Job Titles in the Web Industry

Published by Chris Coyier

There are loads of job titles in our industry. The opinion on their usefulness range from harmful (i.e. leads to “not my job” syndrome) to vital (i.e. people change companies sometimes and need common language). Since they are out there and we use them, there should be some consistency to their definition. Perhaps we can get closer to nailing that down.

Let's light this fire, shall we? This is all debatable, of course.

Job Titles

These are legit in my opinion.

Web Designer

If "designer" is in the title, the job is designing. Literally deciding and implementing how websites look and work. "Web" is in the title because the job is specifically focused on the web. Specific skills would be design-tools-of-choice, HTML, CSS, and light JavaScript.

If the job is also designing for print, apps, signage, products, clothing, etc., the title would be widened to Designer.

Front End Developer

This job is focused on HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and light backend work. Not design. The lack of "designer" in the title is intentional. Because the job doesn't require design, deeper skill in the other technologies is implied. You likely have a grasp on some concepts beyond the core technologies, for instance regression testing or performance.

A synonym might be Front End Engineer. I tend to think of that as a requiring a deeper and more specific skillset, possibly with more narrow focus or at a higher level.

Technology specific job titles may be also be appropriate here, like "JavaScript Developer" or "JavaScript Engineer" for a job where that is primarily what needs to be done. Although, none of the front end technologies live in a bubble so I generally prefer Front End Developer.

UI Designer

This job is more about designing and less about implementation. Really good at design-tools-of-choice with perhaps only light HTML and CSS skill. A synonym might be a Visual Designer.

UX Designer

A specific focus on studying and researching how people use a site. Then ushering changes for the better through the system and testing the results. May not have or need any design or implementation skill. All jobs should care about user experience, but this job lives it.

Interaction Designer

Primarily design, just like a UI Designer, but with specific focus on how things are used and movement.

Art Director

The job is quality control, leadership of other designers, and client communication. A synonym could be Design Director.

Web Developer

This job is focused on back end work and working with languages specific to the web, like PHP, ASP, Ruby, Python, etc. Medium skill in database/server work, medium skill in JavaScript, light skill in HTML. This is very different from a Front End Developer as there is little working with the design and heavier on programming concepts and concerns, like security and structure.

Synonyms could be Web Programmer or Web Application Developer.

Full Stack Developer

This job is a combination of front and back end work. Seriously though, not mostly one and a little of the other. Good crossover people are needed at organizations and this is a high end job.

Content Strategist

Rather than working directly on implementation, this job is about the structural design of websites. Things like the taxonomies, metadata, scheduling, and analysis of content. A synonym might be Information Architect. They might work with people who work with content in a more general way like a Writer, Copywriter, or Editor.

IT Technician

This job works with the actual computers and tech equipment. A hardware person.

Dev Ops

The job bridges the gap between IT and Developers. They handle things like server software, version control, deployment, build processes, and testing servers/processes. I wish this had a more job-title-y feeling to it. As it stands it sounds like what you would call the whole team of people with this job.

Product Manager

This job is about guiding the site as a whole (or a major feature of the site) toward a better future. Largely dealing with people and planning. A Project Manager would be similar but smaller in scope and possibly a temporary role rather than full job title.

Customer Service Representative

This job is about communicating directly with users of the site to provide help. Then triaging bugs/problems to the internal team. Also understanding/communicating the voice and vibe of the community around the site.

SEO Specialist

This is a big enough sub industry that it can be its own job.

Job Title Prefixes

Any of these job titles can be prefixed with Junior or Senior. Junior meaning less skill/experience. Senior or Lead meaning more skill/experience. Responsibility and pay commensurate. The tech is the same.

Consultant might be suffix to any of these job titles as well, like a Front End Development Consultant, in which you offer strategic advice and help.

Bad Job Titles

The following are not job titles.

  • Ninja _______ - Cutesy and meaningless. It's a recruiter trying to say "we want someone really good" but then shooting themselves in the foot.
  • Rockstar _______ - Same.
  • Web Master / Webmaster - It feels outdated and cheesy, but more importantly, never developed any specific meaning.
  • _______ Hacker - Cheesy for anything with the possible exception of a job with the specific responsibility of finding security exploits.
  • I kind of like Web Worker as a term, but not as a job title (too vague).
  • Mobile _______ - Even if the job has that focus it feels overly specific.

Not Caring About Titles

Like I said in the intro, the opinion on job titles is hugely variant. Right in the middle is not caring at all. If that's you, awesome! That probably means you work for yourself or for some little startup where your title can be like "Lead Hucklebucker" or some other nonsense. That's just good fun, live it up!

Not Web

Careful with these if the job is actually web related.

  • Graphic Designer - This has come to mean "design, but not web design."
  • Software Engineer / Programmer - This has come to mean "programming, but not for the web."

Conversation

Did I miss any important ones? Surely there is very specific job titles that are legit. That's fine because they are specific. It's the big general ones that we need to be concerned about. Did I get any wrong? Have you ever changed jobs and found it problematic? How does your organization handle it?