Web Developer. Webmaster. Web Designer. What do these terms mean? Which one are you? In fact, these terms have been used and misused so much that they are in danger of losing any distinct meaning. This article attempts to define and defend these labels and their meanings.
"Webmaster" in particular has been diluted to the point where it hardly means anything at all. In the proverbial "early days" of the web, it meant a person who had both the hardware and software knowledge to
- setup and configure a web server
- register a domain
- find a good ISP, and get IP addresses
- put up a web page
Today, a "webmaster" is more often than not the person in your office who "updates" your website. They may not do any of the above, or know HTML. I don't think it's possible to rescue any technical prestige for the "Webmaster" designation. Let's admit it, it was just too cute from the beginning, and if Howard in Accounting wants to call himself your company Webmaster, just let him.
That leaves us with "Web Designer" and "Web Developer". It's my position that these two terms still mean something, and that those of us who truly are one or the other, should protect these labels from misuse, and from the unworthy.
Before we differentiate them, let's define what they have in common:
- thorough knowledge of HTML
- thorough knowledge of CSS
- understanding of the request-response nature of the web
- knows the difference between "client" and "server"
Right out of the gate, we can disqualify most novice ASP.NET developers. Sorry, I had to throw that in here. If you'd had to answer a thousand variations of "how do I make my ASP.NET method wait until the user clicks 'OK'", you'd have an attitude, too.
A "Web Developer", then, in my book, is a "real" programmer. If you've "dabbled" on the web, managed to get a site up, maybe even installed a working blog or forum package, then that's great. More power to you! But don't insult me by calling yourself a "Web Developer".
And you're not a "Web Designer", either. A professional Web Designer is an artist. They understand color and its effects and associations. They know all about fonts, and when to use which. They understand coders like me, and when I say, "the user has to make these 16 decisions", they can break it down to a friendly, efficient user interface. Most Web Designers come from a graphic arts background, and have worked as page layout artists and print designers. These are the folks who know which graphic format to use, and what resolution it should be. They can add flash animations to the site, wizards, and layout templates.
Web Designers envy the programming talents of Web Developers. Hey, it's true. Admit it. Ironically, lots of Web Developers delude themselves into thinking they are Web Designers. I've fallen into that trap a few times. In fact, any full-scale web application will need to have both professional Web Developers, and Web Designers.
Web Developers are the programmers who make web-based applications functional. Web Designers are the artists who make web-based applications usable.
Are you a Web Developer? I'd love to hear your background, and why you call yourself a Web Developer. Are you a Web Designer? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment of what it is you do? I invite your comments. Are you a Webmaster? Well, how nice