Web profession role convergence
Back in time, I wrote that people shouldn't divide themselves in designers or programmers, but rather unite the best parts of the both worlds for an enhanced perspective on their job. I also couldn't understand why they were stereotyping each other, divided in two camps, trying to prove that the source of their problems lies within the other camp. Such things don't speak well for the web industry as a whole. Something in my own perspective was missing and I hope to be able to express it here.
The web industry involves many people, who often follow their own interests, so someone is guilty when they collide. Management tries to align these various interests with a common goal, but fails to deliver as it's there to fix a built-in inefficiency. This is why many companies are trying to keep as few management levels as possible. This shows that not every role adds real value and that the addition of more roles doesn't need to result in a better end product.
Many job titles in the web industry were just thought-out in an attempt to get a piece of the large pie. Only a web professional can exist—one that combines all existing and relevant roles to produce something the customer needs.
People always search for the maximum value they could acquire with minimum effort, which is the reason why we have experienced every single crash so far. The get-rich-quick mentality is everywhere around us—from the Apple's app store, where everyone is selling through the iPad tablet that everyone is copying to the mobile web that everyone is using. But it's not limited to IT. Banks and real estate firms also act similarly. There could be other industries tomorrow. Most things around us have inflationary nature and greed is everywhere—in crime, labor exploitation, hotel construction, politics.
The web had high growth for many consecutive years, which attracted people, who initially had nothing to do with it, but wanted to grow their salaries with the same speed. Already busy specialists were unable or unwilling to meet the higher requirements placed upon them. This is how we artificially created many new job titles, so that we can find an excuse for not completing our work. A clear example is how everyone envied Google. People tried to capitalize on their successful ranking algorithm without doing much. So was the search engine optimization born and everyone promised us first place in the search results if we could afford the five digit dollar amount. Then Facebook came and some people recognized themselves as social media experts and offered us more efficient ways to reach our target audience. We have artificially created many job titles in the past, so that people can pretend of being more valuable.
Booming industries define new job titles in the short term, which become unnecessary in the long term. This is because of the high fluctuation of the labor, willing to go after the better opportunities as they arise. Suddenly, when mobile web design became available, most desktop web designers wanted to switch to mobile. Maybe they felt that their position was no more so lucrative when the competition was fierce. Such dramatic shifts motivate the definitions of new roles that need to be carefully specified, verified and documented by a special type of person.
Often we work against each other rather than together. Only small workgroups with open relationships can flourish. Cooperation gives us a chance to advance rapidly and integrate new and old knowledge into a working solution that solves people's problems. But cooperation can fail in the long term if promises aren't kept or members of the team get disappointed.
Booms prefer specialists and bursts generalists. Specialists are not self-sufficient and depend on other people with complementary skills, which are not always easy to combine in an extraordinary team. Another problem is the need to hire ten people instead of one, which is bound with high costs, especially for small companies and increases the risk of conflicts and communication costs. All these side effects could be minimized if people were just willing to stretch more. I remember a case where farmers where complaining that their goods were bought from sellers at extremely low prices and later sold at the multiple of the price at the hypermarkets. And yet very few of them very ready to organize themselves and deliver directly to the store, eliminating the middle man. They were unwilling to stretch.
The only way to survive in the web industry today is to wear multiple hats and to think about ourselves as web professionals, understanding the rationale behind our decisions and not just obeying random orders. We'll need to make many compromises, be more flexible and adaptable and never fall in love with our creations. A professional should be there even in the case of fire, no matter what. The web profession integrates many roles—web design, graphic design, animation design, front-end development, back-end development, protocols, database architecture, usability, accessibility, user experience, interaction design, information architecture, content strategy, typography, marketing, search engine optimization, analytics, psychology and many more. If you assign every role to one specialist, you'll need a double-decker bus to make place for them. All of them will be convinced that their position is the most important within the company. Investing time in learning things from other roles might seem counterproductive at first, but will positively affect your productivity in the long term.
The web industry created the illusion of being car-like—a very complex vehicle with hundreds of interconnected parts that can't work separately. This doesn't help anyone, so we need to explain things in an easy to understand, clear and effective manner. We have polluted people's minds with all kinds of abbreviations that interfere more than they help. This led to misunderstandings and extensive communication as nobody wanted to see the big picture or do everything.
When things look very hard, few people will be willing to start. This means that many have interest to keep things hard enough, so they have as few competitors as possible. This is exactly why others fail—because they never dare to start. We've gone so far to create books with thousands of pages to subjectively inform a potential reader of how hard a topic might be. The truth is that most fluffy books contain fluffy material. Job announcements were also created by people trying to scare others by expecting them to know five programming languages, have at least five years of experience and know at least three languages. I wonder why this has artificially become natural. Although many people will try to scare us or bring us down, we should never stop starting.
Now we see why this behavior was wrong. Web designers and developers are facing tough times. They can't continue doing what they did before they were fired, because they can't deliver results when working alone. Expectations have already shifted, so it's no more enough to be proficient in a single area. What counts are whole, finished products delivered in a consistent way. We need to explore what we are capable of doing alone, in which areas from A to Z we need to improve and what we are going to do with it.
It's time to combine all roles and become web professionals—people, who are ready to solve any problem that might appear. This is the only way we can inspire and grow other professionals around us.