In the online job market, job titles, job descriptions and job roles have developed considerably over the past decade. There was a time when a job that involved building websites, incorporating design and development, would have been branded as a ‘webmaster’ role – suitable for someone who had been tinkering with the Internet for many years but didn’t have any specific skills.
Webmaster roles were sought around 1998 and they were usually looked for by companies who didn’t have much experience of the Internet. Following webmasters were roles for ‘Web developer / Designer’, as this again was considered to be the same thing. Anyone who knew how to build websites surely knew how to design them?
As the Internet grew and awareness of different aspects of websites grew, roles such as this were split off in the job market, and web developers and web designers went their separate ways. Developers had a very analytical mind, strong mathematical skills, in-depth knowledge of different coding languages, and usually an extensive collection of Star Trek videos and a beard. Web designers by contrast tended to be more outgoing, from an art background, with an understanding of colour, form and graphics packages such as Photoshop and Fireworks.
They are, in truth, polar opposites. You’ll get some developers with design skills, and vice-versa, but you won’t tend to find a great developer who can also design captivating websites. The two skills use different sides of the brain.
While developers and designers are generally considered to be a different breed, you will still find jobs that advertise for web designer / SEO, or web developer / SEO these days. Again, this is usually from companies with little or no experience with the Internet, as they believe that anyone who works online must surely know how to do SEO… it is after all, just about adding keywords isn’t it?
In much the same way that development is different from design, SEO is different again. Some SEOs know absolutely nothing about design or development, they don’t need to. SEO is about the organisation and presentation of information in a written form. It’s about how spiders and humans perceive and navigate that information. It’s about creating content that works on multiple levels, building high quality links, knowing how to spot SEO problems and keeping on top of the latest developments in the industry, and industries that will affect it.
Don’t get me wrong, some SEOs are also designers, just as some SEOs are also developers. Most SEOs in fact come from a design or development background, but if you’re looking for an SEO for your company you need to look for an SEO – not someone who designs websites and has heard of SEO in passing.