Ask WWD: Am I a Web Designer or a Web Developer?

WWD reader LivNLet asked us this by email:

I’m a “web designer” but what does that mean these days? Am I also a “web developer”? I am confused.

My projects require me to not only complete the entire design/approval phase, using Mac/CS2, etc. but also use Windows to develop and hand over standards-compliant coded templates (hand coded using CSS 2.1/XHTML w/tableless layouts) to my clients. While I feel most comfortable goofing off with other creative & marketing types, I have no trouble keeping up in a backend techy meeting.

So what the heck am I? When I describe myself as a “web designer” perhaps some people see one image in their minds while others may see a different image? But if I describe myself as a “web developer” I get all kinds of goofy job offers for coding backend stuff, which I don’t know how to do nor want to do.

LivNLet, you are not the only one wondering about what to call yourself in the world of web work. Some people see web designers and web developers almost as two different species, even though, as you note, the best web designers these days bring technical savvy to their work.

This goes beyond just the question of web designer versus web developer. Corporate software developers using web technology also wonder if they can or should call themselves web developers. Some computer programmers working with heavyweight languages like Java see a strict division between what they’re doing and what a web developer using HTML, CSS, PHP, and JavaScript does, even though those web developers might consider themselves programmers. This question will become even more common as lego-style do-it-yourself web development platforms like Coghead and DabbleDB let any smart web user build a web app.

What about calling yourself a web technologist? That captures your technical savvy without implying anything about whether you write backend code. By using a more generic title, you can address your fitness for particular job opportunities as they arise, instead of hooking into people’s existing stereotypes of web designers and web developers.

Do you have a question you want the WWD community to discuss? Submit it on the contact page or bring it up in the forums.