HTML + CSS = job?
December 7, 2005 12:49 PM   Subscribe

I am not a programmer or a designer. However, I am strong with (x)html and css and I have the ability to convert photoshop mockups into clean, standards compliant web pages. Is this a job? Do people out there do this for a living? What are they called?

When searching (monster, careerbuilder, hotjobs, craigslist, etc), web jobs usually fall into "designer" (must know illustrator/flash) and "developer" (must know PHP/ASP/ETC). Are there actual jobs for people who do what I do, and if so, what kinds of terms or job titles should I be searching for? Alternately, what are some suggestions for beefing up my capabilities on the quick? (I am learning some dom scripting, and can find my way around php.)
posted by shaneflyer to Work & Money (38 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
web producer, web production, html coder
posted by matildaben at 12:57 PM on December 7, 2005

pick one direction or the other and focus on it to the exclusion of all else. the field is highly segmented and it is difficult to find a generalist position. unless you have a degree in design you are unlikely to find a way to make a living doing creative work on the web in a salaried capacity.

your explorations of the DOM and php sound promising. and make it a priority to learn Flash. it isn't that hard and it's a dealbreaker for lots of positions.
posted by macinchik at 1:01 PM on December 7, 2005

they call me an "e-business web designer"....

and i do exactly what your looking for...

and i actually got my job through monster... and they were the ones that had found my resume

B2B companies need this type of cut up design work done for their clients
posted by matimer at 1:02 PM on December 7, 2005

The first answer is the correct one -- you are a web producer.

Do not let them put "designer" in your title - you are not one, and if you have that on your resume, you will be expected to provide portfolios to future jobs. It should be made clear that while you are a technical whiz kid, you are not an artist (... unless you are.)
posted by twiggy at 1:03 PM on December 7, 2005

junior client-side web programmer?

i mean, if you are not creating the mock-ups, it doesn't sound like you're a producer or a designer.
posted by grafholic at 1:06 PM on December 7, 2005

Yes, there are a few jobs out there (not many) for what you do, mainly in larger corporate environments. I wouldn't plan on making it a career, however - you need more. Go one way or the other. Looks like you're moving towards more coding than graphics. Great. Get more competent with Javascript on the client, PHP backside and (especially) hooking it up with databases and you can call yourself a "web developer" /"web coder"/"web programmer"/"web applications developer"/etc. More jobs, more money, better pay - especially once you have stuff you can point at that you built. If it's what you want to do long-term, you'll need to get handy with more complex SQL queries and know more than just PHP for coding, but concentrate on that for now.
posted by normy at 1:17 PM on December 7, 2005

It's definitely a role - we had a few people who did nothing but what you describe in my firm. Formally, they were junior developers, but I'm afraid they rejoiced in the title of "the markup ladies."
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:19 PM on December 7, 2005

I think the title you are looking for is close to web producer, but when I was a producer, I was taking articles for print magazines and 'putting them up' on the website - editing them for special characters, etc, putting them into the CMS, previewing, publishing.This was ten years ago, though. I also did a lot of interfacing between print editors and the developers, so I was sort of a 'web editor' but much of what I did was production related.

I would also look for HTML 'programmer' positions or HTML coder, even though it's not really programming. The thing you will be up against are designers who have these skills, or shops where the programmers handle these duties. It will help you if you've got some design and/or programming skills in addtion to the xhtml and css. Also small companies still often have 'web people' who do a lot of everything: some design, content updates, HTML, FTP uploading of files, etc.

I would argue that there is plenty of work for generalists - I was a producer with some design experience who moved on to be a programmer, and now manage web application programmers. I think it helps to understand design principles, production, graphic preparation etc. I know lots of programmers who are decent designers and good designers who know some coding and they are both better at their primary job because of it.
posted by drobot at 1:22 PM on December 7, 2005

Why not just learn PHP/ASP/ETC?
posted by delmoi at 1:24 PM on December 7, 2005

Oh yeah, yet another longer-term route is to gain some business and/or editorial skills. Our company has lots of people who 'own' various applications. Some of them started out on the entry level tech/design side and moved into program management rolls where they dont do any actual work (hehe) but are instead responsible for the behavior and functionality of applications -- the 'business owners'.
posted by drobot at 1:27 PM on December 7, 2005

xhtml/css proficiency will go a long way--more and more companies are starting to show an interest in standards-compliant design, so keep with it. I do what you do (strictly freelance, and I've been making a living at it for two+ years) and I also do a good deal of project management. I call myself a Web Production Manager. I got my current clients by posting my resume on craigslist,, and via word of mouth.
posted by missmobtown at 1:27 PM on December 7, 2005

What you're doing (and what I do for a friend's band) is what I've seen often enough referred to as being a "web programmer" that it's what I would suggest. It leaves "designer" out, so people won't expect you to actually design the pages, but will know you know how to make them.

On the other hand, browsing for tech jobs on craigslist convinced me that a lot of places, even tech-oriented firms, will easily call this position something else, even with the term designer in the title, even though, technically, you're not designing but handling mark-up. I advise you keep your eyes on lots of web-oriented job listings, even if the title doesn't sound like what you're looking for based on title.

Also based on what I've seen in classifieds, that "designer" and "developer" stuff you describe would be good to learn, even if you have no intention of becoming an actual designer, just because it will make you a more valuable web programmer/developer/whateverthefuckthekidscallitthesedays if you can integrate dynamic content and media into the standards-compliant webpages you create without having to be told what the code for it will be.

Good luck, comrade!
posted by DyRE at 1:28 PM on December 7, 2005

You are not a Producer, as twiggy suggests. The Producer title is given to project manager-types (and can be used interchangably, sometimes, with Project Manager).

I do exectly what you describe for a living, for the most part. My official title is Interface Engineer, but that's mostly relevant within the structure of the company I'm working for.

When I tell people what I do, I say I'm a client-side web developer. This pegs you as technical, and distinguishes you from the server-side blokes.
posted by o2b at 1:30 PM on December 7, 2005

Response by poster: I intend to. In the meantime, I am wondering if there is the possibility of getting a real job with what I can already do.
posted by shaneflyer at 1:30 PM on December 7, 2005

Response by poster: (That referred to the suggestion to learn PHP/ASP/ETC)
posted by shaneflyer at 1:30 PM on December 7, 2005

Oh, probably obviously, but I just realised that probably more often than I've seen "web programmer" I've seen "HTML programmer" or some variant of it (XHTML/CSS and so on).
posted by DyRE at 1:31 PM on December 7, 2005

"Web coder" is probably most accurate, but since hardly anyone uses that term, I'd suggest web developer (especially as you're learning PHP).

Rather than specialising, you could dabble in everything - design, programming etc, so that you're able to do a complete website for a small to mid-size company. Then just go around trying to get a job, put yourself out there etc.
posted by djgh at 1:45 PM on December 7, 2005

The analogous role where I work is called a Front-End Developer, though we definitely lump client-side scripting in with the job as well -- I don't consider it a "design" role, though having a design background is certainly a plus.

(Of the 3 people who've filled this role here in the past, one swore he was really a designer, another swore he absolutely wasn't, and the third would perhaps best be described as a former-designer-in-transition.)

This is all splitting hairs, but my $.02 is that neither "Producer" nor "Web Developer" (by itself) are appropriate titles for this kind of job.

Also: Considering all the Ajax/Web 2.0 buzz/hype these days, getting intimate with browser DOMs and scripting will likely be a very worthwhile (read: highly marketable) investment .
posted by skyboy at 1:52 PM on December 7, 2005

i don't know what it's called, but to balance some of the less positive comments i want to add that in my last job i'd have loved to have you on board. "designers" who want to do everything in flash and don't have a clue about standards are a friggin' nuisance.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:57 PM on December 7, 2005

I think "web producer" has a different connotation, although I haven't worked in the web industry in a while. In my mind, a web producer is like a project manager/production type person. A job like you describe might be called "client side engineer" or "client side developer" or even "web production artist". I am using a lot of quotation marks here, time to stop typing.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:57 PM on December 7, 2005

02b: with "web" in front of it, producer means something different than it does in say, movies, music, etc. If not for "web producer" ... if instead just "producer", I would agree with you.

A web producer produces websites out of some product (usually a photoshop document). It was my title when I was at a web development firm, and it's a widely accepted title for the original poster's description.
posted by twiggy at 2:11 PM on December 7, 2005

We always called this a "web developer". The difference being that a "programmer" would mostly do Java and such, while the developer would do HTML, XML, etc.
posted by xammerboy at 2:21 PM on December 7, 2005

Search for "developer" and "web developer" on some job sites. You are bound see people like you.
posted by xammerboy at 2:22 PM on December 7, 2005

It's a problem that there just isn't a universally agreed upon term to describe what you do, despite it being a recognised job role. The web industry could use one. "Client-side developer", might be the closest, but it's not groovy enough to be generally adopted by the cool kids.
posted by normy at 2:29 PM on December 7, 2005

twiggy: the hollywood producer analogy is actually a very apt metaphor for every Web Producer I've ever interacted with.

It's not a minstream title for a developer, in my not-so-humble experience, is what I was trying to say.
posted by o2b at 2:33 PM on December 7, 2005

My company just hired someone like you (like, today), to augment someone else just like you. The title we use is "Production Engineer," and that person (unfortunately for them) is considered to be part of both the engineering and design departments, and thus has to attend twice as many meetings.

Our existing guy tested candidates by opening up the sites listed in their resumes and disabling stylesheets. If the pages didn't lay out logically, the candidate never even made it for an interview.

(And we're a small web company, for those people who said this was only a corporate gig.)
posted by nev at 2:40 PM on December 7, 2005

Also, a "Production Engineer" is not a Producer here. We use it in the same way as o2b says, to mean "Project Manager." Same as at my previous two jobs.
posted by nev at 2:42 PM on December 7, 2005

I do this for a living (although I can do the other bits, too).

I'm a Front End Web Developer.
posted by armoured-ant at 2:43 PM on December 7, 2005

To follow up on nev's point about being in both departments, I also am considered to work both on the technical and creative sides of the house. It's appropriate, in my opinion, as design informs the build, which in turn can inform the design.

Working together from the start saves speedbumps down the road, to coin a phrase.
posted by o2b at 3:06 PM on December 7, 2005

In my small firm, all designers must be good markup producers, so someone with only markup skills will always be on the bottom rung.

If we were to advertise for such a position, we'd call it "Junior Designer". The graphical duties are fairly light - making the occasional new button and whatnot. You'd mainly do work orders on existing projects.

My advice for beefing up your skills is to learn the fundamentals of database-driven websites (which seems to echo a lot of what's already been posted). This alone will make you well-loved by programmers, who will appreciate that you understand and anticipate their needs. Later, you can remain a markup producer and specialize in high-end DB stuff, pick up a language and move into programming, or eventually become a consultant or manager of some sort.

In my job, I also straddle the creative and technical camps. This has made me a hot commodity in my firm and I do a lot of consulting work, since I can effectively represent the entire design/development division.
posted by Sangre Azul at 3:20 PM on December 7, 2005

I think learning DOM scripting is a perfect progression from XHTML and CSS. All of this Web 2.0/AJAX stuff seems to be hinged on Javascript and all the cool stuff you can do in 6.0+ browsers. is a great place to start learning about all of this stuff, especially the extremely cool Prototype Javascript framework. I became a Javascript addict once I saw in action. This book, and this book are both great.

If you want to start getting into the server side of things, all the cool kids seem to be loving Ruby on Rails.
posted by jasondigitized at 3:43 PM on December 7, 2005

Response by poster: I've got the first one (DOM Scripting, by Keith). It's great. Thank you all. You have given me a much greater confidence in casting my net.
posted by shaneflyer at 4:05 PM on December 7, 2005

I do what you are describing, and my official title when I worked for a company was "html coder". I freelance now and prefer to call myself a "web programmer", although no, I don't do any fancy programming other than the standard html, css, etc...

When I had that fancy job, the "producer" was something entirely different, and that person knew nothing about programming. The producer was the person who decided what content would go on the site, when, where, etc... Like a movie producer... they decided how the site would flow and function... and the coders and programmers are the one's who put it all together.
posted by RoseovSharon at 4:12 PM on December 7, 2005

To answer the first part of your question, a few companies I worked for called this position an "Interface Engineer".
posted by FreezBoy at 6:57 PM on December 7, 2005

I find it very surprising that people call themselves, or others, "programmers" when they only do HTML/CSS. That's really not programming. Programming involves the manipulation of data, not simply the display of data.

I'd personally say that JavaScript/DOM scripting just qualifies, but there are people who will laugh loud and long at you for calling yourself a programmer if you can only do JavaScript, and louder and longer still if you can only do HTML/CSS.

I think you're a web developer. You're not a programmer for the reasons stated above. You're not a producer, because as others have said a website producer is someone who knows what makes a good website and makes decisions on form and content, but doesn't actually implement those decisions.

The people who advertise for web developers who also know PHP are just like people who might advertise for a web developer who speaks Spanish. That's what they want. (So learn PHP, it's easy!) But it doesn't mean you're not a developer.

The waters are muddied somewhat by PHP, because its a language in which script commands are mixed up with HTML, and therefore you get a lot of people doing both in the same job -- and in the same document.

And I think the larger the outfit you work for, the more separation you'll find. In a big company, you'll have separate designers, developers and programmers. The smaller the operation, the more likely those three jobs will be done by two people or only one person.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:11 PM on December 7, 2005

I think this thread largely shows the confusion about nomenclature in the web world.

It's perfectly possible to make a living doing what you do. I work for a big organisation (not a web business) and spend ages converting existing sites to accessible standards-compliant markup, as well as making new sites from Photoshop comps. Understanding accessibility and x-browser css is a full-time skill!

Of course, I also advise on usability, crop and colour-correct images etc but I am absolutely no designer and this is a small element of my job.

I don't DOMscript - am upskillling - but I don't know that it's vital. What *is* vital is that I know when a DOMscript would be appropriate to add functionality/ patch IE quirks and then set about commissioning it.

My job title is "Bruce-the-web-guy. Yeah, the one who keeps banging on about accessibility".

It's a good way to make a decent living.
posted by Pericles at 1:54 AM on December 8, 2005

I believe few university computer science programs include courses titled "Programming language X". I know that the UC Berkeley program had none. A course on Javascript would be like a course on mathematical notation. The peculiar symbols and words are just a means of describing abstract concepts. For example, Berkeley's data structures course was taught in Java. Students were expected to already know the language or learn it themselves in the first week or so. Anyway, sorry for the derail.
posted by ryanrs at 7:53 AM on December 9, 2005

You've described 75% of my job. I'm the CSS guru here, but I also do web design and work with the PHP programmer, so not quite. Web coder is the basic label, but web designer is what I use most often, though I also like to stress the user interface aspect of my work. You're not really a programmer or a developer because both signify higher level coding that you have. Producer=project manager. Front-end web designer sounds cool--I'd use it.
posted by lychee at 4:38 PM on December 9, 2005

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