We all use the Web every day, and we recognize the constant evolution of this medium. Web developers, however, have a unique perspective, one from behind the curtain. From that vantage, the growth seems furious and chaotic, which is often intimidating: We’re never sure which way the wind will blow, and preparation for tomorrow becomes a game. If it’s this tough on us, imagine how challenging it is for the hosting companies that must meet our needs.
One thing that the successful host has learned is that in order to forecast the future of web development, we must look to the near past. Let’s use PSD conversion as an example. For years now, converting Photoshop designs to CSS and XHTML has been a staple of this industry. Recently, however, demand is way down. That’s because most modern websites rely on open source frameworks, and so for many of us, the future is in customizing those frameworks.
Web developers must pay particular attention to the growing popularity of various web platforms, such as WordPress, Mambo and so forth. For the client, these platforms have a wide range of benefits, and in many cases, it is far more cost-effective for them to choose the platform best suited to the task, and then hire us to tweak and amend to as necessary. The savvy web developer will embrace and profit from this change in the marketplace.
Another clue is the rapidly increasing importance of standards. Many of us remember a time when we had to sell clients on standardization. These days, clients come to us with specific standardization demands, and every new device and software platform on the market adheres to Web standards. What this means for us is that we have to start standardizing everything now, even if we have to do it free, because it’s going to pay off big in the long term.
The growing acceptance of Internet Explorer is another crucial trend that we must recognize. For years, this browser was our whipping boy, and many longtime developers still treat it as a second-class citizen. A funny thing happened while we were all being snarky: IE grew up. It embraced standards, and became stable and secure. Surfers are using it in record numbers, and IE9 will fully support CSS3, HTML5 and a host of leading-edge web technologies.
Tomorrow’s web developer will need to know more languages and technologies than ever before. Think about that. It will become harder. We used to think that the cream would rise to the top and the Web would consolidate. It hasn’t quite worked out that way. In fact, it seems each new platform begets multiple variations. Tomorrow’s web developer will likely need mastery of several languages just to complete a single page let alone an entire site.
Until search engines become more sophisticated, the web developer of the future will be striving for greater balance between video and the written word. Video is an exciting and powerful tool. When it works well, it really works well. Unfortunately, even the best search engines can’t parse video, and the near past has taught us that websites that don’t achieve a balance between video and text struggle to achieve a high-profile presence on the Internet.
If the past has taught us anything, it is that change is the future of web development. Cloud computing will change the way we think of the Web, and gadgets will continue to improve the way we interact with it. Going forward, the smart developer will be the person who embraces these shifts in the marketplace quickly. Sometimes this will lead to missteps, but we never want to be the developer who embraces Twitter later because he didn’t think it’d last.