Categorising the Web Industry



Where does the the web industry fit in the world. You would think that after 15 plus years that we would have worked that out by now and found our place. But alas this isn’t the case. I still ponder what category should we sit under in a corporate or business structure, let alone what role we should all be.

Something that really frustrates me, is when you go to fill in a survey and they list off the industry types. I’m always very confused where do I put myself, my business. Which one of the categories do I choose.

You know the ones. You end up looking at the choices like, Information Technology, Communications, Marketing, Business Services or something completely different. Still you look and think. Often I have just given up and skipped the survey entirely due to this question alone.

Anyone that has discussed the web industry with me knows I’m passionate about it. They also know that I’m extremely vocal on discussing where it sits in the business world.

We are Not Information Technology

It’s an issue, some of us have come out of the design industry, some from and IT background. I know in the early days the web was often controlled by a single enthusiastic individual who came from one of these areas, if they were lucky they came from both or maybe none.

I know that there is a very strong argument to say that it’s all IT based due to the programming skills required for the developmental side of the work. I disagree – strongly .

It’s not a cut and dry issue, but I’m of the belief that we have moved on from the text editor, programming centric days of web site development.

Yes granted that web development is still a large segment of the process. Still we have progressed away from the IT Department.  Just because we use computers to construct and document the planning for a web site, doesn’t mean it has anything to do with IT.

For example, I would end up categorising a industrial designer or an architect into IT. if that was the case as they both use computers and even do  a little scripting too

Besides in some organisations there are more programmers in the engineering section than the IT section. Maybe it should be in Engineering then?

If Not IT, then Where?

Let’s have a look at the processes used to develop a web site and the type of branches in a typical organisation that could supply skills to complete the process:

  • User Research: Marketing and Public Relations
  • Business Analysis: Engineering or IT
  • Information Architecture: Information or Records Management
  • Site Interface Design: Interface Design from Engineering
  • Graphical Design: Design team from Marketing or Public Relations
  • Branding Experience: Marketing
  • Usability Testing: Marketing and Public Relations
  • Development: Engineering or IT
  • User Acceptance Testing : Engineering or IT
  • Copy writing: Marketing and Public Relations

With all that IT and Marketing input this reminded me of the old Designers verses Developers debate.

Now I know that this does run into the age old adage – “It depends”. Yes, true it does depend on the project. The smaller projects will use more of the Marketing branch resources and the larger ones will use more developmental (Engineering or IT) focused resources.

Still if you look at all the processes and techniques that we use and where we have borrowed them from, you can see than the web industry is maturing, moving away from  IT and seeking  input outside it’s usual sphere of influences.

Here is a list of the areas that have influence web site production from tools, techniques to processes and procedures:

  • Records Management
  • Library Science
  • Animation
  • Industrial design
  • Cinematography
  • Engineering
  • Information Technology
  • Graphic Design
  • Public Relations
  • Brand Marketing
  • Marketing Research
  • Environmental Planning
  • Interior Design
  • Software Engineering
  • Psychology
  • Film Direction
  • Cartooning
  • Architecture

Sure, the list is a little biased toward influences of User Experience design techniques. Hey it’s what I do.   Still if we consider these fields that have a shared skill, maybe the Web Industry just needs to go in a new category called the Interactive Industry, and walk proud as a new communications industry.

What do you think, time to walk away from the old IT industry label.

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