This came across my twitter stream today, right on the heals of a conversation I had with a recruiter who was desperately trying to decode a job description for a “web designer” that a client had recently sent him. Ok, so let’s lay aside for a moment the fact that recruiters really shouldn’t be doing recruiting for positions that they don’t understand, and just focus on what this data is telling us about the industry and the role that semantics play in describing what we do.


To me “web designer” and even “interactive designer” are both incredibly vague terms. Sure, I will use the term “web designer” if I’m describing to somebody’s 90-year old grandma what it is that I do for a living, but for a potential employer, these terms really do nothing to describe the kind of work that they’re expecting from me. It’s always been my assumption that when clients are looking for a “web designer,” it’s because they need someone who can do production, content creation, HTML/CSS, programming, information architecture, visual design, analytics, SEO… Basically, a little bit of everything. Now while most people in this industry worth their salt can do each of these things to some level of proficiency, anyone who values their career and charges a livable wage will only specialize in one or two. (Sure, someone could try to hire me to do web programming, but knowing my limitations, I probably couldn’t in good conscience charge them more than $30/hour.)

So when a client or recruiter uses this term to describe what they are looking for, what it says to me is that they want a low-level employee with little-to-no experience who they can pay a crappy wage. Hence the low salary averages for “web designers.”

Now maybe this isn’t always the case, but if it isn’t, then employers need to do some real research into what it is that they are actually looking for, stop casting the net so wide, and stop setting the bar so low. This has all been said already, but I think that using terms like “web designer” and “interactive designer” in your job descriptions are a dead giveaway that you either haven’t done your homework to figure out what it is that you’re really looking for, or that you know what you’re looking for but won’t come to grips with the reality that to get all of these things done (and presumably done well) you are going to need to hire more than one person (and you’re going to need to pay them well).