Life as a Sole Web Developer

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I work as the sole web developer in a company of software developers. The company I work for has undergone a lot of structural and managerial changes lately, and we’re gradually making the transition from a very small business into being a part of a major publicly traded corporation. With this change came a reiteration of our contracts as well as some proposed job descriptions. My job description was very revealing of how alone I am here as the only web developer. It showed a complete misunderstanding of what I do and how I do it. There was no mention of HTML, CSS, JavaScript or any web technology.

Then I looked at the position title and it all became clear. The title read: “Software Developer / Web Developer”. Slash web developer: The web part is just an afterthought. My employer still thinks of me as doing the same work as a software developer, but with some mysterious black-box web stuff thrown in from time to time. This is typical, and not at all something I’m bothered by or upset about – your employers don’t know everything you know about your position and they shouldn’t have to. That’s why they hired you, after all!

Being the only person focused on web in a company is not particularly uncommon, but it’s an existence that is rarely discussed. To help change that, I’m going to talk a little about my current role and I’ll try to offer some advice where I can for other web developers in a similar position.

Own your role

Being the sole web developer is challenging, that’s true, but it’s also a great chance to make your mark within the company. As the sole web developer, particularly if you’re the first web developer, you have a rather enviable opportunity to plan out the whole stack – from technology, to test environment configuration, to documentation. The flipside: you’re solely responsible for those decisions, and any negative repercussions.

Own that fact. Know you’re responsible for anything “web” and be prepared to explain yourself when something goes wrong, perhaps to a deeper extent than normal. You’ll usually be explaining yourself to someone who knows very little to nothing about web development. Don’t make up excuses and your employer will respect you for having the self-confidence and the honesty to own up to your mistakes.

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Woah, that’s nuts. Were there other differences in your JD to the s/w devs, or was it just a title edit and nothing else?

My title doesn’t even include “Web Developer” or anything related. It’s “Systems Analyst/Programmer” and everyone calls me and the other guy who works on the web “GUI Developers”, because that’s really all it is… a GUI to a much larger system. We are both full stack, the other developers work on a variety of other things that go into the larger overall system and the business applications of the system.

So I can relate. lol

Is that often? My boss has a lot of positions come across his desk for that title but I dismiss them since they don’t have the word “web” in it. I check up on their contracts from time to time. My title (I’m a contractor for DoD) is technically “web developer”. But I’m probably lucky since my boss used to be somewhat of a techie from my understanding.

I was an Application Developer and Support Analyst when I was a dev. I don’t think the title matters so much as what is in the JD.

Wow I would have never realized that. I’ve been ignoring those contract job posts for a few months now due to my ignorance. Thanks.

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Basically what @Hawk said. Titles are meaningless.

But my Job Description didn’t include anything about web development either as even the other web developer didn’t have a clear definition of “web development”, although he does do a great job. They were just very oldschool.

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My title doesn’t mention “web” anywhere in it either. but that may very well be intentional, as lately I’ve done very little “web” work. I’ve been building internal services instead, no GUI, no UI, pure behind the scenes processing applications that don’t need anyone to monitor them, they simply grab their data and start crunching.

I was originally hired as a “Internet Programmer III”, but quickly went to Programmer Analyst. At my prior job, I was an Internet Programmer, then Programmer Analyst, then finally a Senior Developer (funny how my job went from Internet to no longer working on Internet applications… in both positions…)


Hey Nick,

It sounds similar to a situation I was in, a team of maybe 15 software developers, 3 testers, 1 designer and 1 front-end guy(me). In my case it was clear that the company and leaders valued the software side of things far more than the design/ux side and it made it difficult for me to maintain things to a standard that I wanted.

The advice you’ve offered is good, I found it important to increase the knowledge of the rest of the team about front-end tech and to value design considerations more. It’s a challenge but if you’re working in the area you’re passionate about with respect from the team it’s not a bad place to be.


There were a couple of things, but I didn’t see the pure Software Developer description so I can’t be certain. There was a mention of programming in C#, which isn’t web-specific but in my case does refer to me specifically as I’m the only one currently using C#.

The only other thing I can spot that hints at the web itself is a very brief mention of IIS and ASP.NET knowledge.

Good to hear from someone else in a similar position! I do enjoy my work and I love the company I work for, but it can become tiring explaining to people that the web is more than just a GUI, and it’s not just drag and drop, for the 100th time! :smile:

I agree, in this case however the JD itself was way off, and I guess I highlighted the position title because I think it demonstrated the flawed thinking that led to the JD itself being so inaccurate.

Ultimately you’re absolutely right though, the JD itself is far more important.

Thanks! And I completely agree, it’s the kind of position that really needs the right person. Some people will hate having to be across so many different skillsets (preferring instead to specialise) while others will love it. Passion is definitely crucial!


Titles don’t really mean much, IMHO. Although I, and everyone on my team, are “web developers”, we all have (basically) the same official “title” of “Software Engineer (followed by a roman numeral I through IV)”.

I’ve had one opportunity in my entire career to be the one to call all the shots. I didn’t get to choose the hosting company, but I was in charge of pretty much everything else. It was pretty scary, for me. But I grew into it, and came to enjoy not only the work that I was doing, but also the trust (and, by default, vote of confidence) that the client put on me.



I created my own title when hired (new position), so I just made it “Web Developer” - but I have the opposite problem now. I have the proper title, but they’re pulling my job more into software and some IT roles… lol

Dude, yes. Thanks fo writing this. I was starting to feel like the only joker out there that is not just a web dev but is the web DEPARTMENT at an agency.

And also kudos for having such a cool name. Nick Coad … and you “coad” for a living :smile: Awesome.

If anyone’s interested, I’m expanding my education away from traditional server tech to Angular, Node and other JS powered solutions, I kind of feel like that’s the future.

Hope to read more from you here Nick, thanks again.


Yeah, I think this is where I’m at right now. Scared, but excited! Good to hear from other’s who have walked this path before!

Haha yes! That will definitely happen too. Hopefully you are still enjoying the work though :smile:

Thanks so much for the kind words - one of the motivations behind writing this was the strong feeling of loneliness in the position and the thought that there must be others out there feeling the same. There tends to be a lot out there for freelancers, or for members of larger teams, but not a lot for the solo web developers.

I’m glad you could relate and hopefully you found something to take away from the article. Think of it this way, you’re actually part of a much larger distributed team of solo web developers, you just haven’t met them all yet!

(Also: I’m getting right into AngularJS at the moment, I agree it’s the way of the future ;))

Sweet! So I’ll be looking for a post now along the lines of “how an overworked solo web dev can make the time to learn AngularJS to step up their game for the good of the universe” … no pressure …


Title? How’s this: My official title is missionary! But most people doing Christian ministry tend to be “people persons”, not techies, so my day-to-day work is helping a variety of ministries by doing website design/development, online database development, video editing, desktop publishing, basic tech support for how to do stuff on their computers, etc. (My favorite is back-end web dev and databases in PHP/MySQL.) I’m definitely a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none, although my friends seem to think I’m a master of all. :open_mouth: Yes, it’s frustrating to feel like I never get really good at anything - a new technology seems to come out every week, and I’m years behind and shallow in my knowledge. But there is never a shortage of work to do or of people who appreciate me! :smile:

Great Post Nick!

Wish this was around a few years ago, but things happen for a reason. This article helped me rehash some of the mistakes i have made as a SharePoint developer (front end) I will definitely keep this as a reference/litmus test going forward. Thanks!

It’s really good to hear that your workplace appreciates your efforts, and I’m happy to say my workplace does as well! It makes the hard work feel a lot more manageable when you know your hard work is recognised by others.

I’m glad people have found this article useful, that’s the main reason I wrote it at all, so thank you very much for saying so! :smile:

My title is IT Manager and you’re right I have become “jack of all, master of none” as the ONLY IT role in a small firm of 11 employees.

So what have I done about it? Formed my own company and am now working for myself, strictly doing web development work for my own private clients. It has been quite a leap but I have been building up to it for the last 5 years.

It’s great because other than being my own boss (aside from the cat) I have other skills and knowledge from the “jack of all” job that allow me to suggest/sell other products in the general IT context to my clients.

Goog article which resonates well with me.

“being a sole full stack developer will eventually make you a Jack of all trades and master of none”

Yeah that is pain, it is not practically to embrace …

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