I recently had the opportunity to travel to New Orleans for An Event Apart. It was a fantastic experience, having breakfast with Eric Meyer and hanging out with Mr. Stuff and Nonsense himself, Andy Clarke. I also had the opportunity to hand out with other folks from around the country. During the first session, Jeffery Zeldman spoke about Understanding Web Design and detailed some of the challenges we have in our field. After talking to some folks about their roles, I realized that we have a need for standards inside of our field.
We don’t have any set titles and roles inside our industry. At my company we don’t even have consistent titles among employees that have the same roles. It ranges from HTML programmer to UI Developer to Web Developer. Which adds to the confusion inside the company let alone with the rest of the world. When I go up to a co-worker and ask them what they do, I really need to ask them what their roles are rather then their titles. Only after that I can really get a sense of what they do. Shouldn’t it be as easy as asking: what is your title?
One of the points that Zeldman touched on was respect. He said that we do not get much respect as a community because we have very diverse job titles and roles. Job standards would go far to rectify this, however there are a few issues that hinder the development of job standards. The first being: different situations require a different set of skills. One thing we can say about this is that a number of us have roles that would fall outside of the titles of the same names held by others. A Web Developer at a University might have the role of wire-frame guru while a Web Developer at a large company might have the role of a programmer. Yet they still have the same job titles.
Different roles same titles. Are there enough titles to go around for all the different role combinations? Then we also run into the problem of many titles for one role as is the case with my company. So we are left with the question: who are we?
We design, build and implement websites. That is who we are.
I’m frequently asked what I do for a living. If I was a doctor, I’d say as much, I might also go into a little about my chosen concentration. If I was a lawyer, I’d talk about a bit about what kind of law I practice. I, however build websites. My title is Web Developer. But what does this mean to the lay person? They hear “web” and “developer” but do they know what it means? My answer is simply: I build web sites. I try to explain more if they are interested. The reason for this is because most people don’t really know what I do or care and if they do know they probably also know the mess that our industry is in regarding titles and roles. To the many lay persons I’ve met I can’t say they understand the Internet, it can’t be hard, can it? I can’t stress enough why I want to be able to tell people I’m a Web Developer and for them to understand what it is I do like a doctor or a lawyer. I want to be in a respected profession…
So what does this all mean to us? Why should we care if our titles and roles are mismatched? I care because I don’t want to be lumped with the 13 year old who makes websites in his parents basement with Frontpage.