These days, one rarely works simply as a “web designer”. Prominent emerging sub/supra-disciplines include user experience design (with interaction design, information architecture falling under this umbrella), usability engineering, front-end development, back-end development, content strategy, and visual design. Sometimes a designer wears many hats and at one time or another will act in one of these many roles. Other times, designers work in large agency environments wear an individual is responsible for focusing on only one of these roles.
What roles would you include in your list of core competencies for web design?
This is a classic case of the “Jack of all trades - master of none” philosophy. You either end up as someone who knows “a little about a lot” (the person who spans several disciplines) or someone who knows “a lot about a little” (the expert who focuses all their energy in becoming a seasoned guru in a single or couple of competencies). Neither one is better or worse than the other, their just filling different needs. We need people know can dive between subjects to offer all round packages to clients, and we need those who stick to a single region to define the standards and best practices (due to exceptional knowledge, understanding and study of their chosen segment). To answer your question: It depends which you are, the Professional (Generalist) or the Expert (Specific).
Thanks Alex for your reply.
To emphasize my question again, “What roles would you include in your list of core competencies for web design?”
I’m literally asking for a list of sub-disciplines of web design. My list looks like this:
- user experience design
- information architecture
- interaction design
- front-end development
- back-end development
- content strategy
- usability engineering
- visual designer
A person could fill all 8 of these roles, or 8 individuals could fill each one of these roles, depending on the context of the project/work environment. At a small studio or as the only in-house designer, a designer would likely act in all 8 roles, whereas at a consulting firm or in a large in-house department all 8 roles would likely be specialized with 8 individuals filling each role.
What does your list look like?
Well my “disciplines” as in what I’m “able” to practice would be…
Back-end Development (PHP/mySQL)
User-Experience Design (Interaction Design / Accessibility / Usability)
Content Writing and Information-Architecture
Though I should specify that I chose to specialize in UX Design as my primary skillset because that’s the area of web design I find most interesting.
I totally disagree with what you said above… being able to carry out a job role and being an expert in that field are two totally different things. No one person could fulfil all of what you have mentioned to the level as someone who dedicates their career to a sole discipline and is able to study and become expertly fine-tuned. Anyone who claims they are able to do everything you’ve mentioned to the same extent as someone who solely practices (for example) Usability is not telling the truth. There’s simply not enough time for any one person to become the Jakob Nielsen or Steve Krug of Usability along with the “best of breed” in every other competency. Putting it simply: there’s a reason why there will always be a need for sole practitioners of a single craft, they don’t have to dilute their skill quality levels to try and cram in a well rounded base of competencies. Comparing the two as if their of equal value really is redundant as it’s simply not an accurate portrayal of skills.
I agree that an individual designer cannot be an expert in all the sub-disciplines I mentioned. What I mean to convey is that sometimes, due to limited resources, individuals are required to be a jack of all trades. That doesn’t mean they’re required to become an expert.
Also, the reason I ask for your list of web design sub-disciplines is because I’m developing a career guide to web design for people who want pursue a career in web design.
Do you think your list includes the essential competencies a person needs to have a grasp of when pursuing a career in web design? Or there others you would include?
You really should be at least familiar with the basics to understand how the design would interact with everything else. I’d say you’d be better off knowing a little bit about more areas, rather than just limit yourself to one very specific thing.
A grasp of the languages, a grasp of the software tools, and a grasp of the concepts that go into creating a good, usable design.