Career Tracks

Web developers come from a variety of backgrounds. Some have grown up with the Internet. Others have adapted skills from the offline world, such as brand management, desktop publishing, or journalism, and applied them online.

The following description of career tracks provides a general introduction to the range of opportunities in Web development. Keep in mind that job descriptions in this field are fluid, rather than fixed; many roles evolve into other roles, and where a title means one thing at one company, it can mean something quite different at another.

Web Design
Web designers are responsible for creating the look and feel of a website. They create logos, banners, and other graphics; determine where to put text; and structure a site's navigation. Designers need to think about download times as well as creating an attractive and functional site. They also work closely with the marketing team and branding experts to ensure that a site conveys a consistent image. The design function is frequently outsourced by smaller organizations that do not have the budget or inclination to maintain a website themselves.

Web Programming
Programmers turn the Web development team's concepts into a functioning site. They must know HTML, the basic coding language of websites, inside and out. Most are experts in the more sophisticated programming languages such as Java, JavaScript, CGI, and Perl. Programmers should also have experience with Web development tools such as Dreamweaver, Flash, and ColdFusion. These languages and tools enhance the capability of websites by adding animation, sound, interactive games, online forms, and e-commerce functions to otherwise flat pages.

While highly technical coding knowledge is essential, programmers must also have a strong understanding of user interface design. They need to know how people view, use, and interact with their computers. A successful Web programmer is able to put this understanding into practice.

Web Production
Web producers play different roles in different organizations. In some cases, they code the text and graphics that are on a site. In other cases, they coordinate across departments to make sure a website's content works the way it's supposed to. That is, they make sure links lead where they are supposed to lead; online forms function the way the programmer intended; and everything else that's on the site works the way it was intended to.

Producers coordinate between various Web developers to make sure the site supports the company's business objectives. They work with users to define the look, feel, and products offered through a site; coordinate between the design, content, and programming teams to make sure the site functions effectively; and track user behavior and work with other departments to incorporate what they learn into the site's general operation. In a sense, the producer orchestrates the other developers to ensure everything works as harmoniously as possible to improve the company's business.

Content Development
Content developers often work in the Web production department. They create the content-whether text, audio, or video clips-that visitors see when they access a website. Content developers write, edit, shape, and publish articles, features, and other information on a website. They also work with programmers to define and build, for instance, a salary calculator or interactive game. Often, content developers are responsible for the look and feel of a particular area within a site, adding information, moving information around, sending newsletters to users, and so on.

Project Management
Project managers lead teams to get things done. They set a production schedule, set deadlines, and make sure everyone works together. They are usually responsible for allocating resources-both human and financial. Project managers can lead discrete projects, such as adding community to a website; they can also oversee wider areas. The role requires excellent communications skills, a strong technical background, an understanding of budgets, project plans, and schedules, and management experience.

System Administration
The systems administrator is the information-technology professional responsible for maintaining and servicing an organization's server, hardware, and software. System administrators look after the security of the computer system and how it interfaces with the Internet service provider (ISP).

An e-commerce site can also have a technical administrator for its transactional software. The programming behind online transactions is far more complicated than standard Web production. Security and technology issues are the main concern of a technical administrator. He or she ensures that e-commerce transactions run smoothly and do not bog down other Web applications. And more and more companies are hiring specialists to help ensure the security of their sites and any transactions that take place on those sites.