Published: 21 July 2014

What Is Design?

As lead server-side developer at Sagittarius, I’m always in awe of designers. A pitch document we received recently had an amazing array of source websites for us to look at incorporate in to the design. Then you have to take the clients brief and distil huge amounts of ideas and changes, which are usually in client specific terminology. I always liken the designer to an architect who through forethought, incite, and passion sell us not what is, but what could be.

They have to deal with the smallest of details, if something is out by a few pixels they will know. Is that font choice too understated or is it too much. You cannot underestimate the importance of a good designer. The life or death of you website and probably your online revenue depends upon them.

Just like a real life architect sometimes it’s difficult to realise real world costs with the dream they would like to see realised. But this and a myriad of other nuisances is what makes design such a great job to be in.

What Is Server-Side?

Don’t call yourself a programmer: “Programmer” sounds like “anomalously high-cost peon who types some mumbo-jumbo into some other mumbo-jumbo.” But regardless, programming is what server side developers do.

Constantly producing thousands of lines of code to make a website work the way you want. We are the builders that produce the foundation and physical frame on which everything else depends.

When you arrive on your website and the website appears at all, that’s our work. That button you click that sends you an email, that was crafted by us and we are passionate about it. 

We care that the things we produce are reusable, testable and have proper separation of concerns. It’s a difficult thing for an outsider to understand when we get excited about a screen like this.

But when a designer gets excited about beautiful choice of font and colour we get excited that it uses three tiered architecture with dependency injection and mocking. No I don’t expect you to know what any of those things mean.

The flip side is we are the people who work late hours trying to fix things that have gone wrong. When your website moves to new hosting in the middle of the night that’s the server side team. If a client side developer messes up your site might go lime green, if we mess up the site might not open at all.

This paragraph below says why it’s such a great job to be in though

"The programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed from pure thought-stuff. He builds castles in the air, from air, creating by exertion of the imagination. Few media of creation are so flexible, so easy to polish and rework, so readily capable of realizing grand conceptual structures. Yet the program construct, unlike the poet's words, is real in the sense that it moves and works, producing visible outputs separate from the construct itself. It prints results, draws pictures, produces sounds."

What Is Client-Side?

Can you imagine if a builder built you a house without an architect or an interior decorator? I imagine it would be four walls, no windows that’s a structural weakness. A concrete floor, a steel roof and solid steel prison door for ultimate security. Who needs plaster or paint on the walls brick is fine.

I’m sure no builder would actually do that although I make no promises! Anybody who has watched DIY SOS or the like knows they always have an interior decorator on hand.

That for me is what a client side developer does on a daily basis. Taking the mundane and making it take life. The designer dreams but without the client side developers hard work it would never become a real breathing website.

They have to deal with some quite horrific issues, can you imagine having to write a 10,000 page document. But you have to write it in nine different word processors. None of which work with one another.

At the time of writing there are nine major browsers IE 7, IE 8, IE 9, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Safari mac, Firefox mac, Chrome mac. Don’t even get them started on the mobile browsers, if you’re lucky you only need to worry about Safari, Chrome, Opera, and Opera mini for the iPhone, Android, IPad and Nexus.

As you can see trying to build and test for everything is an absolute horror. Each browser has its own subtle nuances different in browser security, default font sizes, borders etc. All these issues can be overcome but never doubt that the industry is constantly changing and its client side developer’s job to stay on top.

It sounds like it’s a terrible job to be in doesn’t it. Which considering how happy the developers I work with are, you must think they are a bit S&M! But to see a design being brought to life by your own ability can you imagine why you wouldn’t get immense satisfaction and joy from being a client side developer?

Richard Brisley

Lead Server-Side Developer


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