Mini rant on titles – web designer or web developer?

I’m working with a prospective client who needs specialized e-commerce assistance – more than I’m capable of doing in a timely manner. So I found an experienced PHP programmer who can provide this expertise.

We met with the client today and all went well. The programmer has a good grasp of the rather non-traditional desires of the client as far as the workings of the checkout process, and that’s great. I’m not going to make as much money from the job as I originally thought, because I’m now not going to be the one doing the cart, but the client will get exactly what he wants and hopefully I’ll get a good long-term business relationship out of it.

What irked me today was the way the programmer continually referred to me as ‘the one who’ll make it all pretty.’

‘Pretty’ isn’t the tip of the iceberg. What I bring to the table goes way beyond aesthetics.

It’s 9 years of personal e-commerce experience and 12 years of building websites; a strong graphic design background; an understanding of search engine optimization practices; a deep understanding of cross-browser compatibility and web standards; familiarity with Section 508 accessibility guidelines; the ability to partner with my clients and provide as much education on the care of feeding of their web presence as they can take; an understanding of information architecture and navigation; and an understanding of how to create a website that engages the customer from page one.

Programmers think that my job is all about aesthetics, and hard-core designers think that I shouldn’t use the word ‘creative’ in my business name because I’m not really a creative if I work with code. I’ve actually been told that to my face…

What exactly am I? I refer to myself as a designer/developer on my business cards and I thought that covered the bases pretty well, but perhaps not. Should I consider reworking my title yet again? Web strategist? Web jack-of-all-trades? Web designoper? Web develsigner?


  1. I’m on the opposite side, as a developer I’m often asking myself the same question in reverse, Developer or Designer? I’m more a Developer as I’ve been 15 years a developer, I rely on an artistic presence from designers to bring the two together. I try to to refer to myself as a Web Developer, because web design and web programming is development, if you are only good at one of them, then contracting out the other one must still be development. The trouble is a lot of people don’t know what a Web Developer does, so I end up saying ‘Web Designer’!

  2. Hi Debbie,

    I have been into web Industry handling both front end (design) and back end(development). My reading is that professionals having expertise in Web Design and Understanding of Web Development or vice versa should be termed as Web Professionals, where in they play critical role of front end visualisation in sync with the backend structure or flow. Which also shapes up the professional as a great creative or visualiser with respect to wen industry. A front end web design cannot be build with lack of backend undertstanding.

    My conclusion is you are a blend of Creative Design with Analytical Brains to understand Web Development.

  3. Dude, I know exactly what your talking about. It sounds like we have very similar situations, give or take a couple years of experience. I’m sitting here trying to come up with the right job title(for a client proposal) because I’ve been using Designer / Developer for a title for about 3 years now. But within that time I’ve began programing cms sites, and e-commerce sites complete with seo. Sooooo… Designer / Developer / Programmer?

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