Network Web Design: Suddenly the code warrior has become an endangered species

Being an HTMLer is no longer the highly specialised skill it once was

Willy: "The door of your life is wide open!"

Biff: "Pop! I'm a dime a dozen and so are you!"

- Death of a Salesman

When I got my first full-time job in the Internet business back in 1996, my title was "Web Designer". That job title meant I covered just about every role on a website project.

I talked to the client about what the site was being developed for; created flow charts and outlines; collected or created content as needed; designed the user interface and all of the graphics; built the interface in HTML; built out all of the pages for the entire site; tested it and got feedback from the client; made revisions; and then, finally, deployed the site on to the Web.

I did everything but the back-end engineering stuff like CGI and PERL. For the smaller sites I was creating at the time, this was no problem. I could handle the amount of work that this required, and was often working on several projects at the same time.

But times have changed and large-scale websites require a team of experts in various fields to produce them on time and on budget. These Web design teams need information architects (IA) to help identify the site's audience, purpose and content as well as to create the structure and user interface. They need art directors to worry about how the site looks and corporate branding issues, and to work with the IA on creating an attractive and usable interface. They need programmers to deal with back-end software, database management and servers. They also need "HTMLers" to take the work of the others and integrate this into the finished website.

HTMLers need to know how to use HTML and JavaScript, of course, but they must also be able to use graphic programs to create the site's widgets (all of the graphics used to make the interface). In addition, many HTMLers are adept at using Dynamic HTML (DHTML) in all of its various forms, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), PERL, Director and Flash. They should be able to wield these tools with particular artistry and create sites that not only look good and download quickly but also work consistently across the plethora of browsers on the market. This is not an easy task.

To make matters worse, the technology used to create the Web is constantly shifting and evolving. Web design teams have to stay on top of what is possible on the Web, but new technologies seem to sprout up every day, and the old ones are always being updated.

And then there are the browsers. What works one way in Internet Explorer 4 may not work the same way in Internet Explorer 5, much less in Navigator 4. A good HTMLer has constantly to research and learn all of the minutia of browsers and other technologies to keep the team ahead of the technology curve.

However, despite all of this, the days of putting HTML and JavaScript on your CV and expecting to get a high-paying job at a hot Internet firm are numbered.

When the Web first became a crucial medium for businesses, knowledge of HTML was in short supply because few people understood it. Back in the days when I called myself a Web designer, I used to joke that if our clients ever figured out how easy it was to learn HTML we would all be out of a job. Well, apparently they did.

Now it seems as if anyone who has taken a class at ZDU, read HTML for Dummies, and knows how to double click on the icon for FrontPage can call themselves an HTMLer. I have nothing against this, in fact, part of the reason I write this column and my books is to help people, regardless of their background, learn how to create Web pages. Yet being an HTMLer is no longer the highly specialised skill it once was. Just as word processors allow anyone to publish printed material, HTML allows anyone to publish electronic material. It still takes skill to create really tight, professional Web pages because of the issues that I mentioned above, and these issues will not disappear overnight.

However, things are changing on the Web. HTML editors such as Dreamweaver and Cyberstudio allow IAs and art directors to render their own designs. Increasingly sophisticated standards such as CSS remove the need for relying on clunky and unpredictable table layout. And finally, technologies that allow sites to be dynamically created are removing the burden of having to code each page by hand.

So where does this leave HTMLers? It's not as if the position will vanish altogether, but as more sites need maintenance rather than creation, HTMLers may find that they are increasingly called on simply to churn out basic HTML. The good news is that there are several avenues open to HTMLers who start looking to the future.

Many HTMLers are naturally suited to become IAs or programmers. However, a more intriguing option is that advanced HTMLers might become site managers; basically a Web-centric project manager. This position would allow them to oversee and direct the various aspects of the project and balance the needs of usability, aesthetics and code within the site. Since HTMLers are already called on to deploy a variety of different skills, who better to understand the problems of bringing a website together?

Jason Cranford Teague is the author of `DHTML for the World Wide Web'. If you have questions, you can find an archive of this column at Webbed Environments (www. webbedenvironments.com) or email him at jason@ webbedenvironments.com

Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape