In the beginning, the internet / web industry had one professional title or web discipline per say, which was ‘Webmaster’. An individual holding this position would have been responsible for every aspect and detail of a web page or website. Once the availability and popularity of the internet started to increase, so did the demand and competition for having a web presence. It was at this time where the web industry grew from one professional discipline (webmaster) into two professional disciplines, which were ‘Web Designer’ and ‘Web Developer’.

Once this happened the use of the term ‘Webmaster’ eventually disappeared. Companies would hire or appoint one or more individuals as web designers, who were typically already established graphic designers, to be responsible for designing the aesthetics and arrangement of the content of the web page or website. They would, then hire or appoint one or more individuals as web developers, who were typically already established computer programmers, to be responsible for the coding of the content, the overall administration, and interaction of the web page or website with the browser and server.

Companies did this because they originally saw the web as an opportunity to put something they would normally print on paper and place it up behind a screen. So, having a graphic designer be responsible for converting their print design to the computer screen and have a computer programmer take care of the coding made the most sense at the time.

However, as technology evolved, so did the software that was being used for the web industry. No longer was the web seen as just a place for big corporations and government. Consumers and professionals alike now had access and were able to share the same knowledge and tools needed to design and develop a web page or website effectively and efficiently. Ultimately, this gave the ‘Web Designer’ more creative control and freedom. Little by little, a converted graphic designer or a web designer was able to learn how to create a design for the web and implement it without needing a web developer.

For a short period of time, the web industry once again had one professional title or discipline per say and that was a ‘Web Designer’. The ‘Web Developer’ discipline for the most part was absorbed back into the IT and computer software industries. It wasn’t until technology advanced again and the web was finally seen for something more than simply print behind the screen, that the ‘Web Developer’ discipline made it’s way back into the web industry. A web developer was now given the responsibility of taking a web designer’s design and / or another piece of media and make it an interactive experience for the visitors of that web page or website. Out went the old static way of designing things and in came the new dynamic way of designing things for the web.

So, once again the web industry had two professional titles / disciplines in demand. However, the evolution of technology and the change in our employment environment, due to the economy crashing in 2008, would once again change things. In the web industry today, which is in the year 2012, there are many more professional titles / disciplines in demand. You have ‘Mobile Designer’, ‘Front-End Web Developer’, ‘Back-End Web Developer’, ‘Web Developer’, ‘Web Designer’, ‘Web & Graphic Designer’, ‘User Experience (UX) Designer’, ‘Visual Designer’, ‘User Interaction (UI) Designer’, ‘HTML5 Developer’, ‘PHP Web Developer’, ‘JavaScript Developer’, ‘WordPress Developer’, etc. I mean it literally seems as if a new title / discipline is coming out for the web industry every week. Doesn’t it?

What makes it really frustrating, especially for anyone looking for work or who is looking to start their professional education in the web industry, is the lack of continuity and clear distinction between all the respective web disciplines. There just doesn’t seem to be any set standards in the industry right now, which clearly determines one qualified to hold one of the specific web titles / disciplines available today. For example, you can look at a web designer opportunity from a hand full of different companies and each company would require you to have and do something different. This can be said for every web title / discipline being requested by employers today, which makes it difficult for someone to determine what it is they should know and become proficient at.

However, there is one thing that every web discipline has in common and that is the overall basics / foundation of the web profession.

Every industry known to man has specific fundamentals, which makes up the foundation for all the professions within it, and then specific areas to specialize in. For example, you have mechanics and then you have mechanics who specialize in a specific area such as transmission or suspension. They all learned the specific fundamentals needed to be a professional mechanic and they all know how to work on transmissions and suspensions.

However, the mechanics who specialize in the specific area of transmissions or suspensions is going to be able to do the job with a lot more precision. Someone couldn’t become a professional transmission mechanic or a professional suspension mechanic without first learning and knowing the overall fundamentals of a mechanic.

This same principle is true for the web industry and it’s specific professional titles / disciplines, and can be seen when looking for available employment opportunities. In today’s competitive employment environment it is truly an employer’s market and they know it. More often than not you will see web employment opportunities, where an employer is looking for someone who can perform the responsibilities of one or more specific disciplines despite the professional title they advertised for. For example, some employers may list an available opportunity for a Web Designer, but also want them to do a lot of coding or print design work.

Also, despite the web industry having three professional levels, which are ‘Junior’, ‘Mid’, and ‘Senior’, most employers are requiring at least three years of experience for an entry level opportunity.

Originally, the web professional levels, which supposedly helps determine one’s pay and overall skill, was zero to three years for ‘Junior’, three to six years for ‘Mid’, and six plus years for ‘Senior’. However, in today’s competitive employment market you will rarely see an employment opportunity offered for a ‘Junior’ web professional, who has under three years of experience.

The reason for this is because employers know there is an abundance of ‘Mid’ level web professionals available, who they can hire for ‘Junior’ level pay. We are also seeing more employers looking to fill their so called ‘Junior’ level positions with interns, which requires them to do the same amount of work, but with little to no pay. Under the right circumstances, having more employers offer internships can be a great opportunity for someone still going to college, but not so great if you find yourself under the wrong circumstances.

For anyone looking to become a professional in the web industry, the best thing you can do to increase your chances of gaining an opportunity of employment is to make yourself invaluable to a prospective employer by not being a one trick pony so to speak. The more you can offer to an employer, as far as skill and knowledge, the better.

Initially starting out, whether it be looking for a web internship or for your first payed position as a web professional, you don’t want to limit yourself or your potential opportunities. Unless you already have connections and / or money, it is already going to be extremely hard for you to find an opportunity as a web professional, who doesn’t already have three plus years of experience, without limiting what it is you are capable of doing. Once you get your feet wet and have put a few years of professional web experience under your belt, then you can start thinking about what specific discipline within the web industry you would like to concentrate on and specialize in.

It is a lot easier to concentrate on specializing in a specific discipline once you have already started your career as a web professional and gained some professional experience. Plus, starting your career and actually gaining some professional experience is going to help you make a better determination of what web industry discipline or disciplines you truly enjoy and are the most interested in.

The web industry is tightly connected with technology, thus a web professional regardless of their specific discipline is constantly having to learn new things on their own and once you think you know everything there is to know you will soon find out that there is so much more for you to learn. This is why it is critical that you have an internal flame of desire to do what it is you do, so that you will have the necessary drive and initiative to continue to learn and grow throughout the evolution of the web industry. Being able to adapt and overcome any obstacle or challenge that comes your way is an important skill and professional quality to master, which will undoubtedly get you far in your career as a professional in the web industry.

To wrap things up, if you are just starting your education to become a professional in the web industry or are just starting your career as a web professional, then don’t worry about specializing in a specific web discipline right now. Instead, constantly scour the current opportunities available within the web industry and see exactly what web skills and knowledge employers are looking for, and then make sure you become proficient in them through gaining some practical experience. It isn’t just important to be able to say you are proficient in them, but be able to provide a portfolio actually showing you are as well. Regardless of your current skill set or interest, if you want to be a professional in the web industry today, then you are going to need to learn the fundamentals.

The following fundamentals will be the foundation for your career as a professional in the web industry: Design (Grid, Color, 2D, 3D, etc.), Typography, Adobe CS Web Premium, Media Optimization, Programming Logic (Syntax, Variables, Functions, etc.), W3C Standards, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Cross-Browser / Cross-Platform Dev. (Safari, Explorer, Mac, PC, etc.), Browser Web Dev. Tools (Firebug, Web Inspector, etc.), CMS (WordPress, Drupal, etc.), Basic SEO (Alt tags, Keywords, etc.), and Workflow (Project Briefs, Wireframes, etc.).

As always, feel free to Contact Me here at 2 Drops with any questions or comments that you might have.

2 Drops | One drop design + One drop code | Baltimore, Maryland