Web Site Developer – Mentor, Arvell Craig
This mentor designed and built the YPNG website. He has thirteen years experience as a developer while working independently as an independent consultant and entrepreneur. He describes for you the rapid technical changes that have taken place over that time and tells you how he has successfully adapted to those changes and grown his business. This mentor has generously offered to take questions from Members and has provided contact information. His article should be read by those of you who are interested in pursuing web site development as a career, particularly if you intend to free lance or become and entrepreneur and start your own company.
Starting from the year 2001 up until now, I have been building websites. While I was still in college, studying electrical engineer and computer science, the internet’s rapid growth and popularity caught my attention and redirected my path. The unlimited possibility of what someone could do with the internet plus the freedom to work from anywhere led me to make it the central focus of my profession.
In the late 90’s when I was in college, there were no professors or courses that taught how to design for the web. However, there were many books like How to Learn HTML in 21 Days or 24 hours that helped me get started. Heading to Barnes & Noble and buying the latest HTML or Flash book became the means that I, along with many other web designers began our self-guided education.
As a web designer/developer for 13 years I have wore many hats. When working independently, I have been called a freelancer, consultant, entrepreneur, and business owner. While employed at various companies, I have been a web designer, developer or web master. If you are interested in pursuing a career in this area, I will share with you what I have learned and what I believe will make you as successful as possible.
The Two Dichotomies of a Web Developer
The programmer or developer had a completely different skillset. They knew nothing about Photoshop, but was an expert at writing code, line by line in their text editor of choice. This person studied computer science, database systems and learned to build enterprise software from the ground up. But instead of using their enormous amount of knowledge on a challenging software application, they could tap into maybe 5-10% of it, a do what was necessary to program a website.
(Note: This is of course my opinion of how I viewed these two types of web professionals.)
To be a designer or developer, to me was completely different at first. However, today, in 2014 or 2015, things have changed quite a bit.
Today’s Web Designer / Developer
To design and build sites for the web now, there are really 2 or 3 different types of people.
First and foremost, the most typical or foundational web personality, is both designer and developer. The ability to design interfaces and code it into html, css or php theme/template is no longer optional. You will need to know all of it.
From this foundation, one can specialize in a few different directions.
(1) You can go in the direction of marketing, split-testing, and copywriting. Here you not only build a page that look nice, but you learn how to experiment with variety of words, images and colors to persuade the user to take certain actions.
This ability is extremely valuable to most companies. Whether you work for an agency or a corporation that promotes a product or service, if you understand how to test and learn to lead people into predetermined actions, your value as designer/developer will be twice as much as the average.
(2) Instead focusing on the human, marketing psychological aspects, you can instead go deeper into the technical side. To improve the effectiveness of a website you can learn to engineer your website to load faster, become more secure or become optimized for search engines.
Just like the marketing psychology side has value, this direction has equal value.
There internet is still growing. It’s still one of the youngest career areas in the world.
I remember when I started, I had many other friends, computer science majors who were also involved with website building. After a few years, everyone went in different paths and ended up doing things that were much more complicated or into totally different areas. Yet, I kept right on along in the same industry.
Friends thought with the advent of easy to use content management and blogging systems like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla, or Wix and Weebly that my job would be in danger. But that is far from the truth. Website designers who specialize and evolve with the changes of technology are more value than ever.
You will need to distinguish yourself from that which the platforms do. You will need to add value and insight that isn’t available with a click of a button. But you don’t need to worry about your job security when you choose your path of expertise.
Personally, I have spend the majority of my career working for myself. I have helped friends and business from the comfort of my home or in a variety of coffee shops and libraries around the world. If you decide to design or program for the website you can go independent or work for one of a thousand companies from your home. This one aspect has always been attractive to me.
People who are successful as web designer and developer are passionate and driven independently from their employer. In spite of formal schooling they continue to learn from blogs and peers and online training. I could always tell a great designer/developer by looking into if they have personal project or hobbies that involve continued learning. This isn’t the kind of career that you become the best by waiting for someone to tell you what to do. Even as a full-time employee, you will need to be curious and love to learn.
In the near future you may have to design for holographic 3-D screens, watches and Google Glass type of devices only. There’s really no telling. The internet is still young.
Your specializing and your environment will determine your worth. Look for jobs in big cities and see if you can remain in your hometown and work remotely if you don’t want to move. Make sure you have blog, social media profiles and regularly share what you’ve done publicly. It is very possible that opportunities will find you if you are not only good at what you do, but good at sharing your work. There are no limits when it comes to working online. As long as you stay committed and connected you will do well.
Create a Great Day!
US Bureau of Labor Statistics
The median annual wage for web developers was $62,500 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,550, and the top 10 percent earned more than $105,200.
Employment of web developers is projected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Demand will be driven by the growing popularity of mobile devices and ecommerce.