Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A new term for what we do

I started a new part-time project a while ago where I was allowed to use the full power of thin server architecture and Dojo, where the back-end was written in PHP.

While talking about the architecture with the back-end developer (which was really impressed about the cleanness of using a SMD file to define the protocol contract between client and server) we compared experiences and realized that we were both programmers first and visual designers last, if at all.

Many times the customer or project owner have a very dim understanding of client-side development, which leads to bizarre ideas about the simplicity of implementing ideas in the browser. Most common is that JavaScript is seen as something to use as a last resort and that the entire user experience is seen as a series of 90s cardboard static HTML pages, mainly because it's simpler to conceptualize, I guess.

Working the majority of my time with web pages but never with visual design means that I need to find very advanced customers and project members who understand that there is a layer below the design, but not on the server.

And that's when the expert PHP developer I was working with (Henrik Hussfelt, no less) coined the term middle-end developer. I have never heard that before, and IMO it resonates with where I put myself in the value stack.

Could a new definition like middle-end be a tool to more precisely define the JavaScript programmers role; Not as someone who adds an event handler to a button, but someone who creates the actual client application, but not the markup template for it.


andybeeching said...

Interesting thoughts Peter, though I think the term front-end engineer might have more currency (given it's already employed by Yahoo!, other large corporations, and some of the larger London agencies from what I've seen).

The 'front' part allows employers/clients/co-workers to associate such individuals with a client-side skill set (SSJS etc not withstanding), whilst the engineering part implies more complex application development, such as authoring (middle-tier) frameworks, or code design, in addition to utilizing said architecture a la front-end developers.

You could always educate clients about the role of front-end engineers with this video by Nate Koechley: http://video.yahoo.com/watch/4671445/12486762

Keep up the good blog! :-)

Peter Svensson said...

@andybeeching: Thanks! Hmm, maybe an 'engineer' at the end might do the trick, but I still have the feeling that anything front-end is painting and anything programming is on the server.

Shaking things up a bit with new terms might make people 'in charge' take the time to do a closer evaluation.


primavera133 said...

I'm in the same position as you and I like the idea behind the term "middle-end developer". If that (or something similar) would catch on, it would be a great improvement.