Web development positions

Here’s a quick rundown of the different roles a web developer may take on. These are general terms and relatively simple summary definitions. There are plenty of alternate terms that are used to describe these positions and specialist positions which reside in a larger group, however these are the most widely recognized. This is by no means a comprehensive explanation of what is involved in web development.


The webmaster is the person who takes care of a website and keeps everything on the site current. On large websites, this task is often shared by several people. For instance, the World Wide Web Consortium (w3.org) has an entire team of people who keep that one website up to date and running smoothly.

Web design

The web designer breaks down fairly well into two main areas, though many web developers take on several roles, and the job is often lumped into one position. Web design is the front end and the back end of a website.

Front end designers work on the interface it’s what you’re looking at right now as the user of the website. The forms, links, graphics, and content placement on a webpage you’re browsing are part of the front end design.

If you’re in front end design, you might be putting together layouts; combining the different elements of a website together to form a cohesive, slick, easy to navigate interface for the user. On the other hand, maybe you specialize in graphic arts, and you produce in logos, graphics, banners, and other presentation oriented work. You might be using tools like Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, Quark, or Flash to create a visually appealing layout. You may also be creating styles with CSS (cascading style sheets).

Back end designers build the code behind the interface. Take a forum for instance: the programming that runs the forum, the scripting that displays the pages, the database that houses all the information about user accounts and which information belongs to which bulletin board, the code that made a particular thread come up when you clicked on a link… this is all encompassed in back end design.

This website has a forum, and forums have tons of code you as the client never see. So, that’s what back end web developers do: they design the interior workings of things like our forums.

Some web designers deal with building the front-end or back-end of a website exclusively and work in teams to complete jobs, and some build it all from start to finish.

Search engine optimization

SEO is the process of developing and designing a website to be compatible and “friendly” to search engines, in order to achieve the highest positions in search engine results, sending more traffic to the site.

SEO experts use copy writing, keyword placement, and targeted linking campaigns among other strategies, in order to get a website ranked very high for certain highly searched terms particular to a product or service. Some terms are widely used generic searches, and they get searched very often.

Others are simply spur of the moment popular culture media buzz words. SEO web marketing focuses on long term benefits to a client’s website by using good site building technique and very targeted and deliberate linking campaigns among similar websites, as well as submitting properly to web directories like DMOZ Open Directory and Yahoo Directory.

The benefits of search engine optimization are not fully realized for months, as it takes quite a while for search engines to fully crawl, evaluate, organize, and index new content on the web. These SEO efforts can provide steady, sustainable, high quality traffic from search engines for long periods of time, and when done properly can be one of the most cost effective means of advertisement.

Copywriters are people who specialize in writing content that specifically promotes keywords, in order to boost search engine results for those keywords and keyword combinations. They would take the website content and rewrite it to include specific keywords dispersed properly throughout the text.

They would build good header tags and a keyword rich title, and may setup the meta tags. When a search engine deep crawls that page it will note a healthy repetition of those key terms and rank the page accordingly when those key terms are searched.

Web marketing, site promotion, and advertising

This profession is about targeted advertising campaigns. They use PPC (pay per click) advertising, as well as employ linking strategies and linking campaigns to get relevant inbound links to a particular website, increasing it’s exposure to visitors likely to be looking for what the site is selling. These methods also benefit the search engine results for the website. These people specialize in maximizing the advertising dollar. Search engine positions are more of a secondary benefit and not the main focus here.

A linking campaign is simply a set of strategies to get as many websites with related content to your target website to send traffic to it, while keeping advertising costs to a minimum. This strategy works well in the short term and long term, and long term link campaigns can have a very positive effect on search engine results, generating additional free traffic.

Building targeted traffic from many different places is an important skill in this profession, because being totally at the mercy of a search engine (or any single source) is a bad, bad state of affairs. Like any investment adviser worth his/her salt will tell you, DIVERSIFY!

The domain name business

Some web professionals deal in domain names. That’s what they do, and for some domains are all they do. The domain names business is much like the real estate speculation. A domain name is how people get to a website, so prime ‘location’ (relevant, short, easy to remember website names) go for top dollar.

Improving your web developer skills

You’ve now got a basic overview of what different web developers do. The next step, if you’re still interested in pursuing one of these fields, is to learn as much as you can about the position that interests you most and get established with other developers.

There’s a ton of competition on the web and nobody should expect to master everything, so specialization becomes much more beneficial than trying to do it all. Anyone serious about making it on the web needs to have an in depth understanding of the trade they wish to pursue, though becoming a well rounded web developer will come in handy.