Demystifying Digital Roles with a nifty Venn diagram

Janis Yee  

It seems there is some confusion in the digital industry between hiring managers and those that can perform this type of work. Here I seek to clarify the roles for you. I can almost definitely guarantee that once you change the title to one that matches the description you will get applicants with a much better fit for the job. The same goes for job seekers. Titles are not just ego boosters, they are intended to help clarify what role you fit within a Digital team.


Stop Using “Web Designer”

I have seen the term “Web Designer” continue to be thrown around. I vote to boycott this role title in order to produce more professional clarity. Back in the early 2000s, a Web Designer’s job was to be the one-man shop digital team who intrinsically understood business, user, development and design values. This was someone who knew everything to accommodate any digital need because at the time, a generalist was better than no one at all. Nowadays, the digital industry has become a wide medium for all human needs such as commerce, entertainment, relationships, and services. As a medium it’s produced its own economy and fostered by its own community. Bringing someone in with the title of Web Designer will not get you the focused help that you need because there are more specialized skills in play now more than before for your website to succeed. Just having a website up is not enough.

Understand your Needs

Part of the problem with hiring managers is a lack of the elusive understanding of corporate needs in order to find a fit for the role. Descriptions containing day to day activities can cross many roles. How much development knowledge is needed? Does the role involve more coding or design? Does it require capturing stakeholder needs and translating them to project deliverables? Is it a client facing role? They often get in the mindset that if they put “Designer” as a title suffix to any job description, they will get someone who can code. If the role involves anything to do with development, why not use the suffix “Developer”? If you are looking for a hybrid, why not use both suffixes in the title of your posting?

The most common answer I receive from recruiters is “We want someone who knows how to code but it’s primarily a creative role.” What that says to me is: You don’t know what you want but if I can fill these holes, that would save the client from making an additional hire and you can look like a hero for finding that golden girl. You are also conning creative people into applying when they don’t fully understand the role either.

What about UX?

It’s even more confusing for the UX specialists who have an understanding of both visual design and development in order to come up with the right solution. However what most hiring managers don’t understand is that this is more of a strategic role. They are an important factor in determining the outcome of the product launch and iteration and come with an understanding of user research to reach the market you need. They don’t necessarily need to be formally trained in design or development but it seems these days this is a role that is often combined with both suffixes as above and its clarity again gets bogged down. Doing production and creative deliverables to fulfill the objectives is a great way to see solid output in a person but it’s not what a UX specialist does.

Here is a diagram listing a small sampling of roles sitting in their buckets.

Note: Even I don’t know everything. I did not include Content Producers, SEO and Social Managers because that is whole separate dimension and digression from this article.


One person can’t do it all

If you are an agency selling your digital services, you can’t expect the work to all fall on the one or two lowly generalists in your company. As a designer, I feel that when I know I have to develop the site, I tend to stay within the safe-zone of what I know how to build. Most often, the end product may not necessarily fill all the stakeholder goals as I don’t have the specialized knowledge to build some of the enhancements that even I’d like seen. My level of design thinking for web will continue to grow while my ability to program will always plateau. In my experience and perception of others, it’s always better to do a few things really really well versus trying to learn everything. There’s a reason these specialized positions exist in some places as full time roles by themselves.

If you seek to succeed, build a proper team. Hire the right people. Find them with proper job titles.

If you are looking for the right career, take a step in the right direction by being aware of your label and title yourself accordingly.

1 thought on “Demystifying Digital Roles with a nifty Venn diagram

  1. Hi Janis,

    Great article and infographics. Reference was made to this infographic at the HighEdWeb 2015 Leadership Academy during Ron Bronson’s presentation.


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