August 16th, 2007 - by Golgotha

Our Swedish friend Roger Johansson asks the question, “Are we designers or developers?

“On the about page of this site I used to call myself a “developer/designer/occasional writer”. It’s a bit confusing, and I still find it hard to know what to answer when someone asks me what I do for a living. Am I a Web designer? A Web developer? A Web programmer? All of them? Neither? It really is a difficult question to give a simple answer to.”Roger Johansson

Like Roger, I have struggled with this question. Then about two years ago I decided to just pick an answer and go with it; that way when the hair dresser asks me the question I don’t sit there and go “um…ah…er…developer” and they end up thinking I’m lying and I’m really a spy or something.

So my answer is: I’m a developer!

I decided to steal my answer from the home building industry. Someone who builds homes for a living will often choose to call them self by the generic term developer. They may be an architect or mason or a carpenter, but those are the more specific skills used on the job — they call themselves home developers.

They use architectural skills to ensure that the house is designed well; that it’s structurally sound. Then using masonry and carpentry skills they build the home.

This is the similar to building a website. You design the site using pencil, paper, Photoshop and your learned knowledge of what it takes to make a website “structurally sound” and then you develop the site using HTML, CSS, PHP and all the other tools that go into developing websites.

So in my mind we’re both developers — they develop homes and I develop websites.

What’s your take — designer, developer, programmer or other?

When someone asks what you do for a living, what’s your answer?

7 Responses to “Are we Designers or Developers? – My Answer is…”

1 cpradio

I am a Programmer with Design experience 😉 Primarily I use the term programmer, as I prefer doing backend work versus the frontend and it clearly states I prefer writing code than HTML/CSS. GUIs are nice, but the real work is on the server-side in my opinion.

Writing connections to talk to the mainframe, sql server, mysql, oracle, other sites, etc. That is my turn-on in an average day of work.

2 John

I cut my own hair so I never have anyone ask me what I do. 😉

3 ses5909

I am a developer all the way!

4 peter

I have a very strong opinion about this, so please forgive me, and understand that my experience is anecdotal and may not reflect your experience. I am a designer. I have two degrees in design, one in Graphic Design (Fine Art) and the other in Graphic Communication (Technical Design for Production Environments). Trust me, I feel you, just having to explain the difference between those is a headache enough in itself. I am also a self-taught hand-coding XHTML/CSS/PHP web developer. I did not learn these things in school because when I was in school the latter did not exist. I am now a professional web designer. So, what do I refer to myself as? A Designer without hesitation. This is because I have met many developers who come from programming backgrounds and like to fancy themselves designers just because they know how to use Photoshop and can skin a website. However, I feel that this really robs true designers of their deserved title. I spent years learning not only the software but also principles of design, visual communication, composition, color theory, history of design, etc. It really takes a certain type of eye, discipline, and a high degree of anality to be a (good) designer. This goes both ways of course, because I never regard myself as a developer for respect of my colleagues who are far more adept and have a much deeper understanding of programming languages, scripting, databases, and AJAX. Don’t get me wrong, I also know a few developers who are fantastic designers, some people are just born with it (read: attention to detail), but I just think that there are enough people out there who give themselves a little too much credit and I think as long as a little respect is paid where due then we will all appreciate each others’ skills and trade to the fullest. Thanks for the topic, great article!

5 Golgotha

@Peter: I hear you and fully agree. Some developers are not designers, no matter what they say and some designers are not developers . But, that’s another article. Great comment!

6 Thejesh GN

Thanks for writing this. I use coder most of the time. Coding is what I like to do. Being coder doesn’t mean I don’t design.Probably Developer is one word which combines both of these. I will try to use “Developer” next time.

7 Andrew Pryde

I would consider myself to be a developer becuase I came from a programing background but not most of the work I end up doing is design work as small businesses rarely need a fully functional web application designed they either don’t use one or just instruct me to implement an open source one. I think this is a shame becuase it is getting things to work and knowing why they work that interests me. Having said this I am a realist and realise that I do what I do and that its not going to change so I have grown to enjoy the design aspect as well 🙂


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