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I'm a front-end developer and sometimes I ask myself is what I'm doing programming? People keep asking me what I'm doing and my short answer is "computer programmer". Is writing HTML/CSS markup categorized as programming or not? I do JavaScript coding too. But everyone know we front-end people are not solving brain crunching problems in a daily basis. We just use APIs and frameworks that are easy to use.

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closed as not constructive by Mark Trapp, Walter, psr, Robert Harvey, Yannis Mar 10 '12 at 18:23

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Can you expand on your "doing javascript coding"? –  ZJR Mar 9 '12 at 2:47
@ZJR I'm using Google and Facebook APIs and also jQuery and Backbone. And of course DOM APIs. –  Mohsen Mar 9 '12 at 4:38
Do you think you need software engineering knowledge to develop and maintain all those javascript ui code base, and try out different javascript library frameworks , or even come up with your own javascript framework ? I think the answer is yes. I personally find javascript hard to master. –  dan_l Mar 9 '12 at 6:12
If its jquery, not –  dukeofgaming Mar 9 '12 at 6:14
Judging by the answers, we first need to define 'programmer' in order to decide if you are one. –  ijw Mar 9 '12 at 11:11

6 Answers 6

up vote 23 down vote accepted

You, like most other front end developers, are almost certainly a programmer, if for no other reason than you write JavaScript which is absolutely a real programming language.

I say "almost certainly" because this is a grey area, and some design people do some but not much "programmer like" things. Loops in templates are totally programming, but if they might be sufficiently small a part of the job...

Most programmers are not really solving "brain crunching" problems either: most of them spend their time working out how to get data from point A to point B without catching fire in the middle. Solving hard computer science problems is part of the job, but it is far from the majority of code - at least, for most developers.

It is also absolutely true that developers use APIs and frameworks that are easy to use, given the choice. Take a look at any large programming project and you are likely to find it using some sort of framework - from JBoss or another J2EE system, through a RDBMS, though a messaging tool, through HTTP libraries, through high level languages that abstract the bits and bytes.

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+1 "most of them spend their time working out how to get data from point A to point B without catching fire in the middle" –  Adrian Mar 9 '12 at 17:33

Well, I highly doubt that a job posted for a "Programmer" or a "Software Engineer" is looking merely for the skills you mentioned. Yes, javascript is a programming language, and that may technically mean you are a "Programmer" by denotation, but that is not typically what people have in mind when they use the word.

For instance, when I look for a programmer (in my situation for the jobs my company does), I am at the very least, looking for someone who has mastered C and another language inside the paradigm they will be working (i.e. C++ or C# for OOP or LISP for functional etc...), understands data structures, algorithms, operating systems, and a moderate amount about computers in general. Some sort of mastery of the specific core CS concepts that they will be working with is usually what people have in mind when they use the term "Programmer"--though is does not always look exactly as I have just described.

That doesn't mean that you aren't doing programming when you write scripts for a web page. It also doesn't mean that your work is somehow inferior, just that it probably would fall more under the category of Web Design or something of that nature.

In fact, I always have a guy on hand on my teams that does excellent ui design work-- because I suck at it. I promise you that it would take me twice the time to generate the same web page as it would you. On one occasion they were paid higher than most of the programmers on the team. However, I advertise the position as a "Web Designer"-- though I usually clarify that Dreamweaver and FrontPage doesn't count.

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I hope, when you advertise for Programmers, you don't just assume they have all even touched C, let alone mastered, and instead ask about it. Some highly skilled Programmers have never decided to give C a go. –  AlbeyAmakiir Mar 9 '12 at 6:00
@AlbeyAmakiir That is certainly situational, but in general, I don't hire people who can't write native applications for the platform they will be working with. I am not saying that someone is not a programmer if they don't know C, I am just saying that that is a requirement for any programmers I hire. Anyways, I don't know many programmers who didn't learn at least c or c++ in their undergrad. If all they know is JAVA or C#, I immediately don't hire them. Anyways, that is all a different discussion for a different question. Leave it at, I believe C is a must for all programmers. –  Jonathan Henson Mar 9 '12 at 9:02
regardless of their language of choice. –  Jonathan Henson Mar 9 '12 at 9:03
@Henson "I don't hire people who can't write native applications for the platform they will be working with" which means that you would hire a html/css programmer if you wanted to make a webpage. –  mhoran_psprep Mar 9 '12 at 13:25
@mhoran_psprep Unless they are only writing client side html/css/javascript web pages, then the web browser is not their native platform. In that case, I would still argue that they are web designers. The argument about C can be had in another time and place. –  Jonathan Henson Mar 9 '12 at 14:32

Honestly, I'd say yes, specifically because you said you were doing JavaScript.

Programming involves mathematics, usually calculus, with algorithms, and functions, whether small (a = b + 38) or complex (a = b + c(32) + d^2 & 4); software design concepts, and what not.

If you're doing only HTML and CSS, you're definitely not a computer programmer. I did, and still do, website integration, and it mostly involves matching dimensions from a template provided by a web designer and following specifications (namely W3C's), which may sound fairly easy, but still requires a certain skill to do properly.

However, if you do JavaScript, then it involves the aforementioned skillset, which in my experience not all integrators (that's how we usually call them) possess, so I'd say that you are indeed a programmer.

And I say that even if I am actually a programmer building complex systems who hates doing HTML and CSS. :)

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I'm a front-end developer and sometimes I ask myself is what I'm doing programming?

Well that depends on what you are working on. Front-end development involves a lot of logic when you use J-Query library or JavaScript which can be used in many ways which involve logic.

Client side validation using J-Query with Regex can be a good example.

Is writing HTML/CSS markup categorized as programming or not?

Well it could come more under the Web Designing category as pointed out by Jonathan Henson

I do JavaScript coding too

Since you are using Javascript, you are definitely a programmer.

I had wondered about the same thing for a long time and then there was an Ahha.. moment where I kind of got the idea of programming.

Programming : The more logic you write to actually process an input from the user would be programming. For example, in Asp.Net, if you were to dynamically calculate values to be structured for a reporting system to generate calculations using statistical tools ( say using C# ), then the this logic could be oriented with programming.


The more analytical ability involved in solving a given problem would be oriented more to programming.

On a personal note, when people ask you about your profession you can very well say you are a programmer.

Good luck!

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Do you have to debug your code? Then in a round-about way I'd say you're programming.

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No, my code always works from first try! ;) –  Mohsen Mar 9 '12 at 5:30
Compiling is not working :) –  LachlanB Mar 10 '12 at 12:46

You program the browser to display the data in a certain way. Programmer then.

If you come up with your own design for web pages, then you are a designer too!

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My mom programs her DVR sometimes, so she's a programmer too? :) –  netcoder Mar 9 '12 at 15:06

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