Part I: Inside the Mind of a Web Developer

Have you ever wanted to know what goes on inside the mind of the person who develops your website or app? Ever wondered what could he be thinking about writing lines of code?

“Why is he so weird, I don’t get it.” Trust me, I’ve heard it all.

Which is exactly why I’ve decided to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on inside a developer’s mind in this three-part series with an explanation of why we developers are often considered so “weird”.

First thing’s first: What is a web developer?

Just so that we’re all on the same page, let’s chat about who is a web developer and what it is that we do. Web developers are the people who program (and develop) web pages or programs and are most concerned with how a site functions or behaves.

This job description shouldn’t be confused with web designers — they are the people who focus on the look and feel a website. Think of it as the classic battle between form and function, designers versus developers.

Developers must also be fluent in computer languages like HTML, CSS, ASP, XML, and every other type of code under the sun. It’s within this language or code that websites often have issues or are attacked by the ever-present Internet trolls. *cough* Script. Kiddies. *cough*

We developers are, in a sense, the website doctors. We identify and diagnose issues and use semi-scientific analysis to test, treat, and hopefully cure those issues.

Developers Aren’t Your Average Marketers… err… Humans

In case you haven’t noticed yet, developers tend to think very differently than most other people. There’s a reason for this. I call it “thinking like a computer”.

According to Businessweek, apparently thinking like a computer can help you figure out just about any difficult decision.

The reason for having to think this way is because computers operate based on the instructions we, as humans, give it. A computer cannot do anything else. When we create programs, snippets of code, or scripts, we need to know how the environment will react to the instructions we give it. Environments range from desktop applications, to mobile apps, to browser scripts.

When something goes wrong with the code, we developers need to be able to put ourselves “in the computer’s shoes”. Therefore, whenever developers are addressing an issue, we have to think as a computer might when running the code we made in order to make sure that we’ve fixed the problem.  The term developers use for this is “debugging”.

Outside of programming and debugging code, I also think developers tend to think about life and marketing very differently.

Most of the time we like to stray away from emotion, because it clouds judgment and causes irrational thoughts or choices, even in something like developing a web page. But, I’ve always found that when a programming problem is stressing me out, causing me to become irate, I will figure it out faster, and feel proud of myself afterwards. I think logically about almost everything I do, especially when I am not programming.

Logic is a developer’s natural state. I view myself as a hybrid, not quite socially adept, but not terrible either. I can choose whether to be in thinker mode, or a gregarious mode.

One thing that is a pain about the way I think is that if I am given a task to do, without a specific set of instructions, I will carry out that task in the way I see fit. A way to extrapolate this, and apply it to a normal situation is a scenario as such: My mother needs a knife for dinner, and is sitting down at the table already. She asks me to “grab a knife” for her. So I will do just that. I will literally grab the knife, and then ask what she wants me to do next.

Now, sometimes I do things like this but not on purpose. I go back into “computer mode” and await following instructions.

Socially, I am very awkward, but I try very hard not to be. I have a stammering issue, which is highly embarrassing, and usually it causes me not to talk to people. I think it’s because my brain is already on sentence two, while my mouth is halfway through sentence one. I’ve been brought up to be very social, which has helped immensely when it comes to talking to people, crowds, friends, and family. I do not usually know how to respond correctly to certain situations; the biggest problem is that I can’t think of what to talk about next.

Communicating what happens on the other side of the code and marketing world becomes challenging for me and many developers who might be labeled “weird”. Having the ability to translate what happens in my head and in the code into plain English is a great skill, albeit is not the easiest thing to do at times.

Possessing this skill makes me an invaluable asset to my company and to the marketing world. Almost every developer has this ability, it just depends how well they practice it. It’s one thing to understand the code and write it, but if you never truly understand how your code works, or why it acts the way it does,  you cannot convert it into plain English.

My point here is simple: When it comes to most web developers, knowing how to write something is only half the battle. You have to know that it will work but also wrap your head around the underlying, and essential, understandings of “why”.

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” — Albert Einstein