With all the stories of doom and gloom in the media every day, it’d be easy to think we should all be breaking out the razor blades. But actually, if you’re a web developer and at least competent at what you do, things are looking pretty rosy. In fact, 2012 may well be the year we look back on in the future with misty-eyed nostalgic fondness.
So, without further ado, here are my 10 reasons why it rocks to be a web developer right now:
1. You can get direct access to customers
It’s now finally possible to have a direct relationship with consumers. In fact it’s never been easier to gain access to worldwide distribution for your work. Whereas we used to need a suitcase full of cash to spend on advertising, now we’re heading back to being able to sell ‘boxed’ products again for a unit price. From the iStore to the Windows 8 Store to all the other marketplaces, the potential to make money has never been so great.
2.The cloud is on your side
Back in 2003, I vividly remember the server farm I used catastrophically crashing. Goodbye sleep, hello panic. Let alone the ongoing worries about scalability and redundancy and how I was going to find the cash to pay for spare servers. Today, with cloud platforms like Azure, developers can increase the number of servers they want at the drop of a hat. In fact, the only real question is how many datacentres you want to spread applications across in case of disaster.
3. The emergence of a freemium economy
Upfront costs have always been an issue for developers. But now, most cloud providers will offer a no-cost introduction so you can test and build applications without incurring cost. In addition, basic tools for development are either free or open source. Development has always been something that you could do from your bedroom (or garage if you have one) but the scale of application that you can build nowadays for next to nothing (excluding your own time) is simply phenomenal.
4. Cracking open new opportunities within the enterprise
Not so long ago, business applications were all native and hidden away on some piece of legacy equipment (normally in a basement somewhere). But with the move to the cloud, more and more line of business application development is becoming web-based. This in turn is opening up opportunities for developers that were never available before.
5. Browsers play nice
I’d be the first to admit that at the cutting edge of CSS3 and HTML5 there are differences between browsers. However, for the most common HTML and CSS 2.1 scenarios, browsers have never been so similar from a development perspective. More than this they’re getting evermore similar with every version release. And quirky browsers like IE6, IE7 and Firefox 3.5 are becoming less and less commonplace. It means that it’s now easier to develop once and get a predictable result pretty much across the board.
6. Developers save companies money
No one can escape all the news of job losses as the economy goes through its current painful spasm. But in my experience developers are often shielded from recession more than other roles because IT projects are instrumental to driving costs out of a business. Of course businesses still do go under on a regular basis but the developer job market seems healthy if you are adaptable.
7. Mobile is everywhere (and growing like a mad growing thing)
It doesn’t matter whether it’s Android, iPhone or WP7, there are masses of companies who want to build apps (and millions of people who can’t wait to buy them). They can see the benefits, they know they have to act and they’re eager to get on with it. For developers with the skills, opportunity is knocking.
8. HTML is making development less frightening
It used to be the case that if you wanted to build for phones and desktops you’d need to learn something C-based and scary. But these days more and more native applications can be built with HTML – whether using a porting technology like PhoneGap or a native runtime that’s been built to support web technologies like Windows 8 Applications. It’s a brave new world.
9. You can work where you like
I’ve noticed over the last year or so, more of my developer friends than ever are working remotely. Sometimes this is because they live so far away from their companies’ main offices. Sometimes it’s so the business can reduce the need for expensive office space. But with fast broadband and tools to track a developer’s input, remote working has never been more possible. Ultimately it means less travel and a greater opportunity to create a better work/life balance. (Break out the bunny slippers.)
10. Better kit, more resources, lower costs
You no longer have to remortgage your house to get the kit you need. PCs are cheaper and more powerful than ever before allowing you to get more done faster. And when you get stuck, most answers are just a Bing search away. All you need to succeed is some talent, ambition and willingness to learn.
So that’s it. How are you feeling? Upbeat? Ready to take on the world? I hope so. Of course, maybe I’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid at Microsoft – I’d love to know how other developers are finding the market. Drop me a comment with your thoughts.