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Q: What is a Web Designer anymore? It was easier to make Web sites all by yourself, even 5 years ago, but now there is just too much technology for one person to handle. If I want to make a Web site for a very small business, don't have I to be web "developer" now?
The short answer is that everybody is a Web designer now.
The slightly longer answer is that Web designers are practitioners of a highly specialized discipline that requires years of study to truly master.
The long answer is that a good Web designer is a good designer, and this can come “naturally” or from training, but is not medium-dependent. However, a professional Web designer has to understand the medium well enough to know its strengths and limitations. Any designer can pump out something that looks brilliant when displayed in a Web browser window, but is slow to load, static when loaded, and completely unusable.
This does not mean that to be a professional Web designer you also have to be a professional Web developer. You just need to understand what a developer does and how they are doing it.
By the late 1990s, though, the practice of Web design had split into many different disciplines, each with its own title and sphere of influence, including Information Architect, User Experience Designer (or just Experience Designer), User Interface Designer, Web Developer, and Front-end Developer, just to mention a few. In addition, many of the traditional design titles were being used for more senior team members including Visual Designer, Art Director, Design Manager and Creative Director.
The problem is that, unlike most other media, anyone can be a Web designer. Anyone can put content on the Web. Anyone can set up a blog. anyone can set up My Space pages. But not everyone can design.
Think about it this way: Can you paint your house? Of course you can. Anyone can run down to the local DIY store, pick up a few gallons of paint, some rollers, and a drop cloth and start slapping paint on a wall. so why are there professional house painters? If you’ve actually ever painted your house, you’ll know why. A professional will make sure that the colors coordinate, that all of the edges meet precisely, and that paint doesn’t get on the trim. The overall effect is generally much cleaner and more satisfying with a professional house painter and they generally work much faster. Now, that doesn’t mean that a talented amateur can’t paint their house every bit as well as a professional, but not everyone is a talented amateur.
If you are a professional Web designer (or possibly even a talented amateur), you may feel like that in order to produce your own Web site, you also have to be a developer. While being both a developer and a designer is great and can allow you to do a lot of cool things, they are different skill sets and it is becoming increasingly difficult to be an expert (or even well versed) in both. However, that is not to say that a designer can’t put up a great Web site without a developer's input.
Here are a few suggestions for designers who want to create their own Web sites:
It's ironic that although the Web is getting to be a more complex place, with more opportunities for design beyond the simply visual, at the same time the tools that allow Web designers to create compelling interactive content are still growing.
Jason Cranford Teague has been a practicing "Web Designer" since 1994 and is the author of over 13 book on digital media. His most recent book, Speaking In Styles: The Fundamentals of CSS for Web Designers, is available now. His next book, Fluid Web Typography: A Guide, will be out later this year.
Follow Jason on Twitter: @jasonspeaking (http://twitter.com/jasonspeaking).Ask a question, win a book! Jason will be answering Web design questions each week, and each week the person whose question he chooses will win a copy of his new book Speaking In Styles.