Hi, my name is Zach Mayer. I'm a UI Engineer.
"What's a UI Engineer," you ask? "Don't you mean Web Dev?"
Well, no, not really. I draw a pretty clear distinction between the two roles, but I admit, it's a little nuanced.
When I say I'm a UI Engineer, what I mean is that I create new and novel UI metaphors to satisfy the design requirements of a given system, but I focus solely on the front-end. There are a lot of technologies just for web front-ends so I reserve my attention for those rather than also trying to be a mediocre middle or back-end programmer. Basically, I'm a specialist UI developer, as opposed to a more generalist Web Dev.
"So what's the advantage to such a specialization?"
Glad you asked.
As a student of the web I'm familiar with a wider variety of front-end technologies than the typical web developer. Server-side languages and frameworks, JS toolkits and services, css renderers and pre-processors, templating engines of every variety, workflows of every size and shape, the greatest assortment of network, screen, processor, memory, and hard-disk requirements... the list goes on. Being familiar with the myriad concerns and disciplines that make up "web development", I'm able to leverage my experience with all these different tools, technologies, and systems in order to make decisions about, specifically, how to deliver the "best" user experience where "best" is an often shifting target, being a function of both technical capabilities and user tastes.
But that doesn't wholly answer the question. The true advantage of specializing in UI Engineering means I get to apply nearly universal engineering principles that I've learned through exposure to a broad range of practical applications to a very narrow problem space. It's like focusing a laser beam.
"But doesn't that make you less adaptable, " you ask?
Yes and no.
The advantages of specialization implies the disadvantage of being rather, well, un-specialized in other areas of development, and that's true. I'm nowhere near the DBE that some of my friends and coworkers are, and some of the things I've seen done with server-side apps I could never hope to do on my own in any reasonable amount of time, but that's the best part: I'm not on my own.
I work with teams of talented engineers to express their work to the world. By being focused on the engineering of delivering robust, high fidelity, user interfaces, I ensure that the best of what my team can do is showcased in the best light for the world. Application, database, hardware, and integration engineers work hard, and produce amazing things that have the potential to offer insight into the most intractable problems, and the most inscrutable data.
But without UI Engineers, how would everyone know?