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The Producers

Aside from "architect," I think the most overused word in web development is "producer." Perhaps part of the problem is that the title means such different things in different industries. In film, a "producer" is someone who was able to raise money to make the film, whether or not they have any actual film-making skills or even any involvement in the work (the two names listed as "producers" on every episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" financed the original movie, but had nothing to do with the series). In music, the "producer" is the linchpin of the creative process, sometimes as important or more important than the band. (The Beatles would not have been what they were without George Martin's work.) The title means something entirely different in radio, and something else again on the stage.

In web development, I've seen the title "producer" applied to designers, project managers, developers, and management types, all with wildly varying jobs and responsibilities. What is a "producer" in web development? (Personally, my answer is to toss the title entirely, but if you insist...)

To my mind, you should not have the title "producer" on a web project unless you are the person who shepherds a product from conception to launch. The producer is not responsible for designs, or wireframes, or "brand," but for the product as a whole. The producer holds what Frederick Brooks (who wrote the best book on web development before there was a web, when there was barely even an Internet) called "conceptual integrity."

Another way to think of it is that the producer resolves the form versus function debates, or rather, recognizes the falsity of that dichotomy. Good products combine good form with good function and in the best products the form follows inevitably from the function. When function overwhelms form you get Windows, and when form overwhelms function you get the DeLorean. A good producer knows the difference between eye candy and critical design elements, and will direct the designers or developers accordingly. A good producer balances form and function, with a deep understanding of the customer.

In the end, this is the only job in web development that legitimately "produces" something that doesn't already have a name. Developers produce code, designers produce designs, writers produce copy, but who produces the final product that combines all of that and more? That's the person worth of the title.