Designers vs Developers and the steam coming out of my ears.

I may have directed you here as a potential client because I feel that we may have a possible match but that match needs a little work. If this is the case I just want to make a few things clear first. I want work. I need work. It also has to be the right work. At least 50% of the clients I pick up are jaded by their experiences with previous ‘developers’ (see below for my meaning of this term in this context). They are especially challenging to work with because they have lost trust in ‘people like me’. The thing is though,  they have probably never, ever worked with someone like me. So if I feel that this is you I might have sent to here first to help you understand. Maybe you haven’t been let down yet. Maybe you just need a little background to my business model and me.

I’m proud of what I do. This business is one part of what I do. Depending on the needs of my clients it may constitute 80% of my work week or 10% of my work week. I’m my own boss. I take on tiny jobs lasting a day and permanent ongoing contracts. My basic rule is:

Do your best work for your best price in the best time.

So firstly get’s get a few things straight in the world of web development. I bring these issues up because they have cropped up on more than one occasion and caught me off guard.

While there are definitely discreet roles that can be called web developer, web designer, UI designer, coder, back-end developer, front-end developer and so on and so forth until the cows come home… these terms have been created to serve a few specific purposes.

  1. To hire people into very specific college courses.
  2. For large companies to hire very role specific expertise.
  3. So that people can tout themselves as experts when they are advertising their wares (it sounds better to say ‘I’m a back-end developer’ than ‘I’m an all rounder’ to the lay person who doesn’t know what they are looking for.

These roles were once not so important in web ‘development’ and are increasingly less important.

I’m using the term web development here purposely as an all encompassing term for someone who makes a website using any software at all or combination of, to produce an entire finished product. In actuality in large companies the design part (how it looks) is labelled accordingly.

Here’s my (simplified) rationale for saying that they were once not so important

Back in the day we designed in HTML. Front and back were developed simultaneously – I’m talking about when the world of web-development was in its infancy. In time we found ourselves with some drag and drop interfaces from things as simple as Front-page to as groovy as Dreamweaver, and a whole load of others in between. If you wanted to design a whole site in Flash you would undoubtedly need some action script. You could use Fireworks and slice up a page with cool interactive chunks. You could add some javascript and some php as time moved on. I used to teach this stuff and while we studied units on design or coding we would always study the beginning to end of a web product, some design, some coding, some research, lots or testing, and a whole load of meeting user needs.

Then the web-site world boomed. Big design companies grew. The possibilities grew. We incorporated databases and geotagging and e-commerce and so on. People became more specific in their roles and even then the schools and universities were not supplying most of the work-force. They were still playing catch up. We were self taught and teaching the very first generation not to be self taught. I exaggerate a bit here because I’m not quite that old but for sure there were way more students enrolled on courses than teachers qualified to teach them. As for the tech qualified teachers we did have – we have Audio Visual experts teaching programming. Programmers teaching graphic design. It was a mess in a way but in a way not. We were all learning at an exponential rate. And there sat me with an art degree and a dad who had been developing tech since the seventies. I not only slid into this teaching revolution I became a leader in my small pond.

The schools and universities realized there was a need and indeed a hell of a lot of money to be made in teaching tech and a trillion differentiated courses ensued and now every one is an expert, a very specific expert.

Yes. Today everyone’s an expert in something. It’s like this in other fields too, like medicine. Gone are the days of the doctor who can fix a bone, deliver a baby, and calm a fever, while diagnosing a mental illness. Well, in some countries you will still find those guys, it’s great! But not here, not in America. Not often anyway. There is a specialist for everything. Most people think that’s a good thing. I don’t to be honest.

You see someone may call themself a back-end coder but 90% of the work has been done for them. Every word and phrase they code has been constructed off the back of people like my dad who literally coded 1s and 0s. He would code pages and pages to make one small thing happen (notice how I’m purposely keeping out the industry terminology here). Over time the languages came to be ever simpler written commands that can create those pages and pages of code almost instantly. Same for design.

Then there are the drag and drop libraries loosely held together by code. Things like Angular. They are kind of a slightly more complicated version of WordPress.

I’m not denying all this expertise because we have to have people trained for cubicle work in large companies, very cool cubicle work with a paintball arena in the break room and everyone gets to wear jeans, but cubicle work all the same.

But I don’t do cubicles. Not all work needs to be done in cubicles.

It’s called entrepreneurship, small business ownership, and free-lancing. Where I come from it’s way more prevalent than it is here in America.

You see it’s not really necessary in 90% of user need cases to have all these experts and all the overheads they will inevitably create. Most people don’t need a single field of expertise specialist. Just like in medicine, most people need a simple check up and gentle follow-up in most instances. Too many experts with too many opinions can make a mess. The exact same happens in web development. I encounter it all the time. Sometimes I walk in like a knight in shining armor to unravel the mess and provide someone with a simple solution that they understand. This will be a solution that can that can grow and evolve and that anyone can pick up and run with later. Future-proofed and effective. Sometimes I find someone who themself is so convinced that they need a bunch of experts that they can’t even conceptualize that I can help them, just me, on my tod. They have been told they need a bunch of very specialized things by people who believe that there are experts for everything and that is how it must be. I’ve heard it said ‘the day of the one-man developer is over’.

It’s not.

Anyway, I don’t have that privilege.

For a bunch of reasons (which gather like moss on a rolling stone over the years) I work from home and I’m an almost one woman band. I don’t have the privilege to be called a designer, or a developer, or a marketer, or a graphic designer, or a type face editor, or a UI, UX UVWXYZ developer-designer, or a back-ender or front-ender, drag and dropper, or anything else.

My role is….  customer service rep, research and development, software and hardware purchaser, trainer, educational materials developer, security expert, SEO expert, financial officer, administrator, call center operative, tester, evaluator, complaints department…. and that’s before we even get to the nuts and bolts of concept artist, graphic artist, logo designer, brander, marketer, social media dabbler, web designer and of course … web developer.

Do you see where I’m coming from? I have to do everything and because of that I can do almost anything, but I will need a good moment to fully understand what it is you want. So if I directed you here it’s just to make sure that you understand where I am coming from.

And still yet while I let people know I do all that I do – and some 3D design, book – app design, games development, illustration as well as a bunch of other things, they still ask me what I ‘actually do’. Am I a designer or a developer? I can’t answer you any clearer than I have. I am all and none. I have a specific niche in the market to make things that look great and work great. I’m not in a position, and never want to be, of outsourcing to other people. I don’t trust other people to do work to my standard or efficiency of excellent customer service and final product deliverables. I have worked in teams as a freelancer for other companies and I’ve almost always been proven correct thus far. There are a lot of people touting their wares in this market and very, very few who actually follow through to satisfactory fruition.

If you think you need a back-end-coder please go ahead and find one. If you really want a crazy designer please go ahead and find one. If you realise that what you actually need is someone who will work with you to find the very best solution for your specific needs, never mess you about, never overcharge you, and always ensure that you are happy with your result, them I’m your woman and I truly want to work with you. I don’t promise what I can’t deliver but in truth I haven’t come across that problem yet.

Also my husband is one of THE best 3D designers and virtual modeler in the world. Allegedly.

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