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What Does a Production Specialist Do?
by Lance T. Walker

A web designer isn't necessarily a web developer. Here's how to tell the difference.

The Production Specialist (aka Web Developer, HTML Specialist, Production Lead, Design Engineer, or Front-end Programmer), is the main intermediary between the designers and the programming engineers on a web team.


While the role is often overlooked, underappreciated, and underpaid, it is nonetheless vital to the ultimate marketing success of any web project.

The company that manages to obtain the services of a project manager with a production background is truly blessed. Add sales and marketing skills, and you have an individual that is not only extremely rare, but truly worth their weight in gold. As Luke Knowland put it in his article, "Anatomy of a Redesign",

"Something that often gets overlooked is the diplomatic role you play between your designers and engineers. By facilitating communication between the two camps, you make sure the whole production/redesign process works and that everyone can still be in the same room together once the project wraps. The designer probably doesn't know C [or ASP or JSP or SQL], and the engineer probably doesn't know Photoshop [or ImageReady or Flash]. It's your job to make sure they both understand, at least in general, the other's limitations, and also that everyone is communicating with everyone else effectively, if not happily." ( Luke Knowland,


The Production Specialist:

•  Is responsible for front-end coding of HTML layouts and templates that adhere to the look and feel set by the Design Director, then typically handing them off to engineers for back-end coding.
•  Works with the design team and the Project Manager to produce HTML layouts from initial Photoshop mockups, cleverly working within the constraints of HTML/XHTML to create polished, precise, and clean layouts.

•  Creates HTML documents that preserve the alignments, colors and font choices made by designers in Photoshop.

•  Cleans up HTML code generated by designers using a WYSIWYG program.

•  Has coding experience and in-depth knowledge of HTML, XHTML, JavaScript, CSS, CGI forms, streaming media, Telnet, and FTP.
•  May be proficient in XML.
•  May be experienced with database-driven web sites - ASP, JSP, etc.

•  Has professional experience and commercial, real-world web sites in their portfolio.

•  Has knowledge of advanced HTML hand coding, JavaScript, Adobe Photoshop, ImageReady (or equivalent),and how to optimize graphics for the web.

•  Understands page formatting - layout, design, and tables.
•  Understands browser and platform compatability issues.
•  Has a good design aesthetic and eye for color, typography and grids.
•  Tweaks code and makes functional fixes.
•  Works well under deadline, pays strict attention to detail, and performs quality assurance testing on multiple browsers and platforms before publishing.
•  Is experienced with streaming media such as RealPlayer, Quick Time, Flash, and Shockwave.

Many companies tend to see their web team in three parts; Design, Engineering, and Marketing. I would like to suggest a fourth - Production. A good Production Lead can be the glue that holds a team together, while showing much-appreciated respect to the production team as the heavy lifters they are. The fact that "design engineers" are neither exclusively designers nor engineers is not a bad thing - it's a very good thing.

Many front end programmers that feel unappreciated will seek other types of work, such as project management or back end programming, leaving only those with beginner's skills to fill crucial development roles. In addition, these experienced developers, having had to know so much and communicate with so many, often become business owners - and new competition for their former employers.

In my opinion, Production Specialists are the true unsung heroes of the Internet. They have the intelligence, training, and people skills to make them the "mortar between the bricks" of your web project. Treat them well; they can literally make or break the success of your site - and by extension, your company.

-- SkyVault™ Web Design provides marketing consulting, web development, and Internet business services to small and medium sized businesses. They have been developing income-producing online properties since 1998. Contact the development team at: Free Report Reveals Secrets of Their Successful Marketing Strategy:


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