Frontend Friday: What do you do?

This is something that I’ve been wondering about for quite a while now: What constitutes “web development”, and what exactly are we called? The definition for this, ah, way of life/subset of tasks seems to differ from culture to culture, even from person to person.

I’ve come across the following, all on the subject of “web development”:

  1. everything to do with how information is presented to the user; built up of HTML, CSS, images (spriting etc), and presentational JavaScript; or
  2. everything that’s rendered client-side, which is all HTML, CSS, images, and all JavaScript, or
  3. everything to do with how and what information is presented to the user; build up of HTML, CSS, images, JavaScript, and PHP that’s served to a browser
  4. everything that has to do with the web: HTML, CSS, images, JavaScript, PHP, MySQL, web servers, etc.

Even though the web has been here for a while already, there seems to be a lot of differences between how we (who work on the web) are called, and what is expected of us. Personally I’ve always viewed web development as a mix of the last two options, basing on the phrase, “I develop for the web”. The lines blur especially when we’re talking about JavaScript and PHP. Both are programming languages, and might fall in the realm of software developers more.

As someone who works (be it as full-time work, freelance, or as a hobby) on the web, what do you consider part of what you do? Let me know in the comments!


  • Hello Redante,

    It probably depends on the state of the country you’re targeting for; Singapore might be more open to generalists, but in the Philippines it would be a bit more difficult to land projects as a generalist, I’d imagine. It’s not a really great market for “luxuries”, and to a lot of industries they still see a website as a luxury rather than a necessity, or even as a tool.

    You might want to check out, where I’m also a contributor, as well as the blogs of the other contributors there. :)

  • Hello — I stumbled my way to your blog and find it very helpful and interesting. I’m a web content guy based in the US and am curious about the state of things web in the Philippines and in Asia. I was told that the market out there is mostly for designers and developers rather than for content specialists and generalists (like me). Do you know of any other blogs and web sites that deal with web technology and careers in Asia?

  • Patricio said:

    normally I get involved in frontend development but this term together with backend are in most of the cases IMHO just conventions/abtractions to separate a system in parts. Not more than that :)

    But if I have to define what’s Frontend, I would say is everything concerned to receive and process an input from a user and give him/her back a result. That includes what this user can see and the processes behind that will be triggered from his/her input.

    Nowadays I think that the term “web developer” is misunderstood as the one able to work with the “face” of a website. However Web developing is more than html-css-js then I guess your number 4 is the most addecuate point to define what frontend is.

  • Ooh, I haven’t gone down to server setting optimizations, although I also know a few others who do, who are also pretty much called web developers/frontend engineers. There’s a wide range of scope in our work, it seems.

  • I consider myself primarily a front-end web developer (meaning HTML/CSS/JavaScript) but I also get down with some PHP, and focus a lot on optimizations (down to a HTTP header request level and modifying server settings.) Working on some bash scripting for automation. Sometimes I think Web Developer / Front-end Architect would be a better term for the above type of work.

  • @Anouska: That seems to be a good separation! Mostly the reason why I include images would be because I also personally do a lot of slicing and some design calls at work (as opposed to when I’m “hobbying” and I do everything, lol). But you’re right, images (especially conceptualization) usually should fall under web design.

    @Julie: I saw that survey as well, and actually participated–but haven’t yet downloaded the findings. I missed that one! Your setup sounds like a nice thing to do, and something I ultimately want to do myself, although I can tend to be impatient XD so I’m not too sure there!

    I suddenly realized–what about Flash content? Hmm.

  • A List Apart did a big survey on this last year. I think they raised more questions than they answered, though.

    I work almost exclusively with small business owners, some of whom have very little experience with the internet. I do #3 and #4, and often I end up helping them quite a bit with their content as well: proofreading, editing, sometimes telling them what to write or even writing it for them. And I do a lot of handholding, prodding, and encouraging. There are days when I think my college psych major has come in handy after all. ;-)

  • Anouska said:

    I generally think of web development as the coding part of the web (CSS, (X)HTML, PHP, MySQL, JavaScript and such), whereas the images and everything else to do with how information is presented, I would call webdesign… Never really thought where web servers would go, but I suppose I’d put them under webdev as well, so I guess it’s a mix of #3 and #4, leaving the images out as that’s usually webdesign to me.