Web development is intricate and interesting work, the kind that affects a great many people. Think about it: Your code will power a site that can be accessed from almost anywhere on Earth, connecting users separated by thousands of miles. They’ll use tools you created and view content you provide, some at home, some at work, some on the road, but all of them interested in the project you chose to undertake. Your efforts will be part of a world that is constantly changing, becoming more sophisticated, more challenging, and reaching people in new ways.
“It’s a time of rapid change in Web development,” says Russell Keith-Magee, president of the Django Software Foundation. He sees an industry growing dramatically, expanding its reach onto new platforms and reaching new audiences. The increasing adoption of mobile products is affecting how Web developers approach their work, challenging them to build sites that function as well on a smartphone as they do on a desktop. Mobile products, he says, are underpinned by Web technology: “They’re not rendering a Web page, but they’re using the technology.”
Though Web developers still need to be expert in a variety of languages and tools, Keith-Magee said technology’s advance is lowering many barriers. “Languages are becoming easier to master,” he said. “Django’s written in Python, and Python reads like a language, not a program.” Combine that trend with hardware’s increasing power and programmers can worry less about things like CPU cycles. “You still need professional knowledge, but it’s becoming more accessible,” Keith-Magee said.
That accessibility is driven by more than technology’s advance. The growth of open, dynamic communities around pretty much all aspects of Web development makes it easier for developers to learn new skills. “You see a lot more groups and meetups developing communities around the tools,” said Dana Hutchins, president of Inforest, a Web design and development company in Princeton, N.J. “That’s serving as a means for people to get their feet wet or get work. You’re seeing an avenue for people to be working with the code that wasn’t there before.”
As far as businesses are concerned, that’s a good thing. As they increase their reliance on the Internet, they need more people who can make it work for them. “The Internet’s not extra anymore,” said Will Kelly, recruiting director in Dallas for the IT recruitment firm Modis. Consumers and businesspeople alike have set high expectations for how websites should work, and organizations have to invest to keep their offerings up to date or make them more dynamic. “And that’s just the Web,” Kelly points out. “Then sales wants to build real-time dashboards on mobile. There’s so much being done and the economy’s doing well. Everyone’s trying to do so much at the same time.”
That puts Web developers in a good place. “This is appealing work,” says Jake Spurlock, an engineer on Wired’s technology team. “If you like solving problems, software development can be really rewarding. My job is to solve problems. For people who like digging into details, this is a good place to be.”