Developer, Designer, Director, Producer – Why Your Job Title Does Not Matter

By Craig Buckler
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web job titlesThe statistics from the A List Apart Web Design Survey 2008 have been released. The survey compiled information from almost 30,000 people working in the web industry and, in the majority of cases, the results are not surprising. The typical respondent was a white male aged between 19 and 44 with a college degree living in a western country. He is likely to be an independent contractor or an employee working between 30 and 49 hours per week and making up to $80,000 per year. Two thirds also have a personal site or blog (although I wish they asked how frequently it was updated!)

Then comes the tricky question: “what is your job title?”

Almost 28% of people answered “Developer”, with “Web Designer” at 13%, “Designer” at 8%, followed by various grand-sounding roles such as Web Master, Creative/Art Director, Web Producer, Information Architect, Usability Consultant, Marketer, Educator, and Accessibility Consultant. Finally, we come to “Other” – only to find that it accounts for a huge 26% of the total. It appears that job titles vary more than the people who completed the survey.

It used to be so much easier: you worked in IT and no one cared much beyond that. It seems that the Web has introduced a plethora of job titles that few people recognise or understand. What is a Webmaster? What does a Web Producer really do? How is it different from an Information Architect?

Many smart companies realised that employees often care more about their job title than their salary. Why give a good pay rise when you can simply make Bob the Vice President of Hypertext Technology Systems? His kids might go hungry, but he’ll be the envy of all his friends.

So do titles matter? Maybe they did at one time, but it has reached the stage where job titles are utterly meaningless to the majority of clients, potential employers, or even fellow colleagues. Web jobs require a varied assortment of skills, so perhaps we should give up trying to label workers?

What is your job title? Does it accurately describe your role? Do you need to explain it to clients? Is it really important to you?

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  • Skyview

    Well, I’m probably not typical of most here but my title for my primary job is Process Consultant. For my part time web design/development work I use Principal Consultant since that’s actually accurate. I find most people really don’t care all that much as long as:

    1. They like you
    2. They trust you
    3. They have comfort level that you know what you are doing

    I think most people do business with people that they like and what you call yourself for the most part is not all that important.

  • stevieg_83

    I prefer to say that I work within a web team rather than defining my job. The work covers many different areas of expertise so saying I’m a developer, designer or usability consultant is redundant.

    I supposed if I was a guru in 1 specific area and did that solely then I’d chose a title from that.

  • I’m always having difficulties explaining what a Frontend engineer does :)

  • I am an freelancer and in the majority of the cases I have to pitch myself to a client by explaining ‘what I can do’ rather than ‘who I am’. The pitch is then augmented with the kind of technologies I work with (PHP, MySQL, JavaScript, MVC etc..) . A few of them then would like to see some of the code I have written or some of the web applications I have worked on before the deal is finally decided. The title I keep is pointless in these cases. In a handful of events where I do need to state my designation (say, in a business card), the title ‘web developer’ does more than a great job.

  • I am theoretically a web developer. That constitutes about 20% of what I actually do. Most of my work is project management, information architecture, content strategy, image editing, writing, editing and talking to clients about just about everything. Oh yeah, and making tea! :)

  • @ionutzp

    I’m always having difficulties explaining what a Frontend engineer does :)

    I always like the title “Fronteer”, but it never caught on and only those doing the job understood what it meant.

  • My job title is Software Engineer and I work on every process of
    a project: Database design, sql scripts, php, javascript, css bug fixes. My colleagues have different job titles but in the end we end up doing the same stuff.

  • My job title has changed so much since the early 90’s. I’ve been a Web Master, Web Designer, Developer, IT Analyst and a New Media Marketing Specialist. A rose by any other name would still do the same work. It’s funny to see the postings on job sites and how creative companies can be with their titling.

  • Susan

    Recently they’ve been calling me a UI Developer. Yes I do the design, yes I work out the CSS and layout, but I also figure out RichFaces or CMS skinning and show the application developers how to use to get desired effect semantically….

  • Anonymous

    My title states “Web Developer” and I am a JavaScript expert, but I usually just tell people I work with computers. If they seem a little knowledgeable and are still interested, I’ll tell them I build websites.

  • aemciv

    My title is Web Extraordinaire! Actually no… its not. I usually go by Web Developer/Designer. I think it is important to make aware that I design as well as develop, because some people in my company just develop, which is obvious:). Being on both levels is important.

  • nathany

    Titles may matter for the guru/consultant types, and according to the survey, it certainly mattered in terms of salary and experience/age. But often we wear many hats, so it’s hard to sum up what we do with a few words.

    Usually I just say “web developer” and stress that I’m not a graphics designer, or that I do more back-end programming. Though I suppose I’m a “Fronteer” as well, and basically go where needed, and have learned programming languages and tools just for a single project.

  • Dorene

    Another issues with titles, is that if you are looking for work, it’s hard to match a job title for something with an obscure name. I find my current job hunt very time consuming, since I have to be creative with my search phrases. Personally my title has been Business Analyst, Consultant or System Analyst, but in each case, I was working on documenting requirements for software development projects.

  • garethjmsaunders

    My job title is Assistant Information Architect/Web Manager.

    I’m involved in information architecture, project management, design, image editing, content creation and editing, coding (mostly HTML, CSS, JavaScript and PHP), minor server management duties.

    I simply tell people that I’m part of the Web Team. I am proud of that I have “Information Architect” in my official job title, though. And the forward slash!

  • Anonymous

    When I describe what I do on a freelance basis, I prefer to just say I build web sites. I guess that would make my title Web Site Builder. That is all the web designers/developers are doing really. We are all just building web sites in one from or another.

    I haven’t met a client yet that cares if I am a Web Developer or a Web Designer. All they care about is that I can build them the web site they want. While we all may have different area of knowledge and expertise, we are all just web site builders.

    As long as I am not defined as a webmaster, I don’t care what you call me.


  • “I make websites”. Good enough for me. >:)

  • fproof

    After I worked for 3 years as an employee in the outsourcing business, I ended up with around 5000 personal business cards with 7 different titles.
    I use them as post-it’s now.

  • Whenever I say that I’m a Web Developer I unwittingly perform a typing gesture in the air. Often the response is “ah, you fix computers”.
    For prospective clients though I don’t think a title has ever really come up. They know before they speak to me that I’m a freelance type person who makes websites.

  • I like Web Explorer, but I keep to Web Developer most of the time. We can call ourselves whatever we want, but I think our previous experience counts more to winning a contract than what our job title is.

  • Wardrop

    Obviously, the longer, and harder to say, a job title is, the better. I’m currently working towards “Senior IT Web Information Development Analyst who Likes the Colour Blue”.

  • Drew

    As someone who’s an advanced user of Photoshop, HTML and CSS, but cannot write script of any kind without schloads of copy/paste, I don’t consider myself a developer. I do a fair amount of what many would call ‘web design’, but I have been known to create video, music, photos, copy, and beyond for online projects. Therefore I have dubbed myself “Media Designer”, which seems to better encompass my broad range of activities than “Web Designer”, which gives people the impression that I do “graphics and techy stuff”. I am not an “IT guy” at all, but rather an “arts guy” who uses technology as his primary tool.