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Why are job titles on teh interwebs so confused?

At Specialmoves we’re simplifying the job titles of our developers. We used to have a mish-mash of titles like “Interactive Developer”, “Flash Developer”, “Backend Developer”, “.NET Developer” and “Frontend Developer”. Now we’ve just going to have “Developer”.

It might not seem that important, but recently it’s been getting confusing at Specialmoves since we’ve had “Frontend Developers” writing .NET (backend) code and “Flash Developers” doing HTML and CSS.

The problem is compounded by the vagueness of where the “frontend” and “backend” are these days. In a way it’s quite simple. “Frontend” really means “client-side”. The frontend is the code that runs on your device (client) and the backend is code that doesn’t run on your device (client) – i.e. a server.

However Flash Developers often don’t fall into the “Frontend” camp. This is probably because they needed a way to differentiate themselves from HTML/CSS/Javascript developers so fell into a “Flash Developer” camp.

Many skills associated with backend developers are now things that App developers need to understand. A lot of Apps have internal (SQLlite) databases and require (admittedly more basic) DB skills and have the “backend” and “frontend” code all running on the client. With Windows 8 you can write “Metro” apps that run on the desktop which have database and file access all running on the client and written in HTML/CSS/JS.

Then we have the recent trend of writing everything in Javascript. With environments like Node.js HTML/CSS/Javscript developers can use their existing Javascript skills to write server side code. Conversely backend developers who have been used to dabbling in some Javascript to get forms and AJAX calls working can now write the entire web stack in Javascript.

So does being a HTML/CSS/JS developer now mean you’re a potential backend developer now too?

Throw into the mix even more vague terms  like “Mobile App Developer” and now it’s getting really messy. You can develop mobile apps in Objective C, Java, HTML/CSS/Javascript, Flash, Unity… We had a 30 minute discussion at Specialmoves recently about how to define “WebApp” to our clients. We couldn’t come up with a great answer and at what point does a “Web app” become the same as a “mobile app”?

So with all that in mind, we haven’t really talked about what the difference between a programmer and a developer is. (I think that programming is seen as uncool and what people at IBM do, where as a Developer is someone with no formal coding training who makes websites!) One company’s tech lead description is the same as another company’s senior developer description.

Let’s not even get started on what a Creative Technologist is. 🙂

And yes, my job title is “Head of Development” which is amazingly vague too. I should probably be called “King of the Developers” or “Developer Overlord”. I’m sure my colleagues would back that suggestion without hesitation.

So internally at least, that’s why we’re all Developers at Specialmoves. When posting job opportunities we’ll still use terms like Frontend Developer because that’s what’s generally understood in the industry – but like any good job posting, the real job information will be in the description not the title.