What does a front-end web developer do?

My business card says I’m a Senior Web Developer. I’ve been asked a million times what I do, what that title means. It’s not easy to explain.

I tell my Grandmother that I’m in publishing. Close enough for somebody in their 90’s.

Sometimes I say I’m a Technical Designer or just a Designer. Other times I describe the Web Project Triangle: Project Management on one end, Design (visual, experience) on another, and Engineering (databases, servers) on the third. I say that Web Developers sit in the middle of that triangle, giving and receiving deliverables, and often acting as liason between those groups and practices.

Occassionally I say that “we’re the people with the most software”, which is really just another way of saying that I’m in the the middle of the Triangle. I often have MS Project, Word and Excel running to look at project plans, Gantt charts and task lists from Project Management. Add to that some combination of Photoshop, Illustrator, Viseo and maybe InDesign to handle deliverables from Design. From the Engineering world, I always have a local web server running with PHP and MySQL running, as well Unix utilities, bug tracking software, debugging suites… So there’s all that, plus all the software native to Web Development. (Scores of browsers, Homesite, screen rules and color management tools, diff-ing and testing software, and more….

For another take on the same question, read”What does a front-end web developer do?“. Author Christian Heilmann is the mind behind Unobtrusive Javascript and all the other great tools at onlinetools.org.