updated: October 31st, 2006 / Ross Johnson / 7 Comments

The many hats of the web designer

Most of us are not part of a large firm, we are freelancers are small companies. Many of us are not working in departments on projects, we rarely work with other companies in greater collaboration.

Because of this we take on roles, that we often don’t see ourselves as. These are roles we should consider, and examine deeper.

In simply designing a site, we probably on some level adopt the role as

  • Marketer
  • Designer
  • Creative Director
  • Copywriter
  • Information Architect
  • Programmer
  • Search Engine Marketer

How many of us as designers simply look at a site and think “Will this look good in my portfolio?” I confess that I don’t always dig deep enough into a project to think about the clients target audience, demographics, or do usability testing if it is not desired (that is to say, everyone should do some testing paid for or not).

In Addition, even if you don’t directly do Search Engine Optimization a page should be coded with consideration to search engines. The title of all pages should be topical to each page, the description should be different, files and directories should be semantic. Clients rely on search engines for being found, regardless of how small the scale. Even if it is as simple as someone searching for their name directly.

Some of us do more, directly going after the clients or performing administrative tasks

  • Accountant
  • CEO
  • Salesman
  • Promotions
  • Customer Support
  • Public Relations

It’s hard to wear many hats and many of us do it. Acknowledging that the hats are there makes it easier to be conscious of our roles, and how to perform better while acting under them.

7 thoughts The many hats of the web designer

  1. You mentioned designer in general, but I’ll tell you one thing that I never expected to become, a graphic artist. One of the first things I usually discover upon getting a new client, is that they don’t have a usable web logo. I end up either having to scan a logo off of printed materials and try to clean it up enough to use, or I have to hand-draw it myself. (The logo is very useful for matching the entire site’s color scheme and reinforcing branding.)

    Also, once I’ve resized an image for the web or created one for a specific page, there’s an immediate assumption that I can now handle print graphics. Suddenly I’m a graphic designer as well–though no one wants to pay anywhere near the going rate for that.

    My “favorite” client expectation is that I can just take a graphic off of their web page and email it to a local magazine or newspaper for a full page ad. I love that blank look as I try to explain why a picture that is crystal-clear on a computer screen would just become a blurry ink stain in print.

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