I’m an interface developer

In his latest post Roger Johansson asks the question Are we designers or developers?. I have a simple answer for that. None of them. Let me explain:

First we have these people calling themselves developers. And boy do they know programming… and math… and… no that’s all. Many have a masters degree in computer science, a degree that pretty much tells you that they once gave five years of their lives to programing, how cool is that!? It’s not unusual to find people that think in those terms too. You can recognize them by their 10 year old, unmatched, clothes and you’ll rarely talk more than 1 minute with them. Very efficient.

Then we have the designers. Either real females, or people very close to females, that just can’t stop talking about this abstract thingie-thongie that just like, you know, exploded in a big burst of colors and like… “EHEM! Sorry!”, you hear them say, regaining consciousness and flying back to earth. Their clothes, at least you think they are clothes, often look like they where meant for something else. Perhaps for building steel pumps, or killing animals… or both. Well, at least these clothes are matched… or very purposefully not at all matched (not at aaaall like the developers). You can talk with these people for hours, probably even days, and still only touch upon the delicate topic of “a glass of water”. Oh, and they “create” things too. Very deep.

So where the heck does the interface developer come into all of this? Well, imagine you have a real project at hand. Real people that need some new website to do their work. Real deadlines, money that switches hands. Smiling business people that promises things and shake hands. Seems like something you know of?

Now, imagine bringing a developer and a designer together in a room, for like a month, working together with this new website. Concentrate hard and try to see the images before your very eyes. Will they accomplish anything?

  1. Hell no! In 5 minutes they will have started arguing about who should be the first one to open the door, and in what way. One talking about the most efficient way to turn the handle, and the other one defending herself by talking about cosmic beams from Saturn. After the first day the developer will have sore cheeks, after being constantly bitch slapped while hiding under his desk. The third day the designer will sit shaking in a corner after the electric shock induced by the steel helmet the developer built. None of them will survive the fourth day, let alone the project.
  2. Very yes! When you meet them after the month has passed you find two harmonic people that smiles to each other and really seem to have connected. They explain to you that the demonstration will be in two parts, first the designer and then the programmer. The designer shows you an app that really touches you, at least you think so, although you not fully understand it. The programmer shows you the other part of the app, one that instantly shows the number 369. They finish the presentation and look at you. You stand up, walk out, lock yourself into a nearby free conference room, and shout with all the power in your lungs: “HOW THE F*#CK AM I GOING TO DO MY TAXES WITH THIS SHIT?!#”. When you come back you find them congratulating each other for making the deadline.

You see? There’s something missing there. Some kind of link between the two. Someone that can walk into a room with two screaming people and calmly say: “Hey, you both kinda run linux (SuSE vs. Mac OS X), and have a “cold” desktop background (default plain blue vs. modern interpretation of Vasnetsov Snegurochka), what a coincidence!?”. There needs to be someone that can walk into the same room the next day and explain that they are talking about two different kinds of “abstract methods”. There needs to be a link.

But there’s more: An interface developer is silly enough to learn languages that doesn’t even have variables. Even though he know that his code will be sent as uncompressed plaintext and will be rendered by broken excuses for programs, he won’t cry himself to bed every night.

He will also gladly adapt a design to something it wasn’t really intended for, and he even will make it look somewhat good. He will skip adding those fabulous shadows, to make the deadline on time, and still think of himself a good person.

You see, even though “interface” reflect the visual graphic things, and “developer” relate to hard logic code, interface developers are real people, not a combination of two halves. I am one.

17 responses to “I’m an interface developer

  1. Haha… a good read and probably not too far from a suitable title. I love the way you managed to write these caricatures leaving no room for any prejudges to shine through what so ever ;-)

  2. Well said. I appreciate the creation of the “interface developer” and differentiation between it and the other two positions.

  3. That was a very cute article. I’m gonna have to go and re-tag my business cards with ‘wuid’ instead of designer. I’ve always felt ‘designer’ was a bit too artistic for me anyway.

  4. @Nicole: Yeah, isn’t it? Personally I’m not that fond of abbreviations like WUID, so I think I’ll keep saying just “interface developer”. Thanks for the comment

  5. Yes, very nice and politically correct post. :-)

    Me myself, I’ve always regarded myself as an Interface Developer, filling in the gap (or at least giving them someone mutual to hate, instead of each other…).

  6. You’re either on LSD or you’re full of crap. If you like your job, fine, but don’t bash other people. I’m an “interface developer” too, but i don’t say/write crap like that about programmers or artists.
    Geez, you’re so narrow minded.

  7. mirror mirror on the wall…

    who takes the most drugs, of us all…?

  8. Errr….I could not DISAGREE more. “Real” web developers are web designers and vice versa. They work seamlessly between each craft, writing rules in CSS that turn into beautiful styles, coding lightweight Javascript that translates into pretty transitions, and floating layouts that are pleasing to the eye. How do you think Johansson, Zeldman, Meyer, Budd, and Moll do it? Not like you’ve described.

    I’m sorry you’ve had such a pathetic experience in the web industry, but that’s not how MY experience has been at all.

  9. I couldn’t help but disagree Emil. There really is no title for seperation if you can all. That said, designers should know basic HTML and usability and some basic web standards as well as some basic SEO. If they don’t then the SEO team should know some design and usability to know where the designer is going and make some decisions. Same for the programmer, a good programmer is creative. Separating titles based on assumption and not real skills is bad :(

  10. Most companies I’ve seen, have the developer in the I.T. department and designer in the marketing department. With the designer issuing instructions to the developer on how the user interface should work.

  11. I wonder if you needed to tell this whole story just to explain what you do or whether you are trying to tell web crawlers that this is a good page with good content, rank it well ! Nice work anyway..

  12. @Smarmy: I bet each one of them have a designer that is responsible for the design and look’n’feel contraints. These poor bastards also work closest to the client to map the needs and wishes for the product.

    I also think they have people responsible for backend, like EPiServer or Polopoly, which don’t have the skills or the time to write HTML good enugh.

    I don’t know your experience, but I have worked in projects exactly like Emil describes in his post.

  13. Nice article. Thanks! The part about the clothes is awesome. :-)
    And indeed there is a translation need between programmers and designers. Of course being heavily depending on personality and experience as well. And yes, there are those allrounders who just seem have it all. But in general one might experience (like myself) that tech and design talk can be a very painful communication experience.

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