Who are the unsung heroes of web design?

unsung heroes of web design: lego figure
(Image credit: Esteban Lopez on Unsplash)

The glory of a lot of web projects may go to web designers and developers, but that certainly doesn't mean they're the only ones involved. Getting a project off the ground often involves multiple areas of a business, and a lot of them have nothing to do with code. Plus, there's all the people who have paved the way for great work to be created.

So who are the unsung heroes of the web design business? Apart from our fantastic web design tools, we mean. (Though you also couldn't live without the best web hosting or the best cloud storage services either.) Six experts shine light on some often unappreciated professionals.

01. Account managers

"Coming from a small agency, I really think account managers are the unsung heroes of web design, and not just because it’s part of my role," says Ola Tambor, a digital marketing manager at Fishtank. "It’s usually their job to research, pitch the proposal and do the dreaded follow-ups. Once the project lands, planning and organising the work is no small feat. 

"Co-ordinating the work of three to five different departments (UX design, development, copywriting, digital marketing and animation), all the while contributing to every step of the project. They are also the first to communicate delays or chase payments, so appreciate your accounts department."

02. Elika Etemad

"I nominate Elika Etemad – better known as @fantasai," says Bruce Lawson, commissioning editor at Smashing TV. "Elika is a senior spec-writer in the CSS Working Group, who has worked on so many of the specifications that make web design even possible: CSS2.1, Selectors, Grid, Flexbox and loads more. 

"Her encyclopaedic knowledge of CSS, patient editing and ability to herd cats have contributed enormously to the arsenal of tools we have. She’s helped developers on Twitter and me countless times. And yet few people know her name. Let statues of her be erected outside every design agency."

03. QAs

"QAs (quality assurers) are the unsung heroes of the internet. If it wasn’t for them, the internet would be broken and we wouldn’t know why," says Jason Dobo, a senior mobile software developer in test at Babylon Health

"Despite being involved at all stages of the development life cycle, we tend to overlook the contribution of the QA team because the better we are doing the less we hear from them. Ultimately we can trust them to tell us when something has gone wrong or is not working and, more importantly, how the software has gone wrong. They protect us and the end users from buggy software and can always be relied upon to make software better.

04. Web designers from 1990-2001

"Any and every web designer from 1990–2001," says Kosti Marko, designer at 50,000feet. "They used a new toolset to craft websites with no idea of what the medium could be, just asking the question: 'What else can I make?' The answer back then was forever-looping background animations, view counters, animating cursors and walls of text. So let’s raise a glass to the ones who emerged from the pre-world-wide-web darkness without Google or anyone else to light the way – just the hunger to make things that had never been made before." They certainly didn't have the help of a top website builder, that's for sure.

05. Typographers

"The unsung heroes of the web are typographers. I think typography is bringing a new level of beauty to the web and there are so many innovative uses of type as web technology gets better," says Adam Parry, senior designer at FINE.

He highlights a couple of examples: "A typeface I think is having a positive impact by bringing experimental type to a mainstream environment is Digestive, designed by Jérémy Landes at Studio Triple. 

"Grilli Type is making awesome fonts," he adds, "then going a step further and making fantastic microsites for each typeface (such as GT Zirkon). These sites often showcase how type can be used beyond the expected." 

06. Arnaud Mercier

Arnaud Mercier and his team at Area 17 probably don’t get the appreciation they deserve for creating website designs years ahead of their time," says Dave Bowers, head of strategy at Likely Story. "As far back as 2008, he was one of the first designing gorgeous websites to logical, attractive grid systems. Sadly, he died in 2011 of leukaemia but his visionary work has filtered through the industry indirectly, which can be seen in almost any well-designed website today."


(Image credit: Getty / Future)

Meet some more heroes of web design at Generate CSS on 26 September, a bespoke conference for web designers brought to you by Creative Bloq, net and Web Designer. Save £50 with an Early Bird Ticket when you book before 15 August 2019.

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net staff

net was a leading magazine for web designers and web developers, which was published between 1994 and 2020. It covered all areas of web development, including UX and UI design, frameworks, coding and much more. Much of its content lives on in Creative Bloq. View the net archive on Creative Bloq.