What does a web designer/developer do? Why do I call myself both? Since there is often a lot of confusion between the two roles I thought I would give a little explanation.
We know what a designer does, right? They work with text and photos—and color, shape, and line—to create an arrangement that pleases the eye and that inspires an emotional response in harmony with a company’s message.
The web designer pretty much does the same thing but with a twist.
The first difference is that, unlike a design on paper, a web design is only a thin skin covering a vast web of interconnected computers. It is somewhat unimaginable how much information lays just a click away on any web site. A design that doesn’t tap into at least some of that possibility isn’t doing its job. It often seems that the more a website takes advantage of the power of the web, the less important design is. Look at Google and Facebook. As a page design they aren’t much to look at; it’s the content that make these sites so popular. To think as a web designer is a lot different than thinking as designers in other mediums.
Designing for the web means understanding the technology behind it. In essence, a web page is just code—HTML, CSS, and more—that a browser is designed to translate into something we can make sense of. Without understanding the limitations and opportunities of this technology the web designer is working in the dark. And the technology is always changing—HTML5 and CSS3 are a total game changer. A web designer who doesn’t build their own pages is a bit like an artist who doesn’t mix her own colors.
A web designer also needs to know at least the basics of SEO (search engine optimization) since page design makes a big difference in that. It doesn’t hurt to know some other languages too, like jQuery and PHP, to take advantages of some of the bells and whistles those can offer.
To call myself just a designer seems to mean I don’t handle this left-brain geeky stuff. But call myself a developer and people think you are a computer programmer, somewhere next to a rocket scientist in a possessor of abstruse and arcane knowledge.
So for now, unless a better word comes up, I am going to call myself a web designer/developer. A little bit of (and the best of?) both.