A career in web development is surely as exciting as it is lucrative. According to Maryville University, web developers earn a median salary of $90,000 per year, and overall job growth is projected to be 17% from 2014 to 2024. That is exciting news.
As such, there has never been a better time to improve your skills as a web developer. The most obvious end results of improving your skills are better pay and improved competitiveness in the job market. And in this guide, we show you exactly how to become a better web developer this year and beyond.
With that preamble, get a mug of coffee ready and let’s start.
How to Become a Better Web Developer
Becoming a better web developer goes beyond improving your coding skills. It involves knowing the perfect tools to use for any given task. On top of that, becoming a better web dev involves knowing when to ask for help and keeping the clients happy among other things.
In this section, we go over each of these areas (among others) in a bid to point you in the right direction as far as launching and improving your web development career goes. The tips in this post will come in handy whether you work within a company setting or freelance.
That being said, let’s get down to business.
Learn and Learn Some More
The quickest way to become irrelevant in the web development field is to get comfortable in the skills you already possess.
It goes without saying that web development is a fast-paced environment. Technologies and techniques change day in day out. What worked a couple of weeks ago might be obsolete today, but you won’t know this if don’t spare time to learn the latest web trends.
Or as Maryville University puts it,
“There’s always something new to learn in the computer software industry. Companies need tech experts who can keep track of the trends in apps, agile systems, interface design and use it to their strategic advantage.”
For example, we didn’t have responsive web design a couple of years ago, but today it’s a standard technique for all web applications. Another good example is the recently developed REST API, which allows you to create web apps in any language and run them on WordPress among other application frameworks.
For this reason, the web developers of today and the future need skills in such technologies, something that wasn’t a requirement for web developers of days gone.
The same applies to other areas including web security best practices, SEO, design architecture and so on. To stay ahead of the curve (and become a better developer while at it), you must create time for self-development.
Don’t get comfy in the skill set you already have; experiment with new ideas, explore web development blogs, listen to podcasts and generally keep learning to improve your skills each day. If need be, invest in formal education, just ensure you sign up to modern-day web development courses.
Plan or Fail
“If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail,” goes a popular saying by Benjamin Franklin. And while the saying is self-explanatory and quite common, you’ll be surprised to learn that a majority of web developers (including seasoned pros) don’t plan their projects.
Often times, you’ll catch a developer saying “planning is boring” or “I don’t know how to plan” or “it’s not my responsibility to plan” among other petty and lazy reasons. Well, planning means all the difference between a mediocre and legendary developer.
Do you want to become a better (read legendary) web developer? Boy oh boy, you must plan each and every part of any project that comes your way – from start to completion.
Why is planning important? A sound plan helps you to manage time and other resources effectively. On top of that, you know where you stand at every stage of the project, meaning you can reduce stress significantly. And most importantly, planning helps you to keep the client happy.
If you’re old-fashioned, you can use a sketchbook. That’s right; all you need to plan your projects is – wait for it – a pen and some paper!
Staying organized is one of the best and easiest ways of becoming a better web developer. Having a plan (and a backup plan B) goes a long way in building a productive and highly rewarding career in web development.
Keep the Client in the Loop
Your top-of-the-range web development chops mean nothing if your communication skills suck big time. And your god-level skills mean jack if the client isn’t happy and end up leaving.
See, things don’t usually go according to plan. There is a billion reasons why your awesome plan can go wrong – and most of these reasons are beyond your control.
At times, natural calamities in your neck of the woods might delay project completion. Other times, you might end up with a bug that takes way too long to fix. Anything can affect your project timelines and even budget negatively. It happens all the time and to everybody, including the pros.
What matters is how you tackle the problem, and most importantly, keeping the client in the know. Will you need more time to complete a project because you need to research some more? Let the client know.
Are you having a hard time fixing unexpected bugs? Let the client know! Need more money for a plugin or framework that would improve the project? Please, just let the client know. In other words, be proactive.
If you want to delight your boss or client, keep them in the loop. Get in the habit of sending them daily updates of your progress and don’t forget to highlight potential concerns, if any.
Updating your client or boss on time makes sure everybody is on track, and there is enough time to find solutions to any problems that arise during the course of the project.
Also, your client or boss will end up trusting you more since it shows you’re a credible and professional person. Don’t just sit and wait for the client to ask for progress updates. Nope, be proactive baby.
Don’t be a YES Man / Woman
Firstly, don’t be desperate or greedy to the extent of accepting each web project that comes your way. Accepting every project is the quickest way to burn out and make peanuts while at it.
Always choose your projects carefully keeping in mind:
- Your skill set – Be honest about what you can do (and not do) with your current skills
- The budget – Too low and you’ll burn
- Time required to complete the project – Set realistic deadlines
- All the tools you’ll need – Each project demands different tools
Only accept a project if it satisfies all your needs according to the above criterion. In other words, don’t just say YES to make your client or boss happy, no matter how demanding they are.
Secondly, when you do accept a project, be vigilant of the demands that arise (or could arise) during the course of the project.
Agreeing to every change to the project will only leave you struggling with scope creep, stress, exhaustion and an insufficient budget to boot. Now, you don’t want that, do you?
Petr Tichy of Ihatetomatoes.net says:
“Don’t be afraid to call out functionality or feature which is out of your skill set. Being honest is the key, but also make sure you don’t say no to everything.”
At the end of the day, only take projects you’re confident you can complete. Then ensure there is enough time and budget for the project, and a contingency plan (more time and money) for any changes that the client might need. Outline this earlier on in the project timeline to ensure everything runs smoothly for everyone.
Being a yes man eventually bites you in the [you know where], so plan accordingly.
Take a Break
Overworking yourself to a point of madness won’t make you a better web developer. If anything, it will make you a sickly one, which isn’t good for productivity.
Becoming a better web developer means being more productive. Staring at your computer for hours on end will do all kinds of nasty things to your eyesight, back and mood among other things.
Step away from the computer and take a walk. Heck, tack your breaks seriously, grab healthy lunch (or snack) and even meet a friend while at it.
And when time permits, sneak in a little exercise into your routine. In other words, take care of yourself because you need a healthy mind and body to produce stellar work.
By the way, laughing at funny cat videos on YouTube, binge-watching Game of Thrones or drinking copious amounts of coffee don’t count. In fact, these kinds of activities will only make you fidgety, lazy and kill your productivity.
On the other hand, non-digital activities that get your blood pumping will make you feel rejuvenated and ready to take on the world. A healthier web developer, my friend, is a better web developer and you can’t argue with facts. Need I say more? Oh yeah, forego the elevator in favor of the stairs. Thank me later.
Working alone has its perks, but collaborating on projects with team members opens a whole world of opportunities to grow. You save time, learn and generally become awesome.
Whether you work in an office or freelance, teaming up with others will expose you to new skills, perspectives and ideas. If that doesn’t make you a better web developer at the end of the day, I don’t know what will.
Besides, you can always work on solo projects, or have the final say on team projects as the leader, which can help you to hone your leadership skills as well.Conclusion
Becoming a better web developer is all about self-development. Strive to improve your coding, business, leadership and communication skills. On top of that, be a team player and maintain a healthy lifestyle outside of work.
Keep learning and improving and you’ll become the web developer everybody wants to work with.
Do you have any questions or suggestions regarding becoming a better web developer? Let us know in the comments.