Mar 18, 2010

What type of engineer are you?

If you work in the web development field, you can call yourself an engineer. Did you know that web engineers are divided to categories? Knowing where you belong can focus your job, enhance your skills and give you more incentives at your work.
Let's have a look to various engineering categories for web developers.


If you work in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator only, you are a clear web designer. This is the most creative work out there. Designers are usually special people, not like anybody else. Usually they live somewhat outside of the rest because their job is totally different from what other do.
Being designers is interesting because design is what people see when they come to the site. Design meets them. If visitors like the design, they will stay longer. If design is horrible, they will leave the site in many cases regardless of the site content.
Being a good designer rates you very high in the industry.

Frontend engineer

If you do HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Flash, etc, than you are a Frontend engineer. Designer design the site and gives you a picture. Now it is your job to make sure that designed picture is live and works as expected by visitors. It is a tough job. Probably toughest of all web jobs. There are many browsers to check with and most browsers behave differently from version to version. Frontend engineers make sure the site works everywhere. This is very difficult but often very interesting job.
Strangely the value of Frontend engineering is underestimated. JavaScript is not seen as a “serious” programming language and everybody around knows bits of HTML and CSS. However when you are a true “pro” Frontend engineer, nobody can compare with you. Although you are usually in shadow, your job is one of the most important jobs on the web.

Backend engineer

If you are a Backend engineer, you make a functionality behind the site. You make sure user's data is stored and processed. You are responsible for smooth running of complex applications. You do magic behind the site. If you do it well, users are satisfied.

All of the above

Are you all of the above? Most likely you are a freelancer than! Freelancers often take all activities to themselves. How good is it? Well, if you know bits of this, bits of that, it is good because you are universal. On the other hand it means you cannot excel in what you are doing. Unless you specialize on something, you will be in lower position than a specialized engineer.
I am not saying that being all–in–one is bad. It is not. However you may want to team up with somebody to provide better values to your clients. For example, your partner does design, you do the rest. Or you do Backend engineering while your partner does the Frontend part. This will help you to finish the project faster.


This post is somewhat unusual for my blog. I was recently thinking a lot about where I stand and it made me to write this article. It is always good to know where you are. Think of it and play your strengths.


  1. Engineering Student - False!March 22, 2010 at 9:56 AM

    You're not necessarily correct. In Canada, students at accredited engineering schools learn about engineering self-regulatory bodies in each province. The term "Professional Engineer" is protected by law in Canada, and the United States. Misrepresenting yourself as a Professional Engineer in certain markets can get you in legal trouble - something for your readers to think about.

  2. I did not describe engineers as a job title in this article :) It is more like a view on what you are doing.

  3. I run small e-shop in Ua.What was full designed/developed by (for ru:people ' cherez zopu chto nazyvajetsja').I am all in one.I often think about it.It like swiming on the top.U recieve more pleasure from swiming on the beach observing people than diving in to the blue deep and speaking only with the fishes . watching fishes-you become more fish than man)

  4. I like your separation of designer vs. front-end engineer, that skill-set is way too undervalued. I have to disagree with your lumping of everything else as a backend engineer though. I know far too many programmers that are perfectly competent with their language of choice, but absolutely useless when it comes to designing a good database/data model. Perhaps imagining a fourth tier of "data engineer" would be appropriate.

  5. thanks man, you build me up :) i am on of these ie6 tamer :))) cheers!