Designer or developer?

Recently I’ve begun to wonder if I’m taking the right approach to pursuing a web development / design career. Originally I had the notion that I could do development and also work on the design. I’ve read a number of comments on forums and blogs fairly recently about the role of web developer versus web designer. In a nutshell the issues are: what is the difference between the two roles and can a developer design and can a designer develop?

It seems that some companies / individuals believe that a designer produces the site mock-ups and then passes these to the developer who codes the site in (X)HTML and CSS, perhaps with some JavaScript on the side, while other companies believe that it’s the job of the designer to write the HTML and CSS.

The question of, “Can a developer design?”, is bothering me and it’s this question that’s making me reconsider my initial direction. Originally the move into web development appealed to me as I saw it as a way of moving away from my current role (let’s say for now that I program in C++, although more on that story a little later perhaps) and kind of stepping sideways into server-side and / or client-side development. Of course I then began to really look into the possibilities and discovered the amazing array of options and technologies. I thought that I could learn and practice them all; PHP, JavaScript, Ajax and ‘web design’ to name just a few. I also thought that perhaps web design would be good to learn and to become really good at, as a core skill so to speak. My thinking behind this was that design, and this includes interface design, would remain a relatively static field and one where I could learn the core principles and apply them to the current web design trends and equally well apply them to the web of the future (some virtual world environment like Second Life for instance). So I saw design as an option but was unsure whether or not I had the aptitude for it.

The phrase that came to mind quite a lot was, “Jack of all trades and master of none”. I could perhaps eventually produce some half-decent design work, after much practice, but my work wouldn’t be as good as it might if I had specialised in one particular area, be that design, server-side development or client-side development.

In recent days I’ve come a little closer to the conclusion that, if I am to follow the career of web developer, I should drop my design aspirations and concentrate solely on development. Not sure if that will be client-side or server-side yet, or a mixture of both, but the design stuff should remain purely as an interest and a hobby.

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~ by gblake on March 5, 2008.

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