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Web Development - A Tough Job to Have? 112

Posted by Cliff
from the can-you-make-a-career-out-of-it dept.
frank_tudor asks: "Hey everyone, I have been a web developer for seven years now. I have had some moments of success, but mostly down moments with low pay, less than stable work, and unemployment. I love what I do and I don't mind the trends and technology changes that come with web development, but I am getting older and have been mulling a change in professions. But to what? I an wondering what those of you on Slashdot think about web development as a job, and what professions they think would be both stable and challenging to consider?"
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Web Development - A Tough Job to Have?

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Friday June 09, 2006 @01:46PM (#15504314) Journal
    I've been developing web apps for two years in a Fortune 500 company. I've run the gambit. ASPs, JSPs, Weblogic, Websphere, Plum Tree, Axis, Spring/Struts, etc. Let me point out the my easily identified cons of web development:
    • The technology & framework you're using will be obsolete in two months (see above list).
    • Your scope creep is worse than another project because web technologies (like Web 2.0) are constantly offering new features. The customer sees them and wants them ... now.
    • A lot of times, you can add something graphical in two minutes and the customer might wet themselves when they see it. On the other hand, you can spend two months knocking out major requirements in back-end functionality and the customer will probably ask you why they're paying you since nothing's changed in the interface.
    • You need GUI experience and a sort of artistic knack (or at least a team member with this expertise).
    • You need a solid programming background for functionality (or at least a team member with this expertise).
    • You need to know a lot about security (or at least a team member with this expertise).
    • You need to know a lot about databases (or at least a team member with this expertise).
    • If you rely on team members for the above, you need to keep constant communication with them through every step of the development process--this is why it's often better for you to just learn everything.
    • You have to develop original content for the website. Seriously, where do people get their pictures for websites? I want licensed images of people standing around and using computers in my website ... I had better get my digital camera and waver forms and hit the office cubicles.
    • A lot of the tools are FOSS. My company's FOSS Process has 20-25 control gates. Most of them are lawyers.
    • You sometimes have to deal with lawyers.
    • It's a tiered or layered framework that you work with & therefore to introduce a new functionality, it has to be implemented from front to back. This means that it's fairly difficult to have people in charge of a layer (like presentation-side versus functional server-side versus database) because they all have to play ball in order to get the functionality working.
    • You have to balance server load with what can safely be done on the client side.
    Now, I know a lot of the above elements are present in other programming/IT jobs but I do find web development to be the most difficult form of programming.

    The pros of web development:
    • A lot of jobs are available.
    • The pay is decent.
    It doesn't sound very fun & yet I still continue to do it. If you want a suggestion, only take web development jobs on a large team that already experiences success. Learn how to fit in and then you can work on taking on challenging tasks. As you can see from above, I'm expected to do it all and then some. I've been forced to do things as a one man team and I don't like it. Don't enter into anything unless your duties are well defined and involve well built products, tools & technologies.

    Most importantly, educate yourself about enhancements, advancements & changes and stay well rounded. Best thing I ever did was set up an Apache Tomcat server at my home and start tinkering around. Well, I suppose that's another story though ...
    • You can layer it out a little (one person in charge of database, one in charge of stylesheets/user-interface, everyone else does everything else).

      Communication is key though, we spend more time talking about what we are doing than actually doing it. Also, a very strong change management procedure helps.
      • by Osty (16825) on Friday June 09, 2006 @03:16PM (#15505103)

        You can layer it out a little (one person in charge of database, one in charge of stylesheets/user-interface, everyone else does everything else).

        I've found that vertical ownership works out much better than horizontal ownership. Rather than having one database guy, one UI guy, and everybody else writing glue in between, everybody is a database guy and a UI guy and an everything-in-between guy. Developers own features from the database all the way to the presentation. You get a better, more well-rounded team that understands more of the entire project that way, and you increase both morale and responsibility by letting developers own specific features (if a feature is great, you know who to praise. If it sucks, there's no passing blame to "the database guy" or "the UI guy").

        You'll still need to have domain experts. Not everybody is going to be a SQL guru or awesome UI designer, so you need team members with those skills who can guide design and implementation, do code reviews, troubleshoot issues, etc. Ideally, these "gurus" are also "regular" team members who own their own feature set. The goal is to spread around the knowledge rather than building little castles around specific areas and throwing around blame. That'll still happen, but it's much harder for Feature A to blame Feature C for Feature A's failure than it is for the database guy to claim his work on Features A and C was perfect and it must be the UI guy who made Feature A suck.

        • by telbij (465356) on Friday June 09, 2006 @04:45PM (#15505860)
          I've found that vertical ownership works out much better than horizontal ownership. Rather than having one database guy, one UI guy, and everybody else writing glue in between, everybody is a database guy and a UI guy and an everything-in-between guy.

          The tricky part is building such a team. Everyone wants to hire the people with a perfect skillset, hence the insane job requirements that you sometimes see from corporate recruiters. A good vertical skillset in web development makes not only an extremely attractive candidate, but also someone who can easily freelance or do a web startup.

          However rather than complete verticality, most of the benefit can achieve from proper overlap. IE, the designer needs to understand HTML/CSS pretty well. The markup person needs to understand presentational logic and the basics of the language being used. The programmer needs to know HTML/CSS and have good database fundamentals. The DBA maybe just needs to understand the business processes.

          This allows the team members to work together efficiently. The minute the programmer looks down on the HTML guy for religious reasons, the whole project goes to shit. If everyone is at the top of their game and has some idea of what their team members need to be efficient then a team of 4-5 specialists can achieve great productivity. On the other hand, all it takes is one hack designer using Dreamweaver as a crutch and things can quickly grind to a halt.
          • by Osty (16825) on Friday June 09, 2006 @05:01PM (#15505973)

            The tricky part is building such a team. Everyone wants to hire the people with a perfect skillset, hence the insane job requirements that you sometimes see from corporate recruiters. A good vertical skillset in web development makes not only an extremely attractive candidate, but also someone who can easily freelance or do a web startup.

            If you're hiring freelancers or contract workers, it's definitely difficult to build such a team. If you're looking to the future and slowly staffing up in a proper manner, then you should have no trouble getting smart people who maybe don't know everything but have an amazing capacity and willingness to learn. Of course, you need to make sure you do spread out the knowledge at hiring time as well. If you hire all SQL programmers, who is going to be your HTML guru who will train the others?

            I'd also like to point out that this vertical split works well in many other types of development, not just web dev.

            However rather than complete verticality, most of the benefit can achieve from proper overlap. IE, the designer needs to understand HTML/CSS pretty well. The markup person needs to understand presentational logic and the basics of the language being used. The programmer needs to know HTML/CSS and have good database fundamentals. The DBA maybe just needs to understand the business processes.

            Depending on where you make the differentiation between "Developer" and "not Developer", your goal should be to get all of your developers to be proficient at all levels. I mention making a distinction because DBAs are often considered Operations (while they may keep your system running, they're not intimately involved in designing and building new features), or your designer is just a Photoshop monkey with a good sense of design and not someone you'd really want coding. For the rest, you play to their strengths but put them in situations just enough beyond their skillset that they will grow and succeed. The other thing here is that by splitting vertically, everybody must grow together. You SQL guru will have to help your HTML guru with his database design and code, just as your HTML guru will have to help your SQL guru with his presentation work. You're forcing teamwork and communication, while spreading out knowledge so that no single person is too valuable (ideally because you're protecting against bad attrition such as a star developer leaving for a different job, but I guess you could use that as a way to slowly outsource everything as well).

        • everybody is a database guy and a UI guy and an everything-in-between guy

          As long as you don't have to start the project that way. To really get things moving, have the developers, the designer and the database guy sit down and decide what needs to be done, then have the database guy create the core database, the designer come up with the stylesheet(s) and some mock-up pages, and the developers create (or set up) the framework, then everybody gets together to make everything work together. Once that's done

        • That was supposed to be a joke. You are right, having everyone working on everything does make it much better (again, this requires good communication).
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "A lot of times, you can add something graphical in two minutes and the customer might wet themselves when they see it. On the other hand, you can spend two months knocking out major requirements in back-end functionality and the customer will probably ask you why they're paying you since nothing's changed in the interface."

      Amen to that brother.

      I just had the same experience again the other day. The "CEO" turns to me and says, "So for tha past week you've only worked on the login page?"

      I just wanted to scre
      • by Anonymous Coward
        You have the patience of a hermit, my good chum.

        I would have brought out my tablet PC and drawn a diagram, grade school level, of how things like that are important to a company. And then subsequently fired for being "difficult".

        That's why whenever someone who's not my boss has a problem with my work, I smile my fake ass smile and say "Well you'd have to talk to my manager about that."
      • by suv4x4 (956391) on Friday June 09, 2006 @03:11PM (#15505055)
        "A lot of times, you can add something graphical in two minutes and the customer might wet themselves when they see it. On the other hand, you can spend two months knocking out major requirements in back-end functionality and the customer will probably ask you why they're paying you since nothing's changed in the interface."

        Amen to that brother.

        I just had the same experience again the other day. The "CEO" turns to me and says, "So for tha past week you've only worked on the login page?"


        It *is* correct, but it's misleading to tag is "webdev specific" issue. It's same in just about any work that has design and programming phases.

        Dev: "I've been working past 3 months on the script part of our 3rd person shooter game engine"
        Boss: "Can I see how it's shaping up?"
        Dev:"No, it's nothing we can demo yet, just couple of demos where a ball hits a cube and the cubes rotate and such"
        Boss: "You're fired"

        Dev:"I've been working the past 3 months on adding heuristics to our virus scanner"
        Boss: "Can I see it?"
        Dev:"Yea, here it is, enable this checkbox"
        Boss:"3 months for a checkbox? You're fired"

        Basically this is why a project leader has some experience in the technologies involved so you don't lead pointless and potentially catastrophic conversations like these. The team leader's job is to understand his team members needs and the resourse a task really takes, and dumb it down to the management so the management has a realistic idea of the work involved.

        In other words, there are not plenty of highly technical jobs, where you can just walk to your boss and tell him: "I've been porting shit from tables to CSS past month" and expect him to have a clue.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Your manager may not care that the tables are being converted to CSS.

          He or she does care if you say that you've been improving the structure of the page so that you can be more responsive to customer requests. If what you're doing doesn't contribute to the bottom line, you'd better reconsider why you're doing it. But if it does, you'd better tell your boss how, and he or she will be sure to listen.

          If not, find another job. :-)

      • Obligatory (Score:2, Funny)

        by WedgeTalon (823522)
        Rob say Code Monkey very diligent
        but his output stink
        his code not functional or elegant
        what do Code Monkey think
        Code Monkey think maybe manager oughta write goddamn login page himself
        Code Monkey not say it out loud
        Code Monkey not crazy just proud

        http://www.jonathancoulton.com/2006/04/14/thing-a- week-29-code-monkey/ [jonathancoulton.com]
      • "A lot of times, you can add something graphical in two minutes and the customer might wet themselves when they see it. On the other hand, you can spend two months knocking out major requirements in back-end functionality and the customer will probably ask you why they're paying you since nothing's changed in the interface."

        Amen to that brother.

        I just had the same experience again the other day. The "CEO" turns to me and says, "So for tha past week you've only worked on the login page?"

        I just wanted t

    • If you rely on team members for the above, you need to keep constant communication with them through every step of the development process--this is why it's often better for you to just learn everything.

      Do I sense a problem with communication here? For every work discipline that hits maturity, you see more knowledge than one man can master perfectly alone.

      This is when teams happen. Team work is essential for doing just about anything bigger and more complex (there are always exceptions that show heroic prod
    • "Seriously, where do people get their pictures for websites?"

      I use istockphoto.com [istockphoto.com]. $1-3 for an image suitable for web work.

    • I've been developing web apps for two years in a Fortune 500 company. I've run the gambit. ASPs, JSPs, Weblogic, Websphere, Plum Tree, Axis, Spring/Struts, etc. Let me point out the my easily identified cons of web development...
      One additional downside is you have to work with illiterates who think "run the gambit" is an English idiom. They probably write things like "for all intensive purposes", too.

      But think of the "French benefits"...
      • Hate to taunt a girl on /., but

        If you're going to publicly pick on someone's phrases you should really offer the correct examples, too. Especially since you don't know if English is the poster's first language. You can guarantee that it is not the first language of some of the readers and that some readers are trying to improve their skills.

        "run the gamut" - 'to cover a whole range of variations'
        "run the gauntlet" (probably not what the poster meant) - 'to suffer severe criticism or tribulation' with back
        • If you're going to publicly pick on someone's phrases you should really offer the correct examples, too.
          Bullcrap. If he cares, he can RTFM and look up the correct usage.
          Or wait around for some twit to spoonfeed him, that works too.
           
      • Thank you! I'd give you mod points if I had them right now.
    • I think my office paid like $95 for a CD of stock images and clip-art. You can find them without a lot of effort.
    • I just finished a 9 year web development career. Decent pay, crappy sites, crappy companies, crappy hours, crappy offices, crappy management, crappy job security. Did the law school thing. Awesome pay, a good firm, crappy hours, amazing offices, intelligent management, good job security.

      I could not imagine going back to work as a developer. I make twice as much as a first year associate in a major firm than I was as a senior developer working on some major web sites. While I probably work longer hour
      • Did the law school thing.

        But didn't the part where they sucked out your soul hurt?

        Just kidding. More power to you. I have lots of relatives who are lawyers.

      • I make twice as much as a first year associate in a major firm than I was as a senior developer working on some major web sites.

        This boggles the mind. My brother just walked away from an entry level web designer job in NYC that was close to $150K. And, he's strictly designer. The most complex code he's ever written is an onMouseOver script. I imagine senior developers must make much more. If you're making twice as much again as a junior associate in a law firm, I'm very envious.

        Of course, if you're rea

        • $150K is high for an entry-level web designer, even for New York.

          Salaries for law firms are actually easy to find. Big law firms have fixed pay for associates based on years of experience, and you can get this information on the web. Here are salaries for Sullivan & Cromwell [infirmation.com], one of the more prestigious forms in NY. 1st year associates make $145K with a bonus on the low-end of $30K, and probably no much mor e than $45 or $50K on the high end.

          • 1st year associates make $145K with a bonus on the low-end of $30K, and probably no much mor e than $45 or $50K on the high end.

            Wow. To be honest, I always assumed that top graduates made way more than that coming out of law school.
            • I also would have thought that they would do better than that but if you google around, you will find that the average lawyer wages are not really are that great considering that the summer student pay that the big firms tend to offer would be about 100k a year if the students didnt even have to go back to school to actually get their degree...

              unless those figures are based on something different like...crappy lawyers or assitants or something...

    • by evgenk (981362)
      This is funny, yet at the same time it's so true. I've been a web developer for almost 7 years now, and it was fun for a while but now I absolutely hate it for all the reasons you mentioned and some more:
      • I hate constantly educating clients about how things work
      • I hate arguing over comments like "this really should not take this long to do, it's a simple change, all you have to do is move this HTML table". Go and do it yourself then!
      • I hate clients who constantly try to sneak in free changes here and the
    • Some other easily identified cons:

      • Many of the tools are crap.
      • Many of the tools have little or no documentation.
      • A lot of the stuff you will be asked to work on will have been developed by idiots.
      • The customer (whether internal or external) will often have no idea even what's possible, let alone what's advisable or how long it will take.
      • Requirements change constantly.
    • As a web application developer, I have to say that both the parent's experience (albeit with different tech) and the OP's experience ring true, but I love it.

      As fundamentally a person who likes to create things, I love web development because there is no other domain where I can spend as little time to make something complex actually work and be available to many people. The first is the domain of all software and the second is specific to web development. (Obviously software projects can be huge and comp
  • Work for a hospital (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Friday June 09, 2006 @01:50PM (#15504345)
    Over ten years ago, I started working for a healthcare organization. Initially the pay was low and the jobs were somewhat stressful. Still, it's now become pretty much the dream job. Since we're non-profit, we can actually do things because it's the good and moral thing to do, rather than lining our pockets with money. Since it's healthcare, there's a fair amount of money to be had, purchasing interesting systems and getting to play with cutting edge technology. The atmosphere is great and I get along well with my coworkers.

    Bottom line, it's a stable, well-paid, and interesting place to work.
    • by apt142 (574425)
      I'll happily agree with the parent here that non-profits are the way to go to find satisfying work.

      I work at a much less lucrative non-profit than the poster and the worst I can say about my job is that the pay check is not as large as many of my peers. On the other side, the perks are great. My bosses respect me and they look at decisions in terms of effectiveness and not so much in how much of a profit it will turn. (The difference between the two is subtle but important.) I can freely experiment
    • Since we're non-profit, we can actually do things because it's the good and moral thing to do, rather than lining our pockets with money.

      You're lucky to have good leadership. I once quit a very similar job (non-profit healthcare) because the management decided to buy a cheap application server that lacked a two-phase commit function, when we'd be reading and writing into multiple databases, ordering labs, drugs, etc. The rationale was it was cheaper to settle the lawsuits over drug mix-ups than to do the
  • work for someone (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Loconut1389 (455297) * on Friday June 09, 2006 @01:52PM (#15504358)
    Ever changing end user demands, request for new and/or unproven technology eg "Oh, this thing called Ruby just came out yesterday, I'd like to have a site in that.. Or this new ajax thing"- now these things are old, but when they were just fresh out in the wild, customers wanted it because it was the 'new way'. I hate huge projects where the user changes their mind on something major halfway through and that requires a rewrite of nearly everything you've done, or you find yourself shoehorning things in even when you tried to anticipate features they haven't asked for but will think of or would be nice.. I always found myself giving them way more than they wanted and always ending up with them wanting more. Drives me batty, plus I'm a contractor, so I have to deal with a middle-man who deals with the customer- never play telephone with web-design, it makes it even harder and you get stuck needing input on something and it takes 3 days to get an answer. Ack!

    I don't have a solution for you, I'm now working in an electronic engineering company doing the software side of things and am in way over my head as far as the electronics is concerned, but I'm learning and am paid well- its a great job that's not on contract. Don't do contracts unless you've got lots of customers and other people to help you, otherwise you just get all the headache managing things- there are in fact advantages to working for someone else, as much as I like being on my own.
    • Interesting - you suggest working for someone, i would suggest consulting as a project lead. There are lots of small(er/ish) companies out there that want stuff developed, but don't have the exprtise to deal with a development contractor.

      What these companies want is someone who knows the subject domain, knows the industry, and can be the company's representative when dealing with developers.

      Bad developers give bad adivce to clients who don't know good and bad. Someone who can say "I've done dev for a de

  • Heh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aftk2 (556992) on Friday June 09, 2006 @01:56PM (#15504397) Homepage Journal
    Definitely not stable - I agree with all the other opinions posted. You constantly have to be on your toes, both from a front-end perspective (understanding HTML/XHTML, JavaScript, CSS, etc...) as well as from the programming perspective (different options like ASP.NET w/C# or any other myriad languages, Java/JSP, PHP, Perl, Ruby, etc...) And as if it didn't get worse, the languages themselves seem to change as frequently as the which ones are in vogue (take PHP, for example.) And then, at a higher level than even the web development languages, you have the various frameworks that they utilize (Struts, Ruby on Rails, and others).

    But it can be interesting - if you want interesting more than you want stable, I'd suggest trying to find a startup. Or better yet, work on your own projects in your spare time, and try and spin them off into things that you can do full-time, working for yourself. This is ultimately what I want to do, but it ain't easy. Plus, you need to find an employer who is amenable to this and won't try to claim your off-duty work as their own.
    • Re:Heh (Score:3, Interesting)

      by misleb (129952)

      Definitely not stable - I agree with all the other opinions posted. You constantly have to be on your toes, both from a front-end perspective (understanding HTML/XHTML, JavaScript, CSS, etc...) as well as from the programming perspective (different options like ASP.NET w/C# or any other myriad languages, Java/JSP, PHP, Perl, Ruby, etc...) And as if it didn't get worse, the languages themselves seem to change as frequently as the which ones are in vogue (take PHP, for example.) And then, at a higher level th

      • While I (and many people I know) agree with you, most corporations don't. Why pay for 2 people when it can get done with 1? I would love it if I could get a job just doing the programming side of web development, but all the companies want somebody who has 10+ years experience AJAX, XHTML, CSS, Adobe Photoshop, Macromedia Flash, Javascript, ASP.NET, and ColdFusion each.
        • by misleb (129952)

          Why pay for 2 people when it can get done with 1?

          Because 2 people focused on doing what they are each good at are more effective and efficient than 1 person bouncing back and forth trying to do it all. The only problem would be situations where there simply isn't enough work to keep more than one busy.

          but all the companies want somebody who has 10+ years experience AJAX, XHTML, CSS, Adobe Photoshop, Macromedia Flash, Javascript, ASP.NET, and ColdFusion each.

          Seems like good criteria for deciding who not to w

  • One (I guess it could be considered two) word: Myspace. There are millions of 14-16 year old girls who would give you a weeks worth of allowance to make their page pretty -- best part is, their definition of pretty is usually "cluttered, pink, and gag-inducing". You could make about $5 per site doing that, and assuming it only took you 10 minutes to code their site, you could make approximately $30 an hour working from home...
    Seriously though, I feel for you -- all tech jobs have been knocked down a coup
  • Web Developer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Thyamine (531612) <<thyamine> <at> <ofdragons.com>> on Friday June 09, 2006 @02:02PM (#15504462) Homepage Journal
    I've been doing web development for a few years now for a consulting company. Initially we just started with our own internal web applications for managing projects, time, expenses, all of that. Eventually we started developing web apps for other clients intranets until it got to the point where I couldn't manage it all myself. We hired two other developers and I took on more of a management role, along with continuing to develop and work on existing applications.

    Not everyone wants to be involved with management, but if you enjoy web app work, perhaps you'd enjoy trying managing others and using your experience to help them.
  • Business Aanalyst? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by plopez (54068) on Friday June 09, 2006 @02:13PM (#15504564) Journal
    Since offshoring is becoming all the rage (though there is some backlash) if you are articulate and can write well, use your development experience as leverage to become an analyst. In fact, there are alot of places an analyst could be used. If you need to develop these skills more, take a couple of classes.

    One of the posts mentioned health care as a interesting industry. I will reccomend the energy industry as it is huge, heavily subsidized (the gov't will not allow them to fail), making huge sums of money and some of the problem domains (earth scienes, environmental compliance) are a bit more intersting than your typical ecommerce site.

    Best of luck on the change...
  • by MikeRT (947531)
    If you have been struggling to make money at it, despite having experience, you will be vulnerable if the economy starts to really struggle. Do it on the side, and find a job that is more or less to your liking, but that is more stable and lucrative. The last thing you want is to make it to 40 and have only a few times more money saved up for retirement than a typical mid 20s code monkey. Given the ageism present in IT, you will be foolish to not make your money while you're young. This coming from a guy wh
  • by Qbertino (265505) on Friday June 09, 2006 @02:18PM (#15504612)
    I am a professional freelance webdeveloper at the end of cash resevers with no new deals in sight. It isn't nice, especially with a family and bills to pay. However I know what you're talking of but don't think the technology diversity is a downside. Most people do various technologies for the fun of it. I've done a bazillion different ones in the last 3 years and now I will take the chance and start to focus.

    If you don't like switching the technology every odd month - then don't. It's that simple. There are countless OSS solutions out there, one better than the next. Pick one server side and one client side and stick to that. Zope/XUL, Typo3/Flash Java/Java, OpenLaszlo, Joomla/Ajax, Symfony/XHTML ... whatever you fancy. Stick to it and specialize and do ALL your stuff from here on down with only that technology. See to it that you join the core team of that project and you've no reason to switch solutions ever again.

    I know a webdesigner who does EVERYTHING with ExpressionEngine (a commercial PHP/MySQL Weblog/CMS that's popular amoung designers). It uses some hairbrained Template Level PL for small logic actions. Some more webappy things he does are a total mess and totally destroy the concept of MVC but all the websites he puts out are top notch and easy to operate for his customers. He knows his way around that CMS and customers don't question him.

    After years of exploring all the neat and fun OSS webtechnologies and after 3 years freelancing in the field I'm slowly growing old and will bite the bullet and start to focus. Allready I've done a few jobs with Joomla. Since I'm building a larger PHP webapp just now I'll probably chose a PHP CMS to dive into. And since I'm in germany it probably will be Typo3 - allthough I hate the beast.

    Bottom line: Specialize and focus. That will bring you further than eternally trying to be the jack of all trades.
    • Specializing will ALWAYS mean that you're at the mercy of the next technology and those who are introduced to it as youngsters. When some youngster who works for entry level or just above can compete with you when you've got ten years experience -- and ten years of salary expectations -- you're gonna be out on your ear with an old man's bills and an old man's willingness to change.

      Learn the fundamentals of software and business use of it. Learn what it takes to make and keep an organization successful. L
      • And exactly what technology is outdated? PHP compared to Ruby or what?
        Then why is rubyonrails.org running on PHP I ask?

        Slashdot just got a refreshing update, has an ever growing featureset and that beast runs on Perl and MySQL.

        No, I think you've got it wrong. As long as it's a live OSS soltion it will never fall back far behind the current techtrend.
    • About 6 or so years ago, I was all for learning new technologies. I went with PHP back then and was about to hop into ASP but then decided that Microsoft's run was about to be up and people would start worrying about the security aspect of their products.

      Needless to say, I was right and wrong. Security became a big issue, but ASP seems to be much popular with larger companies than ASP.

      While I still focus on PHP, I'm starting to learn .Net, but will start with the newest version coming out. Just be very care
  • by mrjb (547783)
    > I an wondering what those of you on Slashdot think about web development as a job, > and what professions they think would be both stable and challenging to consider?" Rock star. (gotta have dreams right?)
    • meh after the costs of recording, rehearsal studios, beer and transport unless your in a cover band its nigh on impossible to make any meaningful amount of money being a rockstar. Its fun and an excuse to drink lots of beer though
  • I've been developing for over a dozen years, from PC database in the Clipper days, to Unix C/C++, now to J2EE and web. Rather than focus on technology I focused on understanding what it takes to be successful in software. The most skilled, sophisticated coder isn't going to be successful if they're solving the wrong problem, or part of hte problem, or someone else's problem. Or if their solution isn't appropriate. The organization isn't going to remain successful after launch if the design or the techno
  • Back in the day... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by penguinstorm (575341) on Friday June 09, 2006 @02:39PM (#15504779) Homepage
    Back in the day when I had an employer who respected what I did, came into the web world with an open mind and interested in success, and didn't second guess everything I did it was great.

    There are two phrases any client should never use:
    1) "Make it look exactly like this."
    2) "My friend has an 8 year old kid he says built him a web site."

    A bad client can be a real problem. It takes a lot of work to find a good one.
    • Man, screw those people. That is our new policy at our company. If someone tells us we cost to much and someone else can do it better, cheaper we let them go. I don't need people that are going to nickle and dime. If they really think that web dev is easy and shouldn't cost money they can do it on their own.
  • I started out doing 3d graphics and slowly I ended up in web dev and I love doing it. But I am the kind of person that like to learn new languages and frameworks on the weekend. I just happen to really like doing it, it pays well and there are plenty of jobs. Not only that, but the competion isn't ultra-fierce like it is in 3d, which I like. 3d graphics is a glamorous but underpaid overworked hell that will never get you anywhere. Web dev is a huge industry that continues to grow. It pays well and has room
  • by Anthony Boyd (242971) on Friday June 09, 2006 @02:45PM (#15504818) Homepage
    I have been a web developer for seven years now. I have had some moments of success, but mostly down moments with low pay, less than stable work, and unemployment.

    Does that sound odd to anyone else, or am I just disconnected from some greater reality?

    Frank, I've been doing Web stuff since 1994. I started with very little know-how -- I went to college to study English, not programming. Over the years I spent time as an artistic Web Designer & Photoshop monkey, then usability expert, then a JavaScript & Perl CGI developer, then PHP, MySQL, and eventually I just decided to say yes to everything. I'll try anything. And what is important to note is that my salary has steadily gone upward -- huge leaps upward during the boom, and then it was flat for a while, and then I started working for myself, and gave myself a pay raise. ;)

    I have more work than I can accept. In fact, I've probably disappointed a few business people lately because not only was I too overloaded to take their work, but my subcontractor was too. How does this sync up with "low pay and unemployment" problems?

    I have to wonder. What is your skill set? In seven years, you could and should have learned quite a lot. You should be much more competent, and thus much more in demand, than any young bloods coming onto the scene. Your skills should be apparent to those working with you -- "oh, he's the guy who does _____." For me, it's "he's the guy who fixes the Web site when our employees break it." There should be certain things you have zero doubts about as far as your skills are concerned. For me, it's PHP and MySQL, with all the ancillary buzzwords as a given (XHTML, CSS, Ajax). Can you easily and readily point to your strengths, and can your peers?

    Lastly, what are you doing to market yourself? You don't provide links to your sites or portfolio in your story submission. With your mention of low pay & unemployment, I wonder about your networking too. Have you mass-mailed every friend & relative in your address book, asking for work? Have you kept relationships with the people who have hired you in the past?

    I ask because it seems odd that after 7 years, this is the story you have to tell. And that makes me worry about the next thing you jump into. How many of the issues you have right now are due to the job itself, and how many are due to your own networking/skillset/learning/marketing deficiencies? If you find that a lot of it is of your own making, then changing jobs is NOT going to help. It will just be a year of euphoria followed by several more years of being brought back down to harsh reality. Think hard before you jump to the next thing. I'm worried it may be more of the same, unless you do some hard self-analysis first.

    • I have to agree with you. In the bay area there are 20 new jobs in web dev every day on dice.com. And they pay six figures (in Bay Area dollars that is a lot less of course). My company in Denver is doing a healthy business, and demand is quite low by national standards here. If you can put years of experience with the right buzzwords on your resume you should be good to go. My only other theory is that the poster lives in the wrong place and there really is no work. With a family relocation can be dauntin
    • I concur (Score:3, Insightful)

      by madaxe42 (690151)
      I agree totally - my partner and I work together developing high end eCommerce solutions - we've written a bespoke system, and we pull in high six figures (in pounds stirling) between the two of us month after month - web (particularly eCommerce) development is booming.

      Yes, it's a tough job - you have to be prepared to work seven days a week, be on call at 4am, and work 18 hour days (minimum), and put up with shit from clients who don't have a clue. We have a good team insofar as he is a photoshop a
      • High six figures in pounds stirling works out to a little over a million US dollars. It's high, but not incredibly out of line for a highly skilled business owners willing to take risks and work their asses off.
      • "we pull in high six figures (in pounds stirling) between the two of us month after month"

        "you have to be prepared to work seven days a week, be on call at 4am, and work 18 hour days (minimum), and put up with shit from clients who don't have a clue."

        Well, if you live life like an obstetrician, you should expect to get paid like one.
    • I have to wonder. What is your skill set?

      I was wondering along those lines too.

      I've seen "web developer" used to describe people with all sorts of skillsets, from those who know a bit of HTML, CSS and some Javascript and maybe a little Flash, through people with ASP/PHP/JSP skills right through to more "traditional" programmers who just happen to be working on client-server apps with web front-ends.

      How on earth are we supposed to advise on potential career moves when we basically have no idea what the guy's
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I'm in a similar position as Frank. And while his situation may sound weird to you, trust me, it's not... More often than not, self-employment is a matter of luck and connections to important people.

      I'm well-versed in a lot of development areas. While I can't say I'm an expert in any field, I know my stuff well and consider myself to be a lot above the average level of web developers and "web developers". For example, I know how to develop in both PHP and .NET (C# / VB.NET), I know how to make pretty UML di
    • It depends greatly on where you live, and who your customers are. I've been a web developer for about two years (had done a lot of it in the past, though), since moving to a large town/small city. We came here with a long list of things we could do, and quickly settled on web development because every organisation here that had a web site had a dreadful website. You know the drill: something knocked together by some guy who'd just done a course in Dreamweaver and Photoshop, 90% of the text is an image, ev

    • Hey would you like to outsource some of it to SouthAmerica ?

      I'm willing to try to convince you.
    • You are confused. (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It has NOTHING to do with your skillset. 99.999% of clients have no way to judge wether you possess even basic competence, much less a way to tell if you excel at what you do. Its about people, not skills. Bob has no way to tell if you are awesome or you suck, but if he knows Joe, and Joe says you did good work for him, then you're in. Its all about making people happy.

      This is why some incredibly incompetant people can have more work than they can handle, while some people who are amazing at what they d
    • "I started with very little know-how -- I went to college to study English, not programming." Anthony, I am nearing the end of a bachelors/masters program in music theory and I'm pretty sure I don't want to continue to the almost necessary PhD. Computers and and art have always been hobbies of mine and I'm curious as to how you broke into the web field with an unrelated degree.
      • Music? Well, you're a prime candidate for programming. Music & math go hand in hand. So you already have a good start.

        For me it was fairly natural. The Web had just started. I was one of the much lamented AOL crowd that came online when AOL brought in Usenet news feeds. I was publishing a small press journal, and I wanted more exposure. I learned about the Web, and found I could understand HTML enough to create something similar to my journal, online. So I put out a few issues.

        I think in Februar
      • A fellow music theorist turned computer person here - got throught the first year of a PhD program in music theory before deciding to switch careers. The main thing that changed my mind was working a $7/hr part-time job over the summer after that first year. We were scoring standardized music tests, and that job required a music degree. Problem was, many of the other folks already had their PhD, and I realized I didn't want to earn that degree and then think making $7/hr was a good or necessary thing. So I
  • If you're working on an interesting and engaging website/product then web development can be very rewarding. You don't have to worry about people running old versions of your software, you can update as frequently as you please, and distribution on the web can potentially be much larger and faster than traditional applications.

    Having said that, I prefer to work on back-end/behind the scenes stuff. Working in a team with a wide range of skills is great, if you also work with people who excel at front end/css
  • On one side you have creative -- these guys design the page you're going to have to code.
    On the other side you have back end -- these guys are going to connect what you made to the servers.

    There is a constant friction between these two sides. Creative wants gradiants! But you have to explain they take up too much bandwidth. Back end wants you to use ASP.net but your client uses PHP. Back-end want a user flow Information Architecture, Creative gives them three photoshop files and two paragraph word docum
  • Same feeling (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I perfectly understand what you're going through. Unfortunately, I haven't found a solution myself. I've been making Web sites since around 12 years now, and I must say, I rarely got an enjoyable time.

    What makes it the most difficult are the customers, in my opinion. I also worked in call centres for more than four years, and still today, with all that "practice", I still can't deal with customers. Furthermore, the share of customers I got is quite bad. (For example, one customer I got disappeared for month
    • -Always get a deposit -Never sign a contract. Send invoices for each deliverable, and did I mention get a big deposit. I'd rather deal with getting stiffed for payment then to have to suffer through another contract negotiation. BTW: IANAL :) -Dump bad clients fast! If you consistently get the feeling that they are wasting your time they probably are. -Develop a portfolio of your own money making sites (advertising, subscriptions, sales or whatever) even a small amount of money will help during slow
  • You can work for a good company that respects your talent and ability.

    You can work for a bad company that sees you as a hired monkey and nothing more.

    You can get the dream job building useful applications and then when you least expect it, have your job yanked out from under you.

    You can soend your life doing scut work, fixing other people's abyssmal code or having to deal with demanding clients who change their minds three times a day.

    If you enjoy challenges, there's nothing better than web developm

  • No not necessarily. It's only sketchy if you're freelance, pitching for projects, getting shafted by clients, etc. Just get a job as the in-house web officer / web editor / web manager etc at a company/governmental organisation/NGO, etc. Then it's stable, salaried, wont-get-fired-unless-you-really-f###-up, paycheck every month, reliable hours, paid holiday, etc. All gravy!
  • Glad to be out (Score:3, Interesting)

    by liliafan (454080) * on Friday June 09, 2006 @03:09PM (#15505035) Homepage
    I did web development for many years, I tried to get out but you end up doing different jobs if they get the slightest clue that you have experience doing web development they start to pull you back into that.

    For example, I took a job as a system administrator for a large ecommerce company, they had an emergency one day where some perl cgi scripts broke, the developers were flapping around trying to figure it out, I suggested a solution that worked, from that day one I also had web development tasks, when I finished that job my offical title was: IT Manager/Network Manager/Website Manager.

    Second time this happen, unix sys admin for DoD couldn't be further from web development right? Wrong, since being in this job I would estimate about 60% of my time is spent doing tasks related to web development, (I don't mind so much here since the development is very much backend stuff for internal application so less pressure), but it all started because a midlevel manager noticed on my resume when doing some reviews that I had experience in that field.

    I swear next job I am omiting all references to web development from my resume.
  • After 2-3 years as a Web Designer and always dealing with intermitent work, I've decided to say "screw it all" and spend the winter in Whistler as a ski bum working whatever random job I can (as long as it pays for my lift ticket). Course I'm 24 and have no strings attached. Best of luck. If you find something better to do, I'd be interested to hear about it.
  • by Foofoobar (318279) on Friday June 09, 2006 @03:48PM (#15505395)
    I was in this boat a few years ago and saw where the industry was going and prepped myself for the changes.

    I specialized in LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP). This skillset will cover the vast majority of jobs on the market. Knowing Photoshop and Flash helps but isn't necessary. You should have OOP running through your veins and understand what MVC is and use it daily. As a web dev, you are also expected to be a sys admin to a certain extent setting up cron jobs, checking security, etc. Also, knowing how to build an e-commerce site, build your own SSH certs and manage public and private keys helps as well.

    Basically, you are a sys admin with a specialization in the web.

    Focus on this kind of skillset and you will be set.

    Also, don't take any job that requires you to know Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash and Visual Basic; these are red flags that tell me the job won't last a month and that the employer doesn't really want a web dev and isn't sure what they are looking for.

    Which brings me to another good point. People who ask you to know IIS, Apache, Windows, Linux, Visual Basic, PHP, .NET and Java haven't got a clue as to what they want. Don't bother with these guys (unless they happen to be a hosting company and you do happen to be multilingual).
  • I've done multimedia CD-ROM programming, 3D development, web development, and traditional desktop app development. These are all good jobs, but they're also prone to technology drift and don't necessarily pay very well. I've recently been heavily involved in creating and maintaining databases, which has been relatively easy to pick up compared to the raft of technologies involved in web development. In looking at jobs on Monster a while ago, I found that DB admins are in demand, and very well paid. The pay/
  • Years ago my father was hit with a project that he didn't have the budget or time to perform. He had to reduce inventory problems and link 4 wharehouses in 3 Canadian provinces together so the suppliers knew what was going on.

    It would take months and years to hire a few VB programmers to write a sql program. I showed him some internet sites and explained how interactive cgi scrips with sql support were the new thing (this was in 97).

    He then realized in 2 weeks he could have programmers develop a VB based II
  • I do contract-based designs through my primary job, and through my secondary business I run (I tailor to different clients in each). With my secondary business, I decided that I was going to treat my work more like commissioned art, rather than a web design business. Why? I get too many clients with some idea in their head, that doesn't even communicate what they need effectively. They just think it looks cool. I'm not a tool to be used for their butt-ugly work - I'm the one with the experience in tran

  • It's tough these days to be a web development generalist. I can think fo two strategies that might help.

    1. Specialize - find some field, hopefully one you like, and become a specialist in it. Something like XML web services for travel applications, or web application security, or whatever (the more technical, the better, I think). Just find something and become the goto guy/gal in that field.

    2. Startup - stop coding for other people and work on your own startup. This is a hard path to follow and the odd
  • Enjoy Your Work! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mongus (131392)
    I'm of the opinion that if you don't enjoy your work you should find something else to do. Life's too short to stay in a job you hate. Maybe web development isn't for you. Find something you like to do and head in that direction.

    My average job length is about a year because I get bored quickly. For developers changing jobs is often the easiest way to get a pay raise.

    If you do enjoy web development there are plenty of good jobs out there. Be picky! Find one that you will enjoy doing for a while. The environm
  • Well, if you are tired of what you are doing or never really liked it in the first place perhaps it is time to try something else. Otherwise, see where your interests are and market/business trends. It is usually a combination of what the industry is calling for and what is a cool technology to learn. Sometimes they don't go together well. I've done everything from Java, Lotus Script, C, C++, C#, VB, ASP, various .NET web applications and rich client development. At the end of the day I'm more of a gen
  • It's the best kept secret in web application development. The WebObjects frameworks, written in 100% Java, provide myriad front-end presentation objects, and keep your view and controller logic separated nicely. For your model, WebObjects features a back-end called EOF (Enterprise Objects Framework) which provides direct object-based access to the database. It eliminates writing SQL code, even when complex relationships are involved. It's all handled for you.

    Lots of large-scale apps are deployed on it,
    • That's a catch? I'm finding more and more every day that the Mac is my ideal development platform. I can run X11 apps if I want; With the new Intel Macs I can run XP in a *window* (I downloaded but haven't tried Vista B2 yet). XCode isn't bad for compiled code, but the best editor for scripts like PHP, Ruby, Perl, etc. on any platform (TextMate) is Mac-only. I have all the command-line tools I need like ssh, rsync, cvs, etc. And Fugu is a great SFTP client, where hitting Command-J will open a file in y

  • I want to chime in here that everyone saying 'start your own web design business dood!' is not even coming close to hitting the nail on the head about bitchy clients and paycheck-less weeks. I did it for over a year, and it worked for me until I got my first feature creep contract bid out too low and it tanked my business. Not eating for weeks because you are waiting for a client to pay for work already done is a bad situation to be in. I ended up with a lucky break getting into wireless network engineering
  • My roles to date were always in the analyst/programmer camp with a little web design. I've noticed the salaries dwindling over the years and then at contract I got 2 years ago, I had the opportunity to be the code monkey for the Business Analysis team, basically my job was to reorganise and index their massive quantity of requirements specs in word format after that was completed, I was kept on to produce an end-to-end requirements management solution for analysts including modelling, textual descriptions,
  • I know an individual who started a web development business from his home just about a year ago. He has done fairly well (small business market). I asked him how he built his business up so quickly. He said in the small business market the customers are concerned about getting results quickly and on budget. By quickly, he means under 3-4 weeks for full site development. I will admit, sometimes the code produced by the tools can sometimes be clunky, it functions perfectly. I had a chance to look at some of t
  • ...it'll make web development seem like heaven when you're finally forced to return to something like it.
    • ???

      classic VB?

      and if so ... where the heck are you coming from on this one?

      stagnant technology with little power but with a huge knowledge base vs. overly dynamic technologies with lots of power and a varying knowledge base ...
  • I have been doing it for 12 years and am evolving slowely to doing more application hosting. I am also specialising in a certain kind of web content and creating more of my own content. And I will be building more boats soon too.

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