Kyle Marvin | A Marketer’s Take on Developers, Programmers & Engineers
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A Marketer's Take on Developers, Programmers & Engineers

A Marketer’s Take on Developers, Programmers & Engineers

Developers, programmers, software engineers, coders… Hackers? Aren’t they all the same freaking thing? Oh, and don’t forget the endless sea of prefixes. UX Developer… C# Programmer…  It can be intimidating to navigate the terminology to a marketing oriented guy like me, especially when titles are so subjective. But when brought into focus there are some simple ways a marketer can get a handle on these terms.

Disclaimer: I know a lot of these things are subjective… And for the most part, this is my own opinion.

To marketers, the world of code can seem like Greek.

my code works?

As a digital marketer, chances are you’ll have quite a bit of interaction with these Greek aliens and you should have a basic understanding of the differences for a few reasons:

  1. So you don’t look like a dunce
  2. So you don’t hire a dunce


What’s the diff between a programmer and a developer?

I’m certainly not the subject matter expert and will try to tighten up my focus with this post, but will give a brief understanding of the differences as I see them. Alan Skorkin did a good piece on this you should check out for more detail.


They can write code in their discipline(s), and do it well, but generally are focused on a task handed down. Not quite as ‘wood cutter’ as a ‘coder’ but not really taking any liberties.

Building a House Metaphor: A construction worker going off blueprints.


They can write code just as well, but interact more with people on the outside (ie. like me), to get the vision of what the project needs to do and figure out a roadmap to make that happen. They need some people skills and have to take some creative liberties.

Building a House Metaphor: An architect who doubles as a construction worker.

Front End Developer vs. Back End Developer vs. Full Stack Developer

Seeing that because we’re dealing with mostly developers only, since I need an “architect” along with the construction worker, let’s whittle it down to that, and talk about the 3 main categories.

Front End Developers

Anything that is served up on the client side of a website, meaning, the processing power is done by the actual user’s computer, is typically considered ‘front-end development’. This includes developers with disciplines such as:

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • Javascript/jQuery/Ajax

They don’t get too involved in the framework of the site, or in databases or anything server-side.

Back End Developers

They are deeply disciplined in building and working on the back-end of the site, or anything server-side. They don’t (usually) have much knowledge of the front end stuff above. They generally write code in one (or maybe a couple) of these languages:

  • PHP
  • ASP
  • Ruby
  • Python
  • .Net

They might need to touch a database from time to time, but if needed, database engineers may be more granularly focused on that side of things (SQL/Lucid).

Full Stack Developers

They have a full understanding of the “stack”, and have a vast understanding of how each layer works together. The stack would include everything from front end to back end to database, and even the purpose of the app from a business level. Laurence Gellert has a great post going deeper into exactly wtf a full stack dev does.

They’re popular in a lot of tech start-ups due to their versatility and agility. But they don’t come cheap.

Misc terms:


They are the ‘woodchoppers’ that can write code at a more entry level in a limited range of disciplines.

House Building Metaphor: A painter


They know their way around code and generally (unless they’re a hipster that doesn’t like the other conventional titles), are up to no good, using code to gain access to unauthorized areas or steal.

House Building Metaphor: A construction worker who broke into a construction site and stole some power tools.

Computer Scientists

They know code but they opted for a more academic field, taking on the science behind computer science, math/algorithms.

House Building Metaphor: Civil engineer. See this.

Software Engineers

They are essentially a developer with a fancy document from the state allowing them to use the term “engineer”. A little more formal education and more expensive than a developer too.

House Building Metaphor: A licensed architectural firm that doubles as a licensed, bonded and insured general contractor.

Do you have better metaphors than me? Please share with me on Twitter or comment here. I’d love to hear how other marketers navigate these waters.

Written by: Kyle Marvin

Kyle is a digital marketing consultant with 12+ years experience in SEO, social media and paid traffic. He currently resides in Colorado Springs, Colorado with his wife and three kids. Kyle consults small and medium sized businesses with their digital marketing needs and is the Digital Marketing Manager of RapidVisa, Inc. Reach out to Kyle on Twitter.

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