I am a web developer. I'm doing all kinds of web-sites and web applications.

It's very strange for me that a lot of customers do not know the difference between a web developer and a slicer. They just want to "give you the PSD" and expect you to give them a web site with a DB back-end and so on...

I'm just asking here: am I wrong in my thinking?

Of course, a web developer MUST know html and css but I don't think that he should slice the PSD and do all the work a css guru can do...

I would like to hear your opinions on this.

  • 25
    What's a slicer? (I'm also a web developer, but I've never heard the term.)
    – Heinzi
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 10:29
  • 1
    @Heinzi "Slicing" is to convert a PSD to valid html/css (some guys who are doing this: psdslicer.com) Commented May 11, 2012 at 10:31
  • 22
    You're wrong in expecting your customers to know or care about the difference. They hired you to do a website. They don't care about the details of how that labor is divided. Commented May 11, 2012 at 10:58
  • 5
    I've told people that I don't do graphics or content and they wonder what else is there.
    – JeffO
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 14:02
  • 1
    Why are your customers playing around in Photoshop? Also, can you just hire some kid somewhere to do this. Email to him/her at 9pm, go to bed and wake up with it all sliced in your inbox by 9am.
    – Reactgular
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 15:26

8 Answers 8


In a perfect world, there's a clear separation between people who do the design elements (slicing, css, graphics ... etc) and people who do coding.

We don't live in that world.

It is very common for a programmer to wear more than one hat, especially in low budget projects or small companies. No only doing design stuff, but taking on the responsibilities of a DBA and maybe even a network admin. So having a wide cross section of skills is often very beneficial for a programmer (or anyone else really).

  • 4
    I would hardly call such a world "perfect" - it would be a world full of people who can only do one thing, and they'd probably obsess about it all the time. I would hate to live in such a world.
    – tdammers
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 12:34
  • 5
    @tdammers There's a difference between having a single responsibility and a single skill.
    – StuperUser
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 13:32
  • 3
    @tdammers: Division of Labour a.k.a. Specialization has been shown to have numerous upsides (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Division_of_labour). This doesn't require a perfect world, just complex-enough work or outputs. Commented May 11, 2012 at 15:29
  • @SnOrfus: It's not all black and white. A world where everybody does everything equally would be just as horrible - we'd all be goat farmers, basically.
    – tdammers
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 18:48
  • The point of the answer is that labor will be less specialized in a small project or company. Debating the merits of specialization seems off topic to me. Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 16:45

I hate to say this, but it depends on your situation.

I currently am at a company that has an in house CSS/UI team. So I don't touch much, if anything, on the front-end. I was hired as a back-end developer and that's all they want me to do.

To contrast that, I used to work at a small tech consulting company. Each person had their own "clients" and we rarely worked as a team. Almost all of us were "one man armies". So when a client came to us with a PSD or image of what they wanted the site to look like, we were the ones that had to convert it to valid HTML/CSS. We were responsible for ALL aspects of the project, from start to finish.

If you're going to be doing independent consulting, you definitely must have strong CSS skills. But if you work for a larger company with a devoted CSS team/person, then it is up to them to get the HTML/CSS how the client wants it.


It's very strange for me that a lot of customers do not know the difference between a web developer and a slicer.

Every time I find something a customer asked strange, I ask them about their jobs, and quickly find out that I have absolutely no idea what it is that they are doing (apart from a very high level overview sometimes). It's not strange, it's perfectly normal.

Unless of course your customers are web designers ;)

Of course, a web developer MUST know html and css but I don't think that he should slice the PSD and do all the work a css guru can do...

The line between web development and web design is fuzzy at best, where one ends and the other begins is debatable. There is nothing wrong in having some basic web / graphics design skills, and slicing a PSD is a very basic skill, something that you can pick up in hours.

Whether it's a skill that you must use or not is up to you, your specific situation and your relations with your customers. Still use and know are different things, even if you are never again asked to slice a PSD, why not be able to do it?

  • 1
    "Every time I find something a customer asked strange, I ask them about their jobs, and quickly find out that I have absolutely no idea what it is that they are doing" +1. So true! Sometimes we code monkeys think we have the most interesting jobs in the world. Well, we do, just don't go telling that to everybody LOL Commented May 11, 2012 at 17:10

Should a web developer know to do slicing also?

Strictly speaking: no a web developer should not also know how to do slicing.

However on a personal growth level: I would say yes. Learning to do more is never a hindrance. Becoming a master is not the goal. However knowing how to handle the odd case is going to be good for you in the long run.

  • 2
    "Should not" implies that there is something wrong if the web developer DOES know. Why would knowing how to do it be a bad thing? Commented May 11, 2012 at 12:09
  • because it is outside the scope of a web programmer, in that sense it would be a bad thing. That is not the same thing when its about personal growth.
    – Darknight
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 13:29
  • 1
    I won't downvote because I feel this is an opinion based answer, but I disagree with this. A web application programmer may have no need to understand the design elements, but a web developer absolutely does. I draw a line between the two concepts in that a programmer operates strictly in the back end of the software, where a developer is responsible for understanding the browser, its elements, and how those design elements relate together outwardly. (again, an opinion) Commented May 11, 2012 at 14:04
  • So the developer SHOULD NO understand what the slicer does? That's foolish. If the developer knows how the other does his job, she can communicate better with him, accommodate him better, perhaps even help him. Commented May 11, 2012 at 15:50
  • 2
    I suspect Darknight should have said "should not need to know".
    – phkahler
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 17:41

I draw a line between a web developer and a web programmer. To me a programmer handles the server side programming, all the back end stuff. The web developer is responsible for understanding everything between the back end output and the designer's intention. The developer absolutely MUST know how the graphical design translates into semantic markup. It's absolutely critical from a technical standpoint that the developer knows the browser standards, css markup, etc to be able to pull it off properly, and it's proper that a customer would expect that knowledge from a developer.

While a programmer is a more specialized position within the web arena, I would say it is not critical that the programmer doesn't understand or know how to do these things. That being said, I probably wouldn't hire a web programmer who didn't have a knowledge of design-to-markup translation. I personally feel that a web programmer who has that experience will be more well-rounded with respect to his own position and be more capable of working well with either development or design staff.

  • 1
    A good "web developer" and "web programmer" both know how to separate the presentation layer from the business logic. Either with templates or MVC or whatever. So I disagree with your answer.
    – Reactgular
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 14:59
  • @MathewFoscarini: Which part do you disagree with because reading your comment it sounds like you're repeating my answer. A good version of both knows both sides of it and where the border lies in that separation. Either I'm misreading your comment or you're misreading my answer. Commented May 11, 2012 at 15:07
  • As long as the web developer provides the means for the designer to implement the design, present the data, then it's not required that a good web developer understand CSS, HTML, Flash, etc.. etc.. cause that can be implemented in many different ways by different templates. You state, that this is absolutely critical from a technical standpoint. I disagree, cause a developer can build a technically complex and powerful web app that presents very basic HTML. The designer can do what he/she wishes when designing the theme. That doesn't change the implementation.
    – Reactgular
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 15:13
  • @MathewFoscarini: Ok, I think I see the disconnect. My definition of a developer is the person implementing the HTML/CSS/Flash, etc. A programmer (in my definition) is the one doing the complex/powerful application programming. Most design positions I've run across deal with little to no actual markup and the path of a design goes designer -> developer -> programmer. I think if you look at my definition of "developer" and how it is separated from "programmer" you'll see we're saying the same thing. The programmer doesn't need to know html/css to do the job, but it's helpful when they do. Commented May 11, 2012 at 15:47
  • I'm going to upvote this, because my role is very much that of a "web programmer", working hand in hand with "designers-cum-web-developers". In some setups that's a perfectly sensible division of labour. Naturally, it helps me to know my way around CSS too, but it's not the primary focus of my work... it's much more valuable to have me concentrating on PHP, MySQL and so on and so forth. Commented May 11, 2012 at 16:09

You should absolutely know how to slice up a design and make useful HTML/CSS. If you can't, then I don't think you can call yourself a web developer.

"Web developer" is a very generalist title, and you need to be familiar with many technologies, as well as understanding how to build a page. If you can't take a design and interpret how that should be built, I believe you are missing a key skill to "web development". It is crucial for you to know how all of the pieces fit together.

Now, I'm not saying that if you are a programmer that knows a few of the server-side languages commonly used in web development that you don't have useful skills. I'm just making a distinction between those who actually know how to develop websites, and those who know how to write programs that run on web servers. You can absolutely find web work strictly writing back-end code, especially on larger sites. You won't find job titles such as "web developer" there very often.


if you're a web developer (mostly coding and little css and no photoshop), you would do just as well to stop all coding learning and concentrate on CSS until you are equal at both. If you are strong at backend and don't know css well, you are ineffective at meeting deadlines in creating a website. If you know both well, you will be more respected.

Best advice :dont worry about photoshop, that for a designer, concentrate on CSS, cross browser, and different versions of browsers. And DON'T go for the css version fixes' so far, and I was lucky to learn from a very good one, there is always a way to do it right with no css hacks. so far in all my work have not needed a css hack. I don't think there will be a good 'slicer' program for a couple more years. You will have to slice it up and use the appropriate css. Css is a lot easier than learning C# or something . enjoy and ALWAYS VALIDATE CSS and HTML! When I come across a page with like 45 css errors or something like that it makes me want to hurl!


Developing a website obviously includes developing the HTML and CSS, because basically that is the web page. If developing a website doesn't include that, what does it include?

So if you have a project where there happens to be a design in PSD, and that design has to be transformed into HTML and CSS, and you call that transformation "slicing", then yes slicing is part of developing a website.

Of course website development also includes lots of other stuff, from a dynamic user interface to all the backend stuff, databases, task servers, backup solution, as broad as you like. Projects that are done by teams can split up the work any way they like, there is no standard way.

If you work on your own, then you need to know everything, or not advertise yourself as an all-round web developer (I'm a backend web developer, not an all-round web developer). If you work in a team, it depends on how that team is setup.

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