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The certainties of being a web developer

Written by Simon Leadbetter

In our previous article, we explored a theme based around the certainties you can count on as a graphic designer. For this article we are shifting our focus to you lot: web developers.

This article has been assigned the following categories: Tips,

Quantum physics main seem a strange place to start, but…

In 1927, the German physicist Werner Heisenberg postulated that the position and the velocity of an object cannot both be measured exactly, at the same time, even in theory. In quantum physics this is known as the uncertainty principle.

Thankfully, as a web developer, you don’t need to worry much about the uncertainty principle, however, you certainly do need think about what you are doing on both a micro and macro level. Attention to the minute detail (e.g. the exact amount of padding required for a button) is as important as knowing how an entire website is stitched together and how it forms part of a multi-channel brand experience.

If you are an experienced developer then the following points will (hopefully) resonate with you or if you are just starting out then they will provide some valuable guidance.

There will always be someone smarter

The world is full of smart people and, in the fast-paced world of web development, smart people are always inventing smarter ways for us all to work. If not large corporations like Google, then an enthusiastic solo developer with their new CSS framework.

It is almost inevitable that you will experience, at some point in your career, an uncomfortable feeling that you lack enough knowledge to call yourself a web developer. Don’t worry, that will be imposter syndrome rearing its head. Imposter syndrome can be defined as feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success to the contrary. We all have experienced it and so will you. Only you can overcome this and do so by accepting that we are all learning. Every day. There will always that person who is one step ahead, but recognise that there will be another person one step behind.

The good news is almost everyone in our industry is willing to share their time and wisdom. Most of us have benefited from standing on the shoulders of giants. And there are not many sectors that willingly offers free advice, products and support with the genuine desire to help others. Altruism on such a scale is a rare commodity and something we should cherish.

Stack Overflow

Talking of free advice, there is no better place for help than the Stack Overflow website. If your question hasn’t already been asked (and answered) then there is always someone willing to help. Just ask. Importantly, don’t be shy and contribute as you can keep the generous cycle of help alive.

You will end up on Stack Overflow and Stack Overflow will end up being your best friend.

Everything you know will be superseded at some point

Back in the day Netscape Navigator lost out to Internet Explorer; 14.4K modems are a thing of the past; static cache generators and Single Page Apps are now all the rage; jQuery is besmirched on regular basis; React and Angular are all things to all (wo)men. Everything comes and goes. It is impossible to sit still. In fact, do so at your peril. The sooner you recognise that you need to be constantly switched on, tracking where the industry is heading, the easier it will be to keep pace.

Use Twitter to follow industry figureheads, designers, speakers and developers, as it is great source of information about the latest and greatest trends and techniques.

A word of warning. Don’t jump onto the latest trend and start using it (whatever it is) on production sites. Things come and go, so you need to be certain that this thing is here to stay for a while. Just because all the cool kids are using it, doesn’t make it right.

You will be shocked at how you coded two years ago

Everyone is on a journey of discovery. As you age, you learn. As a web developer you soon learn that your knowledge has to increase exponentially to keep up with the pace of development in our industry. If the technology itself hasn’t changed, then the methods you have learnt certainly will have.

At some point in your career you will end up working on a website that you coded a few years ago and you will look in horror at the mess with both hands placed on your face and your mouth aghast. When this does happen, take a moment to reflect how much you’ve improved. Then try to ignore your old code and move on.

You need to know more than you think

People do specialise in a specific disciplines, however, you will still find the need to learn new skills that you didn’t consider when you decided to be a front-end web developer. For example: server optimisation, domain management, email routing, React (gulp). Embrace it, but certainly don’t get stressed by the prospect. It is this constant learning that stops the job of being a web developer from getting dull. If you find your job is dull, then ask yourself what you can learn to improve your knowledge. If you can not think of anything then perhaps consider a career change.

It is important to find the right life/work balance, but be prepared to learn on the job and in your free time. Remember, any time you spend on learning is an investment in yourself.

The good news is a study by researchers across Italy, Germany, Belgium and the UK, carried suggests that having such a mentally stimulating job staves off diseases of the mind like Alzheimers. So not only do you work in a job you enjoy, apparently it could be good for your health.

What is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle?