What The Hell Is A Web Designer Anyway?

A web designer, pretty simple isn’t it? I know what you’re thinking – it’s someone that designs websites right? Wrong!

For years I’ve considered myself to be a web designer based on that exact thinking, but perhaps that’s because I’ve worked in this industry for a number of years. I’ve lost count of the amount of web design projects I’ve been offered that aren’t anything to do with web design and are actually web development projects.

I design websites, I code a little html/css and I tinker with a few off the shelf CMS’s – but what I don’t do is any form of programming. It doesn’t excite me, I don’t enjoy it and I doubt I ever will. I’m a visual person, I respond to the way things work and the way they look. I am of the opinion that you’re either one or the other, a designer or a developer. Great designers don’t tend to make great developers and vice versa. There are of course exceptions but these tend to be few and far between. There are many aspects and roles in the development of a website and design is just one of them.

What’s the answer?

So, back to the original point. What the hell is a web designer anyway? Well that would entirely depend upon who you ask. Ask a designer, they’ll tell you it’s a designer. Ask a developer, they’ll tell you it’s a developer. Ask a client and they’ll tell you it’s the person that does the whole thing from start to finish.

I’ve attended conferences in the past that were aimed at web designers and mostly revolved around code and coding – I felt like I’d totally misunderstood the terminology. Maybe it’s me and my old school ways. I’m old enough to remember when Internet Explorer was the best browser (if you’re under 28 you may not even believe there ever was such a time), maybe I need to update my thinking. Somehow though, that word designer in there always makes me think I’m right.

As always, I’d be interested to hear other peoples takes on this – your comments are welcome!



07 Mar 2011 12:14:45

Finally jumped out of the web development game for pretty much this exact reason (but from the other end).

“Internet Explorer was the best browser”

I’m old enough to remember but I have to disagree with this one. It was internet explorers fuzzy standards mode that gave people the impression that Netscape was broken simply because it adhered to the standards. The short term gain turned into a decade of broken standards and design compromises.

At least Microsoft is finally trying to put something right;




07 Mar 2011 14:52:49

I’ve been a long-standing believer that very few people can sit in both camps; or even migrate from one to the other. I think it mainly comes down to mind-set, each discipline requires very different way of thinking…and it’s very rare for someone to possess both qualities.

I have great respect for people (like yourself) who hold their hands up and say “I don’t code” or “I don’t design”; it’s a hard thing to admit when many – including clients – consider it to be a combined role. Personally, I like it when people do say it. More often than not, it’s an honest person who’s got a genuine passion for the particular role they play…
genuine passion + someone who eats/sleeps said role = better results

To be honest, I think some developers adopt the ‘designer’ term just because it sounds less geeky!

And yes, it’s annoying that conferences don’t clarify which end of the web they’re catering for.


08 Mar 2011 17:04:06

I’m happy to concede that maybe it wasn’t the best browser, I just recall that at that time in the particular agency I worked for it was Netscape Navigator that caused all the problems.

It’s actually a difficult sell to clients to say that you only do part of the process and understandably so, they want someone to take the whole task on and would like a single point of contact (and a single point of responsibility) for that project. Difficult sell, but in my opinion the results are almost always better (assuming it’s the right combination of people on the project)

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