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Web Development Job Titles

Job titles in general don't mean much. But, when it comes to identifying the skills and responsibilities of the various web site development professionals based on their job titles it can get confusing.

The lines are blurring as to where one job description ends and another begins. Most web professionals will perform the work befitting more than one job description which has led to many using the terms interchangably. While every web design project will require a variety of skill sets, not every site will require the expertise of everyone listed.

The following list includes the typical job titles associated with creating a website and what role each professional holding that job title will play in building a website.

Web Host
The 'host' of a website is the computer system that contains all of the files needed to make that website appear on the Internet. Some companies with in-house IT staff host their own websites. More frequently, websites are hosted on computer systems belonging to someone other than the website owner. The person or company who hosts other people's websites is known as a Web Host.
Graphic Artist/Designer
A graphic artist is someone who electronically modifies existing images and photos or creates their own images from scratch. They use tools like PhotoShop, Adobe Illustrator, or any of the other myriad of graphics programs on the market.
Web Designer
Web Designers are essentially the architects of a website. They design the color schemes and layout. Some web designers also provide graphics.
Web Programmer or Web Developer
A Web Programmer is essentially the builder of the website. The programmer is the person who writes the computerized version of the web page to build what the designer envisioned. Many web programming professionals also do design work, but not all designers are also programmers.

The web developer often takes on the role of project manager for a web site development project. They often coordinate the work of the other web professionals and will often sub-contract the other professionals for larger projects. A good web developer will perform this role as part of their services and will often embed these costs into the original quotation.
Database Programmer
A database programmer is someone who creates and organizes lists of information in such a way as to be easily accessible. A database programmer will typically also be a web programmer, but not all web programmers are also database programmers. Database programmers typically charge more than web programmers but are not needed for every website.
A webmaster is someone who maintains a website after it has been completed. They perform most of the updates and maintain the security of the website. The web programmer usually becomes the webmaster through a maintenance contract.
E-commerce Professionals
E-commerce professionals specialize in creating full retail websites. These websites offer products or services directly, often make use of shopping carts and allow the customer to complete the purchase online. E-commerce professionals typically charge the same rates as database programmers and should be skilled at both database and web programming.
Flash programmer/designer
Flash programmers/designers create flash animations. Flash animations are used on many websites to show a series of pictures or animations. Some flash programmers are also graphics designers and some are also web programmers.

Before you hire someone to add Flash animations to your website, I would invite you to review another of my articles - Using Flash on Websites and how it should be used to enhance content rather than replace it.
Content Writers
These professionals write the words that appear on websites. Professional Content writers work with the web designers and programmers to create a clear message for the product or service the website is promoting. Content writers also write essay-style articles for websites. Many, but not all content writers, can perform design and programming. Most content writers are also SEO professionals.
SEO Copywriters
Traditionally copywriters are professionals who write promotional materials that are used to advertise a business.

When it comes to websites, people who fill this role are called SEO Copywriters. The addition of SEO to the job title is used to identify those copywriters who know how to write promotional materials for the Internet. Unfortunately, even among writers, there is some disagreement as the distinction between content writers, copywriters and SEO copywriters. To learn more about how Content writers and Copywriters differ, please visit my article about the different types of writing services provided by content writers and copywriters.
SEO professionals
SEO or Search Engine Optimization professionals work with or are content writers. A SEO professional's function is to increase a website's visibility on the Internet by increasing where a website appears in the results on the search engines.

This specialization more so than any of the others is the most misunderstood. For a website to have good search engine results, every aspect of the site must be considered. In my opinion, every member of the web development team should know and understand the basics of SEO.

A Suggestion...

As with many professions, there are those areas where people are highly skilled and other areas that they do only when they have to.

Most of the programmers I know hate to write and do it poorly. So why would you want them to write your content?

Most of the creative types I know feel overly constrained with the strict logic that defines programming. So why would you hire a graphic artist to write your database program?

Ask questions and understand the people you are hiring for your project. Make sure their job title and charges matches what they actually do.

Are they,

  • like me and have their feet firmly planted in both the techy side and the creative side but understand where their true strengths lie?
  • the true 'gear heads' who essentially do not play well with others, but will write the most efficient and robust programs?
  • the creative types who don't know anything about computers beyond the graphical and drawing programs they use?
  • or are they the ones that claim they do it all?

Through the years I have met only a rare few web professionals who are successful at providing all aspects of web development. Many of these folks are capable of creating a fully functional website but areas of it will often be lacking. While I have no specific suggestions; tread carefully with the 'I can do anything folks'.

Web development is an area where being a 'Jack of all trades'
may truly identify a 'master of none.'

A note about the author:
Articles appearing on were written by Michele Tway. Michele has almost 20 years of experience as both an IT and writing professional. She has worked with publicly traded, private and government organizations, and now offers her services as Your Message Consultant. While this article is not available for reprints, she is available to write similar content for your website, newsletter, blog, or print publication.


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