Website Development Process - Who works on your site?


As a web developer, I often find myself struggling to describe my job to other people at parties. This is deeply problematic, and probably explains why I spend weekends eating cold pasta in the dark. As it is, the world of web development is very difficult to navigate - it is full of technical jargon and confusing nomenclature that really doesn't explain anything well.

Often, when working with an agency, multiple people with different titles are all working on your site to varying degrees, and it can be frustrating to know who does what and at what point. So in the spirit of simplicity, here are some common web development job titles that you may want to know.

Web Developer - Depending on who you ask, a "web developer" can be pretty much anything. It's functionally a useless title, since nobody actually agrees on what it means. Formally, the title can be applied to either a web designer or a web programmer, even though those two jobs are not remotely similar. To some degree, you can consider a web developer to just be a generalist - someone who is familiar with most everything related to creating a website, even though they may not be specialized in any one particular part of the process.

Web Designer - A web designer, at minimum, is responsible for the visuals and aesthetics of the site. There are several subcategory roles that can be applied to a web designer, and depending on the skillset and strength of any given designer, they may fulfill one if not all of these skills.

Graphic Artist - These individuals are responsible for actually creating the visuals for the site. They are experts in graphics software and can create logos, icons, banners, and whatever else a site needs. Most web designers are graphic artists, but this is not always the case. At Carbon8, our web designers are all graphic artists, which make them a particularly powerful creative resource for our clients.

UX/UI Expert - A UX/UI expert is the person who actually determines the layout of your site. They think about the user interaction side of everything: How will people get around? Is information where you expect it to be? Is this call-to-action in a sensible, compelling place? Often, the UX individual is the first person to work on a site. At Carbon8, we have specialized UX experts, who consider how best practices can be applied to each client's individual site, and how to maximize the overall success of each page.

Front-End Developer - This is a bit controversial, since this role bleeds into the web programmer side of things. Sometimes, a web designer will possess the skills to take a design and actually create the website as well. There are plenty of great tools that allow individuals to avoid any of the programming aspects of building a site, and many of these tools allow web designers to build a working site while only focusing on the front-end visuals.

Web Programmer - A web programmer is more of a software engineer than anything else, and is tasked with the actual creation of the site. Essentially, if your site "does" anything (processes data, submits a form, performs any cool animations or interactions), then a web programmer is needed. For some simple sites, enough third-party software exists that lets you skip the programming parts, but for most clients, something custom eventually needs to be coded. Like a designer, a web programmer can envelop a wide variety of roles and knowledge, some of which can be very rare to find.

Front-End Developer - This role is in this article twice because its existence is radically different now than it was a decade ago. Usually, when people talk about front-end development, they mention the words HTML and CSS. Essentially, these two things work together to determine every single visual aspect of the site that you see in your browser. They are NOT, however, programming languages. The third addition to this couple nowadays is called Javascript, which IS a programming language. Javascript lets you add all sorts of cool animations and interactivity to your site, and at many agencies now, there are web programmers who only do front-end Javascript development.

Back-End Developer - This is usually what people think about when they hear "web programmer". These are the individuals who create the foundation that the website runs on. Likewise, if the website processes data or uses a database in any way, a back-end programmer builds all these connections. Often times, a back-end programmer will specialize in a particular programming language, and at Carbon8, we actually have multiple departments of programmers that specialize in different languages to cover all bases.

Account/Project Manager - These people are basically the glue that prevents the whole process from falling into chaos. They need to keep track of who is doing what, when they're doing them, and what else is needed to keep the process moving forward smoothly. As you may have gathered from everything described above, there are a ton of cogs that needs to be moving in synchronicity for a project to move forward, and the account manager is the master of all that organization.

QA Specialist - Often, this role is spread across multiple people (combination of programmer, designers, account managers), though it can sometimes be relegated to one individual. At Carbon8, we actually do both depending on the situation. A QA specialist checks over a site and its functionality at different points throughout its development process to determine any changes or discrepancies from the blueprint that need to be addressed.

The Intern - This individual is often useful for simple tasks, like not talking and taking the blame for problems. They are paid very little, and survive through scrounging sustenance left over in the kitchen. Sometimes, they are made to stay overtime for no particular reason, and live in a constant state of ennui and fear. Carbon8 currently has none of these.

Jon Syu
written by JON SYU

Jonathan is the senior technology manager at Carbon8, with years of experience working with various nonprofits and businesses in technical, development, and marketing positions. He began his programming career at 12, when he realized that he could create games on his graphic calculator instead of learning math. At Carbon8, he is responsible for all things technical, providing direction to Carbon8's development offerings and overall strategy.

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