The following is a brief overview of the typical set of roles and responsibilities in a website project. These roles have emerged over the years as a successful model for professional web design and development teams.
Each role may correspond to one individual or to a group, or one individual may perform multiple roles, but regardless of how the roles get assigned to individuals, they represent common sets of key skill sets and the way that those skills are applied in achieving the goals of the project.
These roles also typically correspond to the sequential (but overlapping) set of major tasks in a web project, and are therefore presented in that order.
Information Architect (IA)
The information architect is the “master planner” of the website. The IA will gather and document requirements, including key objectives, functional requirements and content requirements. The IA will work closely with the UX designer and the project manager, and in some cases the same person may play more than one (or all) of these roles.
Key relationships: UX designer, QA tester and PM
Key deliverables: Site map and requirements documentation
User Experience (UX) Designer
The UX designer uses the defined functional and content requirements for the site to develop a set of wireframe designs and flowcharts describing how users will interact with the site. Wireframes are “sketches” of page layouts indicating where functional elements and content will be placed on individual site pages, and flowcharts describe multi-step (and therefore, usually multi-page) processes users will follow to complete tasks on the website. The UX designer works closely with the IA in developing an overall strategic plan for building the website, and with the project manager to keep the project on target.
Key relationships: Information architect, UI designer, web developer, QA tester and PM
Key deliverables: Wireframes and flowcharts
User Interface (UI) Designer
The UI designer, also referred to as a web designer or graphic designer, is concerned with the visual presentation of the website. The UI designer may work with other graphic or print designers to coordinate the website’s appearance with related materials, or if appropriate start from scratch to develop a visual identity, including logos, fonts and color palettes. The UI designer then takes these elements, along with the UX designer’s wireframes, and develops a set of web page designs with full visual treatments. The UI designer may then turn these designs into web page templates using HTML and CSS, or may coordinate this task with the web developer.
Key relationships: UX designer, web developer and PM
Key deliverables: Web page designs, web page templates (HTML/CSS)
Key relationships: UX designer, UI designer, web content specialist, QA tester, server administrator and PM
Key deliverables: Web application code
Web Content Specialist
The web content specialist is responsible for organizing, preparing and loading website content, typically using a content management system (CMS). The web content specialist typically has at least a basic understanding of HTML and/or XML, and a strong familiarity with site content and the overall business or organization behind the website. The web content specialist should also have strong copywriting and editing skills. Web content specialists may also work with media files such as audio, video or interactive (Flash), and therefore may need those skills or may work with another media specialist outside of the core web team to develop rich media content.
Larger-scale projects should also have a content strategist who possesses many of the same skills as the content specialist, but who also collaborates with IA and UX in the initial planning phase to establish a tone and style for site content, in order to develop a consistent and engaging message.
Key relationships: IA, web developer, external content creators, QA tester and PM
Key deliverables: Prepared web content, loaded into site pages or CMS, ongoing site maintenance
Quality Assurance (QA) Tester
The QA tester is responsible for ensuring that the website functions as intended. The QA tester will work with the IA and UX designer to determine a set of tests to be performed once the site is complete, to determine whether or not the site does what it is intended to do, and that it is free of bugs or other defects. When development and content preparation are complete, the QA tester will coordinate one or more rounds of testing, collecting feedback to deliver to the web developer for troubleshooting. This process will be repeated as necessary until the site is ready for launch.
Key relationships: IA, UX designer, web developer, server administrator and PM
Key deliverables: Test cases, test process coordination, feedback documentation for web developer
The server administrator (or sysadmin) is responsible for the technical configuration and maintenance of the web server where the site will be hosted. This includes maintaining the server’s operating system (typically Linux or Windows Server), the web server software (typically Apache on Linux or IIS on Windows), and any associated database software (MySQL, SQL Server) and scripting interpreters (PHP, Python, Ruby, ASP.NET) that may be required for operation of the website. The server admin may also be responsible for deploying site updates from the staging environment or source control system to the server.
Key relationships: Web developer, QA tester and PM
Key deliverables: Configured and well-maintained server environment, site deployment
Project Manager (PM)
The project manager coordinates all activities of the various project team members, tracks schedules and progress against milestones, and facilitates communication both between team members and between the team and the client (if applicable). The project manager may be a standalone role or it may be a role taken on by one of the other members of the team. The project manager does not necessarily need to possess any of the specific technical skills of any of the above roles, but the PM should know enough about each role to be able to effectively communicate with all team members and the client.
Key relationships: All team members
Key deliverables: Project proposal, ongoing progress reports, general communication