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Aug 7 2006

Web Development and Information Technology

These days I find myself pondering this question more and more: What does Web Development have to do with Information Technology? The more I think about it, the less they have in common. Now more than ever I am confident that Web Development should never be organized under IT.

IT is a necessary part of keeping the web alive, but one that is so separate from the creation of a website that it makes me laugh every time I think about it. Information Technology is, and always should be, concerned with the reliability, stability, and effectiveness of serving a website. Those creating websites should focus their complete attention on the effectiveness of the message, the design, the interface and the content.

When you get down to it, any website, and I mean any website, is all about communication. Communication has never been the expertise of IT, nor should it have to be. Communication is the job of marketers. It should be done by those deeply connected to the product.

One common solution to this disconnect is to have the website architected, written, and designed by marketers, and then turn it over to the IT folks to be developed. But this is still unsatisfactory in my eyes. A website’s face and structure may come from it’s design and organization, but its soul comes from the developers. Until developers understand and connect with the message and goals, and can put themselves in the shoes of the target audience, that soul will be lacking.

Additionally, even the best traditional marketers won’t fully understand what’s possible on the web. It’s the people deeply entrenched in the technology that will help to create the most effective solutions. So the responsibility falls on the developer to align themselves with the marketing strategy for any website, and be able to concept and develop matching solutions. In other words, a good developer won’t just follow guidelines, they’ll contribute to the message.

As a developer, there are simple ways to test if you fully understand a website you’re building. At any point, you should be able to identify the target audience(s) and primary goal(s) of the site. You should be educated on the browsing habits of that audience, and any technical ways to achieve these goals. Be user-centric when developing interfaces, but not just generic ‘users,’ always be mindful of your specific audience.

If you’re a web developer who’s only experience is programming, I would encourage you to educate yourself on the newest marketing techniques. If you work in an organization with a marketing department, talk to them, and learn from them.

If you’re a web marketer who isn’t a programmer, be sure to help your developers understand your strategy. Once they do, they will be a tremendous asset to the construction and the message of your site.

And finally, if you’re in a position of management over IT and/or marketing, please don’t align the responsibility of web development of any kind with Information Technology. The two will work hand in hand, but they are certainly not the same.