Swiss Army Knife

June 5, 2007 at 2:41 pm | Posted in Coding, Design, Management | Leave a comment

 

I have noticed over the last couple of days that web development involves a lot more jobs than I initially thought.
I’m only 3 or so years out of university. Fresh meat, you could say. Furthermore, my degree was in software engineering – peripherally relevant to the industry I work in, but not quite a nice mesh. As such, I’ve approached my job thus far with the same mentality I had while going through my studies – that of a code monkey, although the software engineering degree involved more management than I would have liked, but am grateful of now.

Thus it was much to my surprise when I had a chat to my father’s partner, who opened my eyes as to the roles we web developers have to fill, and how much they do impact in our work:

Programmer

First and foremost, we are programmers. We code. We type not-quite meaningful text into text editors/IDE’s, compile, debug and publish on the Internet/intranet. Code drives the site, and there are many types of code we deal with – presentation code, structure code, applications, so on. Web designers code too. I’ll show you how this is relevant soon.

Designer

Clearly it follows that if a web designer, that is, someone who is mainly responsible for the look, feel and visual communication of a website is supposed to know a bit of code, to help ground their designs perhaps, then developers ought to know a bit about design. We should be able to structure information in a way that will be meaningful. A well designed page might need half the structure/markup that a page that dumps all it’s information in one go would need. Also, it helps if we need to whip up a quick graphic for an extra bit of code we need, rather than having to bug a designer.
Personally, I work alone, so really, I wear two caps – that of a designer and that of a developer. If I don’t design, nobody does.

Salesman & Marketer

This may be just a more personal one, but I believe it’s a worthwhile skill to have as well, if only for those times you find yourself looking for a job. As I mentioned earlier, I work alone doing web development. As such, I have to deal face-to-face with all of our website clients. Now, this section is probably where I’ve been the most deficient. It’s hard to see the value of what you do when to you it’s just lines of code and pages on a server.
It was the talk I mentioned that opened my eyes to my need to know this. The value of a website is not in the time it takes to develop it. That’s what I used to think. The value of a website is in it’s advertising/marketing power. Depending on where you live, but I’d wager this is true for most places, a website is the single most cost effective advertising tool a company can have, when used in conjunction with others.
When you have a website, you can keep things like print/television/radio advertisements a lot smaller, and therefore a lot cheaper. For the cost of a $200 phone book listing, you can provide hundreds of pages of information, product catalogues and sales techniques just by providing a link. I have a diagram I’m putting together for a flier for work, and it graphs the growth of the user-base of the Internet from 1991 to 2004, and it’s fantastic (I’ll attach it later). The Internet is such an integral part of our lives, people are more likely to look on-line for information than to ring around. So the value of a website is much more than it’s code.

I think if you’re serious about web development, and I’m damn serious, you need to know a thing or two about more than just coding, otherwise you’re going to sit there and wonder why your sites do poorly, when you even get to making a site in the first place.

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