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A web developer by any other name

Job specs for developers often conflate general practice and familiarity with certain tools: Flash/.NET/VB/React/Vue developer. It is assumed the developer knows what they are doing and should be maximally productive from the outset. For short-lived contracts a mercenary approach is logical.

Broader industry-accepted professional titles change too albeit more slowly: webmaster, web developer, developer, web/native app developer, front/back end developer, full stack developer/engineer, web designer, product engineer.

There are no definitions for these titles. Few web developers are properly engineers in the sense that they don't belong to professional bodies or follow a code of conduct.

Titles can be modified: senior, mid-level, junior. Sometimes a job description will include all three just to be sure.

Titles can also be hyphenated or concatenated.

In addition there is a crossover with other closely related functions some of which the developer might be expected to perform: DevOps, UI/UX, product design.

Finally there is domain drift. When I first wrote a form its data had to be submitted in a post which was handled on the server by a Perl script. In 2011 Flash was used by 3 in 10 websites.

Do titles matter? Dan Abramov (e.g. The Elements of UI Engineering ) calls himself a "Junior dev for life". Eric Elliot - who respects him - disagrees strongly with this sentiment.

Sometimes I think titles do matter. Do we call arable farmers Massey Ferguson Tractor Drivers?

Often the title is immaterial. Accepting a job as a web developer (I'm using web developer as the catch all because it is my preferred title) is a lottery. There is no guarantee the spec will match what is required or what you are asked to do.

Titles are required for a contract and are a useful shorthand for what a person needs to know and do but they fall short of describing how people interact, what interests them, their know-how, and what the company hiring them actually needed or expected.

What can and should a web developer do?


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