Web Developers vs Programmers

I recently had a discussion on Twitter with someone who I had respect for in the web community. He was arguing about the term UX developer having a negative effect on his part of the industry. I argued that the term developer is pretty generic, it simply implies that someone is developing something.

I then read an article about lazy programmers being the best programmers, a view I’ve agreed with for a long time and had the luck to observe on many occasions first hand.

The absence of the word Developer from the  article and the missinterpretation of the term by the chap I had the (argument) discussion with niggles me slightly and prompted me to write this reply:


In my humble opinion:

A web developer helps develop things that make up part of the web, their job should be about configuration to deliver good presentation and functionality – minimal configuration of a programmers code. Their skill-set is usually quite broad and they probably have knowledge of a few web frameworks like WordPress, some of their skills might be programming, others are likely to be using photoshop or scripting (html etc), understanding network latency, security implications, accessibility etc

A programmer (lets say a web programmer) has an in depth knowledge about one or many languages and understands how application architecture fits together, to solve specific problems. They understand the intricacies of writing code and how it affects ‘the machine’, design patterns and when and why they should be used, if at all. They can craft their code efficiently and make it robust and understand how it needs to be tested and evolved. Their code should be the tools that the web developer integrates and utilises and ultimately configures.

I realise that in a lot of cases these are the same person – I just think our industry could do well to recognise the difference a little more often especially with all the good open source software programmers are producing these days!



2 thoughts on “Web Developers vs Programmers

  1. There is value in distingushing jobs, I’m just not sure trying to find a succinct term for each position is worthwhile. Inevitably all “development” jobs end up involving programming, configuration, and content management. For smaller projects this will probably be one person. For larger jobs these roles will start to diverge. How they diverge greatly depends on the project and the experience of the team members itself.

    I don’t think it is helpful for a “web developeer” to somehow consider themselves as a type of distinct developer. This type of isolated thinking inevitably leads to people having too specialized of a skill set and being unable to cope with change in technology and the market.

    1. I don’t think it is helpful for a “web developeer” to somehow consider themselves as a type of distinct developer.

      I agree. It’s not really my intention to try and pigeon-hole anyone. I do think it’s valuable to distinguish programmers as being more specialised. If I was a developer who used jQuery a lot but didn’t understand Javascript, I think I’d be hard pushed to call myself a jQuery or JavaScript programmer. Whereas I almost expect an experienced JavaScript programmer to know how jQuery works – even if it’s only to recommend it to a team to use.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s