This is the archive of version one, made in 2006, launched in 2007, and active until 2012. It’s archived to preserve the original design and its content that was referenced in multiple posts, books and galleries. There’s a holding page before the new site arrives.

/ log / 19th Sep, 2011 /

We, Who Are Web Designers

What do you do?

In 2003, my wife Lowri and I went to a christening party. We were friends of the hosts but we knew almost no-one else there. Sitting next to me was a thirty-something woman and her husband, both dressed in the corporate ‘smart casual’ uniform: Jersey, knitwear, and ready-faded jeans for her, formal shoes and tucked-in formal shirt for him (plus the jeans of course; that’s the casual bit). Both appeared polite, neutral, and neat in every respect.

I smiled and said hello, and asked how they knew our hosts. The conversation stalled pretty quickly the way all conversations will when only one participant is engaged. I persevered, asked about their children who they mentioned, trying to be a good friend to our hosts by being friendly to other guests. It must have prompted her to reciprocate. With reluctant interest she asked the default question: ‘What do you do?’ I paused, uncertain for a second. ‘I’m a web designer’ I managed after a bit of nervous confusion at what exactly it was that I did. Her face managed to drop even as she smiled condescendingly. ‘Oh. White backgrounds!’ she replied with a mixture of scorn and delight. I paused. ‘Much of the time’, I nodded with an attempt at a self-deprecating smile, trying to maintain the camaraderie of the occasion. ‘What do you do?’ I asked, curious to see where her dismissal was coming from. ‘I’m the creative director for … agency’ she said smugly, overbearingly confident in the knowledge that she had a trump card, and had played it. The conversation was over.

I’d like to say her reaction didn’t matter to me, but it did. It stung to be regarded so disdainfully by someone who I would naturally have considered a colleague. I thought to try and explain. To mention how I started in print, too. To find out why she had such little respect for web design, but that was me wanting to be understood. I already knew why. Anything I said would sound defensive. She may have been rude, but at least she was honest.

I am a web designer. I neither concentrate on the party venue, food, music, guest list, or entertainment, but on it all. On the feeling people enter with and walk away remembering. That’s my job. It’s probably yours too.

I’m self-actualised, without the stamp of approval from any guild, curriculum authority, or academic institution. I’m web taught. Colleague taught. Empirically taught. Tempered by over fifteen years of failed experiments on late nights with misbehaving browsers. I learnt how to create venues because none existed. I learnt what music to play for the people I wanted at the event, and how to keep them entertained when they arrived. I empathised, failed, re-empathised, and did it again. I make sites that work. That’s my certificate. That’s my validation.

I try, just like you, to imbue my practice with an abiding sense of responsibility for the universality of the Web as Tim Berners-Lee described it. After all, it’s that very universality that’s allowed our profession and the Web to thrive. From the founding of the W3C in 1994, to Mosaic shipping with <img> tag support in 1993, to the Web Standards Project in 1998, and the CSS Zen Garden in 2003, those who care have been instrumental in shaping the Web. Web designers included. In more recent times I look to the web type revolution, driven and curated by both web designers, developers, and the typography community. Again, we’re teaching ourselves. The venues are open to all, and getting more amazing by the day.

Apart from the sites we’ve built, all the best peripheral resources that support our work are made by us. We’ve contributed vast amounts of code to our collective toolkit. We’ve created inspirational conferences like Brooklyn Beta, New Adventures, Web Directions, Build, An Event Apart, dConstruct, and Webstock. As a group, we’ve produced, written-for, and supported forward-thinking magazines like A List Apart, 8 Faces, Smashing Mag, and The Manual. We’ve written the books that distill our knowledge either independently or with publishers from our own community like Five Simple Steps and A Book Apart. We’ve created services and tools like jQuery, Fontdeck, Typekit, Hashgrid, Teuxdeux, and Firebug. That’s just a sample. There’s so many I haven’t mentioned. We did these things. What an extraordinary industry.

I know I flushed with anger and embarrassment that day at the christening party. Afterwards, I started to look a little deeper into what I do. I started to ask what exactly it means to be a web designer. I started to realise how extraordinary our community is. How extraordinary this profession is that we’ve created. How good the work is that we do. How delightful it is when it does work; for audiences, clients, and us. How fantastic it is that I help build the Web. Long may that feeling last. May it never go away. There’s so much still to learn, create, and make. This is my our party. Hi, I’m Jon; my friends and I are making Mapalong, and I’m a web designer.


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  1. 1. By Peter Gasston on 19th Sep ’11 at 09:12am

    My usual response to this question is: “I make websites”. Like you I’m very proud of what I do, but I find that most people are satisfied with that answer, and anyone who isn’t will usually ask for more information, at which point I can explain what I do more fully.

  2. 2. By Jordan Koschei on 19th Sep ’11 at 09:15am

    Wow, did I need to read that.

    It’s hard to portray ourselves as experts in a field where a client’s twelve-year-old nephew who knows a little HTML is also perceived to be an expert. It’s hard to get our profession to be taken seriously when the majority of “professionals" are actually enthusiasts and hacks.

    This article was a great reminder of why I do what I do. I’m adding it to my bookmarks bar — I’ll be back to read it again often.

  3. 3. By Maveco on 19th Sep ’11 at 09:26am

    Typical Creative Director having no idea about interaction design. Next time you meet one say 'Ooh standing over peoples shoulders and taking credit for their hard work whilst not managing the clients expectations due to a thorough lack of understanding of the process’.

    Might want to get a drink first. Be proud of what you do Jon.

  4. 4. By JM on 19th Sep ’11 at 09:31am

    I used to say that as well… Now I say that I’m an Experiences Architect or that I design experiences… I know for some people does sound like bullshit but I believe that what I bring to the table works beyond your PC screen. Even more nowadays when you can access my website from your phone… + I can design other things as well…

  5. 5. By David Beesley on 19th Sep ’11 at 09:36am

    I echo the comments above. Although I am usually greeted with confusion when I say, “I’m a Web Developer” (I don’t consider myself able to grasp all thing aesthetic enough to call myself a designer). Most people bumble around saying things like. Oh right so you do the thing with the something…

    My Fiancee usually then lightens the obvious tension before I break out a “big can of geek” by saying…."He takes pretty pictures of websites and makes them work”.

    It is a succinct way of putting it. But like yourself, I am proud to be on the bleeding edge web design and development, rather than just another estate agent or accountant.

  6. 6. By Ryan B. on 19th Sep ’11 at 09:40am

    I have kind of had a similar situation. Now and then we have visitors at work. We have 20,000 people, and I support everybody in a sense. My team lead (the whole team is him and myself) likes to answer “what do you do?" for me. Thus making me sound like an ant on the sidewalk, and himself a demi-god.

  7. 7. By Brian on 19th Sep ’11 at 09:40am

    Jon - what a wonderful post! That smug attitude is so dangerous and is something that we can’t afford to have in our profession. With the pace at which technology changes and evolves, if you think you know it all and don’t need to stay hungry and inquisitive you’ll be left behind. Maybe that’s something that helps to keep us somewhat humble.

    Considering that was 2003, you might want to take notice next time you are starbucks. Said Creative Director may be a barista now.

  8. 8. By Jordan Koschei on 19th Sep ’11 at 09:46am

    Addendum to my above comment:

    “I build websites for small businesses” usually garners a more positive response. Also, I’ve generated much more business with that line than with “I’m a web designer." For some reason, potential clients understand it better.

  9. 9. By Ben on 19th Sep ’11 at 09:47am

    @Maveco, just because that particular CD tarred WD’s with a certain brush, let’s not do the same thing to CD’s. It was the person that was ignorant, not the job title.

    I know plenty of CD’s that completely understand interaction design, and a lot of them work for what would probably be called a 'traditional' agency.

    And I hope to be one, hell I studied interaction for 4 years, but do I have all the answers? No. Does my team have all the answers? No. Does working collaboratively and using the insights that different skillsets bring to the table breed better ideas? Yes.

  10. 10. By Matt Coyne on 19th Sep ’11 at 09:57am

    Great post, thanks for that Jon.

    Reminds me, in parts, of this poem by Taylor Mali: “What Teachers Make” (

    There will always be people that will always look down on others because of what they do, or what they 'make'. Class, money, position & power mean something and everything to them. What the world could do with more of is the kind of humility and pride (perhaps unknowingly) that you showed when pausing for thought and not reacting, defensively or otherwise.

  11. 11. By Jessi Arrington on 19th Sep ’11 at 11:23am

    Any title you come up with can’t encompass all the awesomeness you are. Even if there was a perfect title, most people still wouldn’t get it. The people who do get it are the best people to be around. Drink with them and collaborate with them and cut through the bullshit with them as often as you possibly can. Thanks for the reminder, Jon! See you at Beta!!

  12. 12. By Kent Brewster on 19th Sep ’11 at 11:31am

    "I deal in human fulfillment" is a pretty good opener.

    Better: pointing at a specific Web site that the person you’re talking to may have heard of or used. I’m married to a lawyer who tends to hang out with other lawyers and there’s a certain inevitable amount of posturing and one-upping at any gathering of same. When they turn to me — the only non-lawyer/non-college-graduate in the room — and ask “and what do you do, little boy?" I tell them “I prototyped Yahoo’s new front page" or “I made the iPhone app for Netflix."

  13. 13. By Tony Mosley on 19th Sep ’11 at 11:34am

    Looks web designer is on it’s way to becoming the next 'I’m Spartacus’. I for one welcome it, one of the biggest curses and boons for interactive/web/UX (are we still using that?) is a lack of form, or perceived facade with which to paste the big advertising bill board. With infinite (+nth child) routes, methods & solutions to each and every problem we the WD are in a constant state of discovery and self discovery… It’s hardly surprising that people who watch us being bemused haven’t worked out what we are/do.

  14. 14. By Steve Lacey on 19th Sep ’11 at 11:43am

    Too many times I have been greeted with that response, I find solace in that I need not prove myself to them, that, and that the kind of people that would scoff at our roles frequently have nil bragging rights regarding their own employ.

    Those whose opinions matter to me know that what we do is of worth.

  15. 15. By prisca on 19th Sep ’11 at 12:16pm

    Jon, what a wonderful post. It is a shame that this person made you feel that way & that this is not unusual.

    You are spot on with your words about the wonderful community we have ~ it is unique & wonderful, and we should never forget it. Thanks for the reminder :)

  16. Jon 陳’s profile 16. By Jon 陳 on 19th Sep ’11 at 12:19pm

    Thanks for the responses and anecdotes, folks; much appreciated! I love reading your stories.

  17. 17. By Phil Doughty on 19th Sep ’11 at 13:02pm

    I think of myself as a citizen from *The Peoples Republic of Web*

    & reading this article makes me feel patriotic

  18. 18. By Brendan Falkowski on 19th Sep ’11 at 14:16pm

    Chalk it up to bad manners and her pedestal, but I feel your pain here. There’s a sense that the web professions have matured, and as such our titles should be concrete and descript, but I think they haven’t and probably won’t. Responsibilities are changing more than leveling out.

    It’s funny how asking “What do you do?” gets a title thrown at you, and often ends the conversation. Explaining this profession to family members over the years taught me a leading response works much better:

    I’m a technology and design consultant. Companies hire me to think for them, mostly about the Internet. For example…

    Giving people a few branches to grasp helps them engage in unfamiliar territory. Fifteen minutes later it’s not uncommon for grandpa to have an understanding of semantics in markup.

  19. 19. By David on 19th Sep ’11 at 15:43pm

    I feel your pain. Its all in how you present yourself. If web designer didn’t mean my cousin vinny, then we wouldn’t have all these titles like UX designer. Computer programmer, on the other hand, stands by itself. You have to provide some context, such as a client or website you did that the person might know.

    Historically I have found that how I respond to that question correlates with how I feel about what I do and how I feel about the persons perception. Web designer is usually a quick conversation killer unless followed with why I do it despite having a PhD (when talking to academics) or some description that makes it clear I’m doing more than setting up wordpress sites. (especially when what I am doing is interesting beyond the technical aspects)

  20. 20. By David on 19th Sep ’11 at 16:07pm

    Also since there is no professional credential beyond experience, you could say that we are all web designers before we are web designers.

  21. 21. By Justin Avery on 19th Sep ’11 at 16:36pm

    I used to say Web Designer. Then I found myself explaining that I don’t use Photoshop to combine layers and layers of images and textures to give a 'nice' look.

    I used to say Web Developer. Then I found myself explaining that I don’t really know the inner workings of python and that I couldn’t write erlang .

    Now I say, I build websites. It would take far too long to go through all the things that contribute to that statement, but if they’re keen to know I’m more than happy to continue to explain. Most people don’t ask any more questions.

  22. 22. By Tony T on 19th Sep ’11 at 18:23pm

    Great article! I had a similar conversation with one of my friends who is also a web designer right after I watched an old video from AIGA by Jeffrey Zeldman . During the presentation Jeffery told a similar story about someone else was asking him about “what do you do?”.

    I think the problem with web design is lack of fundamental theories. I know lots of web designer who don’t use any grid system and have no real idea what basegrid and typography is, still they are designing website everyday; however for print and graphic designers, these things are “mandatory”.

    When was the last time you saw an awfully designed magazine? And when was the last time you saw an awfully designed website?

    P.S just did a quick search, here is the link to the video:

  23. 23. By Cathy Cleary on 19th Sep ’11 at 19:16pm

    Jon, you are who I aspire to be. I am a (mostly) self-taught print designer and pretty good at what I do. By that, I mean I have a steady stream of clients that I have built up through referrals over the years. But I aim for more: to grasp some of the magic of web design. There will always be people who devalue expertise due to their own ignorance - I certainly meet these types occasionally - but I always try to move on to the next person who might actually appreciate my professionalism and skill. I have bookmarked your log and look forward to future posts. All the best!

  24. 24. By Troy Matheson on 19th Sep ’11 at 20:57pm

    As a creative director we get the same from businessmen who look down on our profession. Not all CDs look down on web designers. Your talents and expertise can bring ideas to interactive life. You are part of the mix and an important one. And let’s not forget 'some' web designers think they can design brand campaigns etc which disrespects our expertise. Let’s play to each others strengths for a common goal.

  25. 25. By Bill on 19th Sep ’11 at 21:10pm

    Further to the obvious distaste for the job title “web designer” by the general public, and probably rightly so given the myriad of types who claim to be designers; why the massive disparity between designer and developer salaries? Are designers, at least web designers, really that important if salary is any indication. I say this purely out of curiosity and not to put anyone down.

  26. 26. By Rob Anderson on 19th Sep ’11 at 21:55pm

    I started out with website design while still in high school. I was the HTML Editor for the paper. The web still in the initial growth stage. It was widely misunderstood and undervalued. Through the years I have migrated into the creative side of agency work as the Creative Director for two agencies over my 10 years of experience. Any Creative Director is nothing with out a web designer that can execute their vision and bring the campaign to life. I would not have the vision I have for Creative Management without my web experience!

  27. 27. By John on 19th Sep ’11 at 23:23pm

    I thought telling them I was a web designer was easy. Try telling them youre an internet marketer, and see the confused looks on their faces.

    Meh, I give up. It seems easier to say, school teacher, fireman or bus driver.

  28. 28. By Phil Sherry on 20th Sep ’11 at 00:13am

    Next time, replace the self-deprecating smile with a genuine smile (I’m guilty of both myself). See how that goes.

    I’d have to say that the person who came away with the least from that conversation was the Creative Director. From someone with 'creative' in their job title, they seemed so very closed.

  29. 29. By Ingo on 20th Sep ’11 at 00:54am

    Such People have to make you feeling in this way because you/ we are a kind of threat to their future!

  30. 30. By Rick Monro on 20th Sep ’11 at 01:19am

    If we are to be craftsmen, then the price of craftsmanship may be - if not obscurity - then a lack of awareness outside our industry. It’s the craft that we should care about.

    Let’s leave the showboating and (in this case) smugness to those who would rather be rockstars!

  31. 31. By David Hughes on 20th Sep ’11 at 01:44am

    This is a good post, without a doubt, but as I put on my smart shirt and casual jeans this morning it struck me that your comments about their dress were not dissimilar to her comment regarding “white backgrounds”. Unnecessary in my opinion.

  32. Jon 陳’s profile 32. By Jon 陳 on 20th Sep ’11 at 03:12am

    Thanks for all the thoughts. To clarify a couple of points: I was once the Creative Director at OmniTI. This post is about perception of what we do, not about creative directors. The description of their clothing merely serves to paint a picture.

    My recollection (this was 2003) was of being taken aback at the scathing tone, not what was actually said. It could have been a conversation about what we had in common. A bridging of the gap in understanding. Instead, it was a dismissal. I was angry at her rudeness rather than what she said. It did make me ask myself questions though, and I’m glad for that.

    I think that part of the reason our profession continues to be successful is because we close gaps, bridge them with what Simon Collison has referred to as our spirit of inquiry. We’re eighty-percenters as Dan Cederholm once described. We learn what we need to, to be web designers.

  33. 33. By Malte on 20th Sep ’11 at 03:41am

    Jon – I have nothing to add, I just wanted to thank you for writing this. It makes a point I have been thinking about a lot myself and couldn’t quite put it right. Being part of a collective, building things people want to use. It’s a gift.

  34. 34. By Sophie Dennis on 20th Sep ’11 at 05:18am

    As a job title to give out at parties isn’t “web designer" rather like “musician”?

    Like “musician”, “web designer” covers a huge spectrum, from teenagers messing about in their bedrooms, to global celebrities, to many many hugely talented artists toiling in relative obscurity and “famous” only within their niche. Tell strangers you’re a musician and some will always interpret this as “layabout” of the messing-about-in-bedrooms variety. The musician is then forced to justify themselves - if they can - with tales of latest albums, successful commissions, or recent tours with the London Philharmonic / <Artist They’ve Seen on X-Factor>. This is rotten, unfair and insulting. But let’s not pretend we don’t know where it’s coming from, or that the negative perception is never valid.

    We can moan about it not being fair - and it isn’t - but there’s not much to do about it other than get ourselves a better pitch than the messing-about-in-their-bedroom “web designers”. So thank you to Jon for writing this post and all the anecdotes and tips from everyone else, for how we can qualify what we mean by “web designer" and distinguish ourselves.

  35. 35. By Nur Ahmad Furlong on 21st Sep ’11 at 11:12am

    What an awesome and inspiring piece. You should have asked the CD agency person what her favourite website was! Which websites she visits on a daily basis and if she’d enjoy doing what she does if no internet existed!

    Thanks for making us all feel special! & Pleased to meet you Jon!

  36. 36. By Jeff on 22nd Sep ’11 at 18:35pm

    Good piece. I too am a proud web designer. But what I generally tell people, especially really smart people, is that I help businesses generate consistent high-quality leads by building top-10 ranking websites. Which is the truth, looking from a results perspective.

    Although as mentioned in other comments, sometimes you can just say “web designer" and that’s a perfectly good answer for many people (non-business owners).

    Thanks for the read! (and nice to read the other comments, cheers!)

  37. 37. By Alex on 23rd Sep ’11 at 02:36am

    These things are relative. Until a few years ago I used to have to say “I’m a programmer”, so I’m delighted to be able to say “I’m a web designer" now :)

  38. 38. By Sherwin Techico on 24th Sep ’11 at 01:20am

    I haven’t posted a comment on a blog post in a while. It’s been either: a share in Google Reader; a bookmark in Delicious; or a retweet on Twitter.

    So, I just want to say thanks for writing this.

  39. 39. By Christopher Foster on 29th Sep ’11 at 11:23am

    After 15 years designing and building newspapers I fell victim to the ever shrinking industry trends. I for one appreciate the foundation you and others have laid for a recent convert to web design like me to build upon.

    Thanks again!

  40. 40. By Tom Hermans on 29th Sep ’11 at 12:15pm

    Some people make condescending remarks to anyone. I also find it hard not to react to it, so I find it very admirable that you didn’t. Leave that particular person in her ivory tower, believing(pretending ?) that she’s more important or whatever.

    I too find it a thrill to be in a business that changes so much so fast. For years I had the impression I was lagging a bit behind (almost always worked as a one-person team or with colleagues who 'liked frames or tables “because they just work"' .. (*sigh*) and sometimes it was also too much to take in (design, code, backend, seo etc etc..).

    But meeting other people, conversing with them on fora, twitter, reading lots and lots and lots of blogposts, books, rss-feeds and discussing new techniques w/ these people have helped me grasp my profession better. I also don’t know of any other profession that *gives* this much.. Opensource code everywhere, free frameworks, ideas out in the open, all just for grabs, and always other people inserting theirs and/or improving on the original ideas. Like a humonguous non-stop brainstorm..

    And in the end you see your designs and/or code improve almost every week/month, trying out new and better techniques on every new project, sometimes frowning upon your own work that’s sometimes not even a year old, while others compliment you for it. The strive to “build a better web" is in our DNA I guess, and I applaud each and every one that does this everyday.

  41. 41. By Pablo Impallari on 29th Sep ’11 at 18:13pm

    I used to say “I’m a Web Designer"…

    Now I say: “I make fonts for Web Designers"

  42. 42. By Nikola Igniatovic on 30th Sep ’11 at 02:56am

    Wow! Nice read, nice thoughts and a similar story/education.

    When I’m asked the question about what do we do, the answer is never simple. So I choose to make all those poor souls that will ask that question to suffer the wrath of the WebDesigner.

    A typical answer is: “Im a webdesigner, I do SEO optimization, UX analisys, Flash or Jquery animations, Dynamic Driven websites, etc etc.”.

    And if the answer is “I’m the creative director for … agency" than i usually stare and say… “Oh God really? How is it? Good or Bad?”.

    Lets face it. Being a good webdesigner takes a lot of time, patience and knowledge. We combine and incorporate aspects from various branches.

    We are Graphics Designers, we are programmers, we are usability experts, we are SEO optimisers, we are Advertisers and Marketeers, we are a Swiss Army knife of knowledge and cannot feel embarassed for what we do. Cause we do it ALL in a field that is running so fast and furiously that in order to be on the spot you can never stop.

    A Creative usually makes pretty things but really doesnt care about usability.

    A Programmer usually makes things that are usable but not pretty.

    WebDesigners are a War Machine that blends all the aspects into creating a live, dynamic and interactive experience or “advertisment" for the user.

    Beat that!

  43. 43. By Espen Brunborg on 30th Sep ’11 at 03:25am

    Wow. This was a surprisingly good read (not that I wouldn’t expect a good article here, just that I had this on my “to read" list for a while and didn’t know what it was about).

    My colleague wrote an article about why he hates the term web design for exactly the reason you outline here: to outsiders, “web design" has, for some reason, certain negative connotations, as if we’re all stuck in a basement somewhere, drinking energy drinks behind 1-inch glasses.

    I think of myself as just a designer, as a large part of my skill set is applicable outside of web.

  44. 44. By Kat Durrant on 30th Sep ’11 at 04:46am

    I think a lot of the time people don’t understand our community, it’s probably one of the most misunderstood communities, along with ninjas and other mystical beings.

    It’s the hardest thing to have a cookie cutter answer to what we do for a living, because for many if not all of us it’s so much more than that. For someone who is in the web community design is everything, type is everything, usability is everything, and our day job is only the tip of the iceberg of what “we do”. So ignorant people making snide remarks happens, it’s how we deal with them that counts.

    It’s not uncommon for there to be an air of ego involved amongst professions closely related to ours; hell, even some of us could be called on our ego’s, but that’s what makes us achieve what we achieve, never let someone else’s ego shadow yours. Stay on the light side of the force.

  45. 45. By Karin on 7th Oct ’11 at 22:16pm

    Driven by seemingly disparate interests and unrelenting optimism, I am creeping into the world of web design. And may I just say Thank You, for everything that you (all of you) do.

    The potential for what I want to do is so staggering that I can barely stand the learning curve — jumping out of my skin, wanting to be able to make things NOW. And that potential exists because of everything that has been built up to this point.

    People are derisive of the things they fear — the next time someone looks down their nose at you for being a “mere web designer”, keep that in mind.

  46. 46. By Siju George on 17th Oct ’11 at 03:35am

    Nice post. The same issue is for all freelance workers where others expect a solid work profession. Web designer do not need a firm of corporate assistance to get a job because of the nature of our work. We have the flexibility to decide our own working time (as a free worker) where others who are institutionalized with normal working environments cannot digest it. I am more likely to answer the question what you do with “I am a freelance developer" or “freelance worker”.

  47. 47. By Parker Moore on 10th Nov ’11 at 14:43pm

    Thank you, Jon. As a young web designer and developer, I unfortunately get a lot of flack from my fellow classmates who are studying Economics, Business, and even such seemingly obscure fields as Hospitality Administration here at this great school we call Cornell.

    I worked as a freelance developer over the summer and found it to be incredibly rewarding — the freedom to choose those projects which interested me most was truly a one-of-a-kind experience for me, having worked at our local grocery store since I was 15.

    I am so proud of our industry and what it has done. I will stumble upon a website and be beyond impressed by what I see. It is something to revere, certainly not something of which to be ashamed. Great article. Thank you.

  48. 48. By Jaina on 13th Dec ’11 at 03:09am

    Really great article - a good read and a little bit of an eye opener. I usually get strange expressions when asked what I do, though I have to admit I usually get a 'good' strange expression when I say what I do to others.

    It’s great being part of a community that is so open and willing to share. The web wouldn’t be the state it’s in right now if this wasn’t the case.

  49. 49. By CB on 13th Dec ’11 at 05:18am

    Call yourself an Internet Entrepreneur. It evokes prestige… and it’s true.

  50. 50. By ML on 15th Dec ’11 at 22:50pm

    Great post, thank you for putting this into words! This helps remind me that I too am incredibly lucky and should be proud to work in this field. I feel you on being self-taught, web-taught, etc. and letting your work be your validation. Still working on the self-actualization though!

    Also, the term that’s really started to bother me the past several years is “web guru.” Ugh.

  51. 51. By Jack on 16th Dec ’11 at 13:31pm

    My god but did I need to read this. I just nearly heard dramatic music fading in, in the background too. Yeah, the eyes welled up a bit.

    I’m so proud to be part of this incredible community.

    Thank you so much for articulating this.

  52. 52. By Chris Jokinen on 20th Dec ’11 at 12:07pm

    My common response to the, “What do you do”, question has been: I’m a web-based programmer with a focus on open technologies to provide back office solutions. I also design web pages.

    Some people become more curious as to what that all means while others stare at me as if I had just grown a third eye. I tend to get a kick out of the reactions either way.

    Truth is I find we do what needs to get done for the goal of the specific project. It can range from UI Design to DB Design to graphics to server side scripting. I’m sometimes the master and other times the student, but I’m always learning and will most likely continue to do so for some time to come.

  53. 53. By Tom Cooney on 27th Dec ’11 at 06:50am

    I work freelance from a small home studio in the middle of rural France. You should see the looks I get when I say I’m a web designer! (Mind you, that might have something to do with my French) Anyway thanks for reminding me of what an amazing community we are all apart of… Nice post.

  54. 54. By Ben Peachey on 7th Jan ’12 at 14:13pm

    I usually go with “I’m a Kick-Ass Web Developer”.

    I even have it on my linkedin profile.

    Having read this makes me think I should make it official and have it printed on my business card too ;-)

  55. 55. By Nin Armangué Braun on 20th Jan ’12 at 06:57am

    This work is about research. It is like being a scientist and being asked about what you’ve discovered. You can indeed feel misunderstood, and that is what hurts. But at the end, you know what you do, and the only thing that really matters is the way you evolve. Perhaps only web designers, web developers, this community of hard workers in constant research and experiment, may know what it really means. So, as you know better than someone who doesn’t do your job, what it means, just focus on what you do know, and think about your work and the way you evolve. We are constantly judged by others, don’t take much attention to someone else’s judgement, when this person is definitely not evolving in the same area. Because this person can’t know what your work is about. So just trust in yourself. You know what you do.

    And if you don’t, let me say, my little myself, do ! :-)

  56. 56. By Sam on 17th Feb ’12 at 09:15am

    I totally understand where you are coming from Jon, I had a very similar experience at a recent local business convention. I wouldn’t let it upset you.. Next time somebody asks just tell them that you’re a certified badass who dabbles in web and print :)

  57. 57. By Iqbal on 19th Mar ’12 at 02:35am

    What a fantastic article. “Tempered by over fifteen years of failed experiments on late nights with misbehaving browsers.” I wish I could express myself like that.

    I have similar story. I am a web designer. And I have just posted the article on twitter #!WebDesigner_Iw.

  58. 58. By Leo on 10th May ’12 at 02:31am

    Thanks for a great post it makes for a really good read, you raise some great points anbout fonts and page load times, i will definitely be taking this into consideration throughout my next development, thanks a lot Jon!

  59. 59. By Tom on 18th Jun ’12 at 03:50am

    Been there… I’m cuban… and believe me when i say that no one here understand what is a web developer, I think my family still doesn’t know what i do, and my dad told everybody that I’m a hacker, I just smile :)

  60. 60. By MGP on 11th Jul ’12 at 07:39am

    I’m a freelance web designer and print designer in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and I don’t think I’ve ever run into the mindset of your friend at the party. But nonetheless, thanks for the amazing post. It is exactly what I needed to continue my day of wrestling with a particularly difficult web problem I am having. All the best. I’m a fan.

  61. 61. By Martin on 25th Jul ’12 at 08:10am

    Great post, thx!

  62. 62. By Alexis Bob on 16th Aug ’12 at 14:04pm

    What an awesome and inspiring piece. You should have asked the CD agency person what her favourite website was! Which websites she visits on a daily basis and if she’d enjoy doing what she does if no internet existed!

    Thanks for making us all feel special! & Pleased to meet you Jon!

  63. 63. By Altkleider on 11th Sep ’12 at 05:36am

    I work freelance from a small home studio in the middle of rural France. You should see the looks I get when I say I’m a web designer! (Mind you, that might have something to do with my French) Anyway thanks for reminding me of what an amazing community we are all apart of… Nice post.

  64. 64. By Guillermo on 9th Oct ’12 at 10:58am

    like that because whoever (s)he is, (s)he probably should see a psychiatrist

  65. 65. By Pravat on 25th Feb ’13 at 21:59pm

    Nice to read Jon. When I introduce myself I usually say ‘I’m a web strategist’. Because when I say web designer they think its just Photoshoping. So when I mention myself as an web strategist, I have more room to explain who I am actually. We know we have great job, but people don’t usually don’t get the idea if web designer won’t be in this planet than we can’t imagine what our world would be!

  66. 66. By pixelangry on 20th Aug ’14 at 05:34am

    Unfortunately, here in Italy, the figure of the web designer is seen as a figure who plays a nerd on the computer, and our salaries are affected strongly

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