“The HTML guy”

I’ve recently started on a new assignment (which is mainly the reason that I haven’t been able to muster any extra strength to blog, besides from my family being sick…), and I’m hired as a subcontractor. This means that I’ve been introduced to a lot of people the last couple of days, and it has almost exclusively been with a term that I hate:

The HTML guy.

Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m overly sensitive. I mean, I’m fairly convinced that none of the people who have used the term meant to be condescending. But still, that label feels like something less worthy to me. Yes, I do code HTML, but it’s just a small portion of my tasks/skills; to be technical, a majority of my time probably goes into CSS (and consequently, covering up for IE flaws each and every day), and if it’s a fun project, a lot of well-motivated JavaScripting to enhance interaction and usability.

And this is just to mention the major building blocks of my work. Then there’s accessibility considerations, knowing the ins and outs of web browser shortcomings and inconsistencies, a bit of information architecture, some design and especially Photoshop knowledge, knowing the back end technology well enough to be aware of the possible obstacles as well as opportunities it gives you etc.

Perhaps it’s because dealing with “just” HTML feels less worthy (although taking a look at the poor HTML code in most of the web sites in the world, it seems extremely difficult)… Still, I just don’t like it. So, what does this poor sensitive developer want to be called then?

Well, since “fantastic handsome sexy beast web dev-rockstar” is probably out of the question, I’ll give you some more humble suggestions:

  • Interface Developer
  • The Interface guy
  • Web Developer
  • Design and interaction-coder

 

Is it just me hating that term? Or even caring at all about how one is presented to others? Or do you feel the same, but have some better names for this trade?

43 Comments

  • No, you're not alone, but I mostly run into this problem when I need to introduce what I do at, for example, birthdays or parties. We do a lot.

    Or just stick to God. I think that covers most of it 😉

  • George says:

    I'm in the same boat. I contract at a company to help out making back-end coders work look pretty. It is mostly CSS.

    I don't really have a title – they just say we need George to come in and give the pages some TLC (Tender Loving Care). I quite like that.

    The HTML Guy. Sounds like a film in the making!

  • Well, I prefer being reffered as Web-Developer. I believe that this covers most of the tasks I have to do. CSS, JS, HTML, PHP, Server Administration… everything is covered.

  • I just remember Keith Robinson once introduced the word Web Craftsmen, many moons ago.

  • bruce says:

    Because of my accessibility work, I was once introduced as "the guy who looks after cripples".

    I regularly get asked about access ramps and braille printers.

  • Chris says:

    I agree with Georges, Web-Developer is the preferable term.

    But I also think that you have to be indulgent, Robert, since what they call you is what they understand. I mean if I came to work with you the would refer me as "the German" (or worse :-D).

  • I couldn't care less what people call me. Usually if related to computers and the person doesn't know my name they just call me the "Computer Hacker" for some odd reason.

  • My favorite is UIA, or User Interface Architect.

    Not only does it sound good but IMHO it (almost) sums up what many of us do.

    As you said its not just 'writing HTML' its constructing interfaces using a variety of languages with careful consideration for the many different requirements and I think that UIA expresses this 🙂

  • Walter Cattebeke says:

    Labels, tags… They are just that and usually come from people not knowing and not caring about what you do. You should consider this an advantage.

    And then one day the 'HTML guy' is sitting at the office reading those people resumes and thinking: Should I hire this 'label guy'?

  • akella says:

    May be "Front end developer"? That works for me, and imho is much better then css'er or html'er.

  • […] don’t like it. So, what does this poor sensitive developer want to be called then?

    Read the rest.

    […]

  • Yes, you're over sensitive … and so am I!

    Frontend developer, or even Frontend Web Developer are terms that get's used quite a lot on the Danish scene, and that's what I use.

    Perhaps I should actually start using User Interface Architecht instead, and charge my clients double the hourly rate? Architecht sounds more like Enterprise, and thus you pay double 😉

  • Devon Young says:

    I know the feeling. I never like being known as "The HTML Guy" (or some equivalent) either. I always find myself correcting people and saying I'm a Web Developer, and briefly going through a list of things that includes so they know it's not just HTML.

  • zcorpan says:

    It's just about communicating with people. You will be referred to as different things depending on what the other know about what you do. For instance, if your grandpa asked what you do you'd probably say "I work with computers" or some such, as "HTML" or "interaction-coder" probably doesn't mean anything to him.

    Don't be surprised if you'd be referred to as "the CSS guy" or "the Ajax guy"…

    For people who do know about this area I'd refer to what I do as front-end Web development and as myself to "the front-ender" (short for "the front-end Web developer"). If it is implied that it's about the Web then you can drop the "Web" part. 🙂

  • I've been with my current client for 18 months, the first eight working with their (mainly Java-based) development team in the office. There may have been an element of seeing me as "the HTML/CSS/XSLT guy" in their thinking to start with, but by regularly discussing tricky problems in set theory as encountered in XSLT, explaining internal browser architectures and how they lead to CSS and HTML bugs, asking them to correct Content-Type headers or charsets, and generally acting like an expert in a complex field, I'm now given the respect I'm due as a Guru 🙂

  • […] con cierta asiduidad se habrá percatado de que soy un ferviente seguidor de Robert Nyman; su último post me re-afirma en mi i […]

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Ah, I'm glad to see I'm not alone. And yes, I agree, it's about what people know about you. I don't blame them in any way; this is only about how I want to be perveived.

    Web Developer, Front-End Developer or User Interface Architect sounds good to me!

    bruce,

    “the guy who looks after cripples”

    Ha! I don't really know what to say, or where to start, about that.

    Walter Cattebeke,

    And then one day the ‘HTML guy’ is sitting at the office reading those people resumes and thinking: Should I hire this ‘label guy’?

    Ha ha! Oh, happy day! 🙂

    Nick Fitzsimons,

    Yeah, guru is a nice one! 🙂

  • Jeff L says:

    I liked Garrett's term of Front End Architect

  • I also dislike when people downgrade me to only know things about one of the areas I work with. To me, it's the mix of webdev skills and related skill sets that makes you able to complete projects. The problem with many projects of today is that a lot of them are missing webstandard skills.

    And then someone with the exact skills they need step in, and you are reduced to someone knowing only that. I tend to avoid that in two ways: 1) sell yourself as more than just someone knowing HTML, tell them everything you know. 2) after arriving, show that other skill sets.

    Good post!

  • AndrÃ&A says:

    Well, at work my business cards came back with "Webdesigner" on it instead of my suggestion "Web Developer"… It bothered me dearly, specially because of what people tend to think about webdesigners… small kids with frontpage/dreamweaver.

    I'm doing all the development, from early analysis to front end coding, passing through all the programming and database involved… so webdesigner made me feel a little undervalued.

    Sure, webdeveloper does not begin to describe the quality (or lack there of) of our work, but at least is says a bit more than webdesign.

    In conclusion, you're not alone. Neither on the sensitiveness nor on the inadequacy of labels put on you.

  • I am normally called the "web guru" at my work place.

    BUT I think that is mainly because the other web team are 10 years behind everyone else…

  • halans says:

    How about "Experience Designer" in general terms?

    Or more specific "Web Experience Developer"?

    note: that's not what they call me either though, it's "front-end developer" most of the time.

  • The HTML Guy sounds like The Cable Guy but even more insulting. I prefer "web developer" for myself since I do both frontend and backend stuff, but unfortunately most people still think that web development is only writing HTML in a WYSIWYG-editor. Sometimes I give up and just refer to myself as "datanisse" (computer dude) which satisfy about 90% of the people.

  • Rob kirton says:

    Robert

    Welcome to my world. At the moment I am the "CSS Guy". It's the life of the contractor. You tend to be brought in to solve a particular problem, and the problem you are brought in to solve is used to "semantically tag" you.

    On other occasions in the past, I have been a business guru when I have been responsible for developing products and services that have made or saved a lot of money for the hiring organisation.

    I guess the only label that really matters is the one that you carry around in your head. Just think carefully about it before putting it on your business card especially if it is really "fantastic handsome sexy beast web dev-rockstar"

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Jeff L,

    Yes, definitely a good one!

    Emil,

    Yes, it's all about displaying all of your nice skills! 🙂

    André,

    I definitely agree about web designer. Here in Sweden, at least to me, it symbolizes someone exaclty like that.

    Neither on the sensitiveness nor on the inadequacy of labels put on you.

    Man, I just gotta say that I love this sentence! Well put!

    Jermayn,

    Web guru is nice! 🙂

    And maybe burning some bridges now as well? 🙂

    Halans,

    I think it's a good term, in some contexts, but it doesn't cover every Front-End Developer's tasks (then again, what title does?).

    Rob kirton,

    Ha ha! Yes, some titles were never meant to be on a business card. 🙂

  • Robin says:

    My official job title is a ‘Client-side web developer’ which accurately describes what I do I suppose. It’s a bit meaningless to non-web-industry people though…

  • NICCAI says:

    What do I do for a living?? Same as you..

    User Interface Design and Development

    I then use more design friendly intro when speaking with design types – and more dev when I need to get across that I'm technical. I also use design because I do a lot of interaction/usability consulting – on top of tons of HTML/CSS/JS….

  • I did "web developer" for years… but all people hear is "web designer". So now I just say "web consultant"… and that seems somehow more fitting, and people aren't as quick to see my as a visual designer who knows a little bit of "web stuff".

  • eugene says:

    ROFL… the HTML guy.. Geeees…

    Same here…: ….. "ah, you're the one that's doing something w/ Internet…"

    What do I do then you're wondering:

    – project management

    – CMS implementation (also a swedish CMS)

    – <abbr title="Search Engine Optimisation">SEO</abbr>

    – web standards preaching, ongoing and going and going….

    – etc. etc. etc. etc. the usual daily sh*t 😉

  • Maaike says:

    I am a 'graphic designer who also builds websites'. Which is a bit too long 😀

    So webdesigner is actually a fitting title for me. I agree many people may not take you seriously if you call yourself a webdesigner, but then again: that's their problem. There are webdesigners out there who actually know what they're doing (even if they are a minority…).

  • karmatosed says:

    They could have called you the code monkey – it's something I've got called before. With me it's more people can't grasp I do design and development.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Guys,

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Sam says:

    Sounds ugly. Thank god I'm russian and we have no such "HTML-guy" word 🙂

  • Oscar Berg says:

    The same customer would probably refer to an e-commerce site like Amazon.com as a "home page". And who think they could build an interactive "home page" themselves in MS Word. I have met these people many times when I worked with you on inhouse web projects and got asked many times why it takes so many weeks and costs so much to deliver the "home page" (which they figure is all about some HTML formatting of text). Be gentle to them, Robert. We all know how good you are at what you are doing and that UI design for the web requires lots of skills.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Sam,

    Congrats! 🙂

    Oscar,

    Thank you! You are way too kind! 🙂

  • Follow on my from my earlier comment, the problem with being ten years ahead of the other web developers is that they get catty and jealous . I guess this is what you have to expect by being the "web guru". lol

  • Cody Lindley says:

    My two cents would be that if you are a programmer by training (college or other) and work with the web then you are a web programmer (or software engineer, or just programmer). If you are not trained in the likes of C and Java, and use HTML, CSS, and Javascript to produce the framework for the Visual Design/UI then in my opinion you are a Web Developer. Personally I think calling a web programmer a web developer is overly generous. There are very few that can produce both high quality client-side code and sever-side code. We should just avoid trying to give a title to the Shaun Inman's of the world…as they can pretty much do, and be anything they want.

  • Cody Lindley says:

    My two cents would be that if you are a programmer by training (college or other) and work with the web then you are a web programmer (or software engineer, or just programmer). If you are not trained in the likes of C, Java, SQL, and databases and use HTML, CSS, and Javascript to produce the framework for the Visual Design/UI then in my opinion you are a Web Developer. Personally I think calling a web programmer a web developer is overly generous. There are very few that can produce both high quality client-side code and sever-side code. We should just avoid trying to give a title to the Shaun Inman's of the world…as they can pretty much do, and be anything they want.

  • Siegfried says:

    Hi,

    yes, i know that. I'm doing software development for microcontrollers for machines. So in general here i'm "the stepper motor guy". Well, those peaple simply can't think of more. What a typical salesman understands about software design is somewhat similar to what an earthworm knows about flying. So why bother trying to convince a blind person about the advantages and beauty of colors? You would first have to make this person really see, but after that then you do no more have to convince him. Best is to simply ignore that. Even if you would manage to enforce the usage of a certain title this would not at all alter what and how those people are thinking about you.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Cody, Siegfreid,

    Thanks for your comments.

    Siegfreid,

    Even if you would manage to enforce the usage of a certain title this would not at all alter what and how those people are thinking about you.

    Absolutely. Very good point!

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  • I hate (look, a strong word) the term. I call myself a web developer when I must have a label. However I think from now on it shall be sexy beast web-dev rockstar or whatever.

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