others are not just philosophically discussing the idea of the hybrid but are actively defining, defending, and promoting it. Maybe by working together we can change outdated ways of thinking.

    Reply
    • Tristan Denyer

      Thank you! I’m glad to see that you are taking on the development side of it as well. And I think you are right: knowing what goes into it—what holds up the design—really does help bring form to function.

      The more I think of it, a designer today really should know the basics of coding. There are times it feels like they are commissioning a piece of art when handing off a design project to development. Knowing the basics can really help designers become more deeply invested in the final project, even if they didn’t write a single line of code.

      Reply

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