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Web Development - A Tough Job to Have?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the can-you-make-a-career-out-of-it dept.

112

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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112 comments

As a Web Developer ... (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504314)

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 ...

Re:As a Web Developer ... (2, Insightful)

after fallout (732762) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504376)

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.

Re:As a Web Developer ... (4, Insightful)

Osty (16825) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:As a Web Developer ... (4, Insightful)

telbij (465356) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:As a Web Developer ... (4, Insightful)

Osty (16825) | more than 8 years ago | (#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).

Re:As a Web Developer ... (2, Informative)

Doctor Memory (6336) | more than 8 years ago | (#15505950)

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, then the developers get to play with the database, the database guy gets to write some code, and the designer gets to tweak the layout and gather content and fsck up the developers by designing pages that require jumping through hoops of flame to populate and validate.

At least, that's the way the best projects I've ever worked on went...

Re:As a Web Developer ... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15504509)

"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 scream him down.

Re:As a Web Developer ... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15504771)

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."

Re:As a Web Developer ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15504857)

Thank God I'm at a place where I can draw the grade-school diagram, explain it (with lots of smiling and nodding) and have everyone go "Oh, I see, makes sense. Keep up the good work."

Re:As a Web Developer ... (5, Insightful)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:As a Web Developer ... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15507354)

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. :-)

Re:As a Web Developer ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15508476)

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"
I'd fire this a-hole too. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of mature embeddable scripting engines you could have used. Spending three months reinventing the wheel (probably without signifigant compiler/PL experience to begin with) is inexcusable.

Obligatory (2, Funny)

WedgeTalon (823522) | more than 8 years ago | (#15505570)

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]

Re:As a Web Developer ... (1, Insightful)

SavvyPlayer (774432) | more than 8 years ago | (#15506699)

"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 scream him down.

As someone with merely 10 years of experience in this business, I have no symapthy. If you find yourself in this situation, it is most likely due to one or more of the following:

  • You are not accurately estimating project effort.
  • You are not accurately figuring non-project related accountabilities into your project plan.
  • You are not adequately addressing slippage/feature creep, and/or not communicating these risks to the powers that be.
  • You are not setting proper expectations regarding deliverable milestone targets.
  • You are not following a proven software development lifecycle model.
  • Someone with actual software development experience prepared a reasonable estimate and you are simply incapable of doing the work.
  • You somehow managed to do everything right, but happen to be working with an incompetent client/employer/team. In that case, your project is doomed to failure -- you are wasting your time and need to find another assignment immediately.

When you are to blame, you don't scream down anyone but yourself.

Re:As a Web Developer ... (0)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504521)

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 productivity, but I'm personally not like that guy who slepped 2 hours/day for a week, to produce the famous Nintendo Revolution hoax videos).

What I'd recommend is that the team members (and their leader) have a healthy amount of overlap of their knowledge (for example the client-side developer knows a little PHP/SQL, the PHP/ASP/.NET/SQL guy knows some HTML/JS), but the point of having teams is that you don't HAVE to know EVERYTHING.

Seriously, where do people get their pictures for websites?

For free from sites like sxc.hu, or for $1 from sites like istockphotos.com ...

Re:As a Web Developer ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15504804)

not to be pedantic or anything, but you didn't say what you thought you did:
gambit [m-w.com]
gamut [m-w.com]

Re:As a Web Developer ... (1)

IamLarryboy (176442) | more than 8 years ago | (#15505031)

"Seriously, where do people get their pictures for websites?"

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

Re:As a Web Developer ... (2, Informative)

resin8 (113625) | more than 8 years ago | (#15506140)

I've been using Dreamstime.com [dreamstime.com] quite a bit lately. Their site is not quite as polished as istocksphoto's, but their prices are lower and you'll see many of the same photos.

Re:As a Web Developer ... (1)

MaggieL (10193) | more than 8 years ago | (#15505130)

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 (1)

arete (170676) | more than 8 years ago | (#15509871)

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 background in this criticism coming from many sources. This usage would actually be funny if the poster meant that they were punished by a wide variety of technologies.

"for all intents and purposes"
"fringe benefits"

And no, I didn't spellcheck this.

Re:As a Web Developer ... (1)

davecombs (773461) | more than 8 years ago | (#15510598)

Thank you! I'd give you mod points if I had them right now.

From a CD of stock pictures (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 8 years ago | (#15505135)

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.

Re:As a Web Developer ... (2, Interesting)

calbanese (169547) | more than 8 years ago | (#15505393)

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 hours here (though not much longer, to be honest), I am treated much better, in terms of benefits, perks, respect etc. At least where I am (a top 50 NYC law firm), there are no stupid partners who lucked into their positions. The result is that as long as you are good and can get along with others, you will succeed because it is directly in their interest in having smart people working for them. When dealing with miserable middle managers whose lives suck and who seem to just want to be dicks for the hell of it, it doesn't always work out that way. To top it off, the work I do is far more intersting than the upteenth iteration of some crappy flash interface or search engine.

My advice to everyone in web development: get out.

Re:As a Web Developer ... (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 8 years ago | (#15506524)

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.

Re:As a Web Developer ... (1)

Karma Farmer (595141) | more than 8 years ago | (#15506622)

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 really working longer hours than a web developer, I may not envy you nearly as much. An 18 hour day is bad enough. I can't imagine what it's like to have less than 6 hours a day to eat, sleep, and travel. Plus, I bet they make lawyers bath, which must take even more time.

Re:As a Web Developer ... (1)

bmarklein (24314) | more than 8 years ago | (#15507230)

$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.

Re:As a Web Developer ... (1)

Karma Farmer (595141) | more than 8 years ago | (#15510522)

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.

Re:As a Web Developer ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15507569)

"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."

Your brother lied to you, or the company had way more money than sense.

Re:As a Web Developer ... (2, Interesting)

evgenk (981362) | more than 8 years ago | (#15505798)

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 there in their lists of comments.
  • All projects are different, yet they are all composed of same modules. They may look different, and have slightly different features, but in the end it's all same.
  • I hate sales for promising things that cannot be delivered.
I've been working for the same company for last 6 years, but for last 4 years I've been getting more and more into network/systems administration and I love it. Now I manage a data center of 40 servers and doing this is a lot more fun than coding and dealing with stupid clients.

I still get suckered into doing coding every once in a while but it's mainly maintenance/changes for projects I worked on over the years, and I am the only one who can do it fast, but that will go away eventually.

In relation to the original topic:
It is true that there are a lot of jobs out there for web developers, and since more and more applications are now web-based, I am sure there will be even more work out there. So if you are happy being a web developer, stay in this field.

just my 2 cents ;-)

Re:As a Web Developer ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15506189)

I couldn't agree more with this response. I am so tired of my job and my skill set. I am seriously thinking about becoming a carpenter.

Other easily identified cons (1)

metamatic (202216) | more than 8 years ago | (#15506173)

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.

I love it: If you're good, send me a resume (1)

arete (170676) | more than 8 years ago | (#15509813)

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 complex, but a physical invention of similar complexity would be much MORE work, often by more people, to get accomplished) The only potential challenge to this crown is being a popular blogger or flashmob organizer and actually getting zillions of actual people to do what you ask. And that usually pays worse.

Fundamentally web programmer pay is pretty good, I think. But it's highly variable, so you need to work on the system to make sure you get paid appropriately. I think many tech people think they'll get hired on their merits, when what matters are personal contacts/reputation and, at best, the appearance of merit (portfolio/resume) These are different skillsets, but they are important to getting paid enough.

If you take a regular job and it doesn't pay enough, you need to look for another one. Or you need to get more skills at getting hired so you can.

I am self employed and love that part too - but you have to be good at making clients want to hire you and pay you - the hiring process over and over again - and you have to throw a wide enough net. Being self employed at anything involves building up a clientele, and that's a lot of work. I certainly went through a period of intermittently not enough employment. Realize that your volume and price are intertwined. Essentially there's a minimarket for your skills, so your volume will drop as your price rises. I generally think this means you should start with a fairly low price, get as much work as you can to build reputation, and as you get too much work raise your price and realize that some clients will no longer be able to afford you. Reliable repeat clients are often worth having even if you have to charge them less, because there's no overhead.

If you're good at what you do and still interested in freelancing, feel free to email me with what you know and make sure to put "Slashdot resume" in the subject.

You have to be good, and I still do not guarantee to pay well; there's a wide open market of developers out there. But we'll do the work of finding clients, selling clients and having a client-base, we'll add to your volume at the low end, and you'll still be free to take on other clients at the high end simultaneously and you can build up your own clientbase.

Work for a hospital (3, Interesting)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Work for a hospital (2, Interesting)

apt142 (574425) | more than 8 years ago | (#15505082)

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 in a lot of the technologies since the cost of entry into many of them is free.

I get a lot of satisfaction out of my work knowing that any process that I can fascilitate and reduce the time we spend on it helps somebody in the community. And most of the rest of the employees here think I'm a savior for bringing technology into a world that has skimped on it out of a perceived necessity.

The only legitimate complaint I have is in the area of conpensation and even that isn't terrible.

Re:Work for a hospital (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15507602)

I'll happily agree with the parent here that non-profits are the way to go to find satisfying work.

LOL. I know of a non-profit hospital that is actually negative-profit and the management are completely ignorant and have their heads in the sand over how they are driving morale into the ground. Everyone, from the nurses to the cleaning staff hates working there and is looking for employment elsewhere.

Re:Work for a hospital (1)

Javaman59 (524434) | more than 8 years ago | (#15506150)

Great post! Short, practical advice, from personal experience! thanx.

work for someone (2, Interesting)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

the opposite (1)

conJunk (779958) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504560)

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 decade. I know the tech, I know accessibility, I know IA, I know UI, and I know about business needs." can contract as the small un-savvy company's goto person to developers.

That depends... (-1, Troll)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504364)

As long your design doesn't match the newest Slashdot re-design for what wasn't broken, you should find being a web developer enjoyable.

Re:That depends... (1)

riceboy50 (631755) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504646)

Get over it.

Re:That depends... (0, Troll)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504831)

I wish I could. I'm going blind. The alternative is to give up Slashdot.

Re:That depends... (0, Flamebait)

TheGreek (2403) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504946)

The alternative is to give up Slashdot.

Please do.

Re:That depends... (1)

Topherbyte (747078) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504864)

I hate Asian reductionism.

Heh (2, Insightful)

aftk2 (556992) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504397)

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 (2, Interesting)

misleb (129952) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504688)

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).


I definitly wouldn't recommend that anyone try to be both a frontend and backend expert. I've found tjat good HTML/CSS design and programming are not skill sets with much overlap. Very few people can do both really well. I would suggest that anyone serious about making solid web apps team up with someone (or many people) to complete a well rounded set. You many think "I am a Perl/PHP/Ruby/Java whiz, I can do HTML good enough..." No. You can't. Don't even try. Find a good framework with proper MVC model so you can decouple the front end from the backend and find someone (or a whole team) to complement your skills.

Although Javascript is a bit of an exception to the front-end/backend separation. As a programmer, you'll probably want to take on a lot of Javascript to help the designer.

I can't tell you how much my web development job satisfaction improved once I gave up on trying to be an XHTML/CSS expert. Now I can just ask the designer, "Do you have the layout done yet so i can hook it into the backend?"

-matthew

Re:Heh (1)

chrismcdirty (677039) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504752)

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.

Re:Heh (1)

misleb (129952) | more than 8 years ago | (#15505038)

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 work for.

-matthew

Simple Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15504418)

It sucks, and that is why I am reading Slashdot.
FP?

Easy Work (1)

MrSquirrel (976630) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504420)

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 couple notches since the web bubble burst. If you like web development, I'd say try either getting several small business clients (especially if you know macromedia, small businesses eat-up flash sites: "ohhh, so pretty") or if you want to get out of the field all together, ask some of your larger former clients if they're looking for any tech-work. As far as what you want to do -- no one can tell you what you'll enjoy except yourself. I've seen people go from Helpdesk to Development and hate it, I've also seen them go from Helpdesk to Development and love it (even though they loved Helpdesk too). Beauty (of the job) is in the eye of the beholder.

Web Developer (4, Interesting)

Thyamine (531612) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504462)

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? (2, Insightful)

plopez (54068) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504564)

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...

Change (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504597)

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 who's not quite 23 :)

Having a bad streak of luck myself right now (3, Interesting)

Qbertino (265505) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Wrong way, dude. (1)

pkesel (246048) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504822)

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. Learn how to identify what the real problem is, how to craft a real solution, and how to implement it so that the next generation on the software will be able to maintain it. Better yet, how to tell someone how to implement it that way. Problem solving skills and insight are going to stick with you far longer than the technology of today (or yesterday on some things already).

Re:Wrong way, dude. (1)

Qbertino (265505) | more than 8 years ago | (#15505160)

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.

Web programmer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15504661)

I've been designing web and database apps for a very long time, and i've made a lot of companies much more productive. However, none of it fulfills why I love to program. They are just an endless series of requests, and every time you finish one, 3 more related requests spring up.

I'm going to start a part-time position in sales. You don't have to take your work home, the pay can be up to twice as good, and the skills universally apply to any sales job, interviews, or maybe in starting my own company by mixing sales and programming. I'd still write programs, but they would only be for my pursuit of knowledge and profit.

No more pulling all nighters only to let some executive receive the credit and bonus. Those days are numbered.

Simple. (1)

mrjb (547783) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504709)

> 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?)

Re:Simple. (1)

The_reformant (777653) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504793)

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

Grow with the job a bit (2)

pkesel (246048) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504753)

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 technology isn't somethign that can be maintained by the staff that's going to follow up the initial development, or if non-functional requirements regarding the need for change are ignored. Focusing on understanding that part of the software problem has me moving into a Director of Technology position at age 35. I went into a firm applying for a project lead position and when I was done with the interview the VP told me to go home and figure out what it would take to be their director. It sure wasn't because I know Struts/Hibernate/Spring/"buzzword of the day". The industry as a whole needs more people who can think above the keyboard and know how their organization works and what it needs to survive. If you were on a failing software project recently, was it because you and the end-developers couldn't write code? If you're in a mess of a software house, is it because the team couldn't make Spring or Hibernate or Struts or whatever work? Not very likely. If you want a long term career, solve the real problems of IT and the business that relies on IT.

Back in the day... (3, Insightful)

penguinstorm (575341) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504779)

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.

Re:Back in the day... (2, Insightful)

protohiro1 (590732) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504838)

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 like it (1)

protohiro1 (590732) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504780)

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 for growth. No, you mostly likely will never be a millionare, but its a job that can always challenge you and pay you a real middle class salary.

One catch, however. The jobs aren't everywhere. The majority of the work seems to be concentrated in texas, Silicon Valley, LA and greater NYC.

Frank, there's something wrong. (4, Insightful)

Anthony Boyd (242971) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504818)

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.

Re:Frank, there's something wrong. (1)

protohiro1 (590732) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504888)

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 daunting.

I concur (2, Insightful)

madaxe42 (690151) | more than 8 years ago | (#15505123)

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 and design genius, and has a decent working knowledge of PHP/MySQL, and I do all the guts - the javascript, the AJAX, the PHP, the SQL, the server setup, the scalability...
 
In all - Web development is a tough job to have, but not for the reasons you give... If the work is short, it might be (Sorry about this) because you're not very good.
 
One piece of advice - find a focus, and stick to it - there's no point in being the jack of all trades and master of none - by this I don't mean a technological focus - I mean a business focus.

Re:I concur (1)

Karma Farmer (595141) | more than 8 years ago | (#15506757)

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.

Re:I concur (1)

SeeMyNuts! (955740) | more than 8 years ago | (#15507614)

"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.

Re:I concur (1)

madaxe42 (690151) | more than 8 years ago | (#15508319)

Thanks for the laugh :)

Re:Frank, there's something wrong. (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 8 years ago | (#15505405)

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 skills are?

For example, I've known several self-professed web developers who knew purely interface tech - HTML, CSS, Javascript and not a lot else. On the other hand, I've spent 7 years working for a web agency, and as the mood takes me do consider myself a "web developer" at times. I have some HTML and Javascript, a minute amount of CSS, some ASP, lots of JSP and Java, SQL, PL/SQL, C, C++, C#, a little Perl, a little VBScript, some FORTRAN from my Physics days, Windows and Linux to "power user" type level, some Solaris, a bunch of assorted methodologies, applications and technologies, etc - even a smattering of DirectX. I'm not trying to make myself out as some sort of uber-geek (far from it), just illustrating the breadth that the title "web developer" can cover.

Lastly, what are you doing to market yourself?

To be honest, if he puts as much effort into his career and marketing himself as he did into this submission, it's little wonder he's in his current situation. I'm not trying to be mean, but it's called "work" for a reason.

(And perhaps I'm being unfair, and there are mitigating factors that we don't know about - but that's pretty much my point; we don't know enough to even begin to give advice, simply because we haven't been told enough.)

Re:Frank, there's something wrong. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15505894)

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 diagrams, standards-compliant HTML + JS and all the CSS tricks in the book, I know my security, accessibility and usability, I'm rather good at optimizing SQL queries and index tuning, etc. Hell, I even did what's known today as AJAX, all the way back in 2000. I'm articulate, outspoken, communicative, literate and a great team player.

But I'm out of luck and I don't know anyone.

Why, you ask? Most companies I've done work for have gone bankrupt. They're not present on the web anymore, and I have nothing to show to potential clients. In some cases, I've done intranet web apps; again, that's not something I can show, and I've even signed contracts preventing me from disclosing any information (including screenshots). So in the end, my portfolio is virtually blank. It's a vicious circle; if you don't have anything to show, nobody wants you, and if you have fifty sites (no matter how crap they are), you're the next big thing and you'll get the job. That, or someone will insist on Flash with music and things flying around the screen... I don't do that. Whether to label it as unfortunate or not, I don't know... Oh, twice I haven't even been paid for a couple of projects I was working on for 5 and 7 months full-time, respectively.

Another problem is that I live in a poor country. Demand for good web developers here is still almost non-existant. I'm now working for a government institution just so I can pay the bills and have something to eat, and I'm the lowest-paid person in the entire department, despite being the most competent one (my salary is about 5% above the country average, BTW). I have to do things their way, fight inherited undocumented crap code and do everything on my own. Again, I have signed a contract that will prevent me from disclosing information one day. I can't even keep up with modern web development anymore. The apps I do have to be colour and pixel-perfect compatible in layout with the old ones, because they were designed by some big-shot that could sue them if he finds out, I kid you not. Oh, one other fun thing is that the institution outsources a bit of development to a software powerhouse with connections amongst the politicians, and these guys tend to produce apps that need 48-72 hours to spit out a weekly report because there are no indexes in their databases, but there are nested cursors in all queries. They get paid twenty (20) times more than me for an hour of work - and that's just maintenance. For the creation of the apps, they usually get paid roughly 250 times more than I earn each month.

I seriously hope Frank is not there yet, but I'm *this* close to saying "fuck it all", quitting this career and getting a job as a supermarket clerk. I can't do (web) development anymore, I'm burned-out.

Frank, best of luck... I hope it works out for you better than it does for me.

Re:Frank, there's something wrong. (1)

militiaMan (672558) | more than 8 years ago | (#15508321)

Your not alone.

Re:Frank, there's something wrong. (2, Insightful)

mdavids (143296) | more than 8 years ago | (#15506372)

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, every link is a JavaScript onClick() event (why?!?), no page is without some form of god-awful cheezy animation, including the "click here to enter" splash screen which not only gets in your way at the first page, but at every subsection of the site's navigational heirarchy. Of course all these sites are three years out of date, because they just haven't had the cash to hand to pay the original developer to update it for them, and when they do, they find he's moved into another career (presumably following another 8 week course), and has no time for them.

The problem is that this arrangement is perfectly within their comfort zone. If you tell most small businesspeople that they can have a simple website for hundreds, rather than thousands of dollars, that they can easily update it themseves for free, and that every time they prepare a press release or similar promotional info for the local press, they can copy and paste in into their CMS in seconds and have an up-to-date and informative website rather than an outdated online sales brochure, they will look scared. And they are not hearing this from a dishevelled and manic nerd, but from an attractive and professionally presented young lady (my wife, a relatively normal person who is the public face of our business).

Every sale we make is a result of a lot of marketing ground work, because what we are selling is, while although undeniably superior to what the competition provides (at half the cost), totally foreign to our potential clients. So we end up with periods of frantic activity interspersed with periods of zero income. We've had some successes with some very satisfied customers, and some very frustrating experiences of the kind described above with some people who think that being a dumb obnoxious bully and being a shrewd businessperson is the same thing. After a very tough couple of years, we are finally keeping our heads above water, but I'm getting very sick of instant noodles and would like to be able to afford a night out at the local pub once in a while.

The answer seems to be not to move into a totally different line of work (the positions vacant section of our local paper is not sufficient to cover the floor of an average-sized bird cage), but to find complementary work to smooth out the income troughs. In fact my wife, in addition to doing all the administrative and organisational work for us, is now spending a day or two a week doing the same for other businesses around town.

So the question becomes, what kind of work can be a reliable supplementary source of income for a nearly-but-not-quite full-time web developer?

Re:Frank, there's something wrong. (1)

Nicolay77 (258497) | more than 8 years ago | (#15506864)

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

I'm willing to try to convince you.

Re:Frank, there's something wrong. (1)

Anthony Boyd (242971) | more than 8 years ago | (#15509909)

Yeah, OK. Contact me at webmaster at outshine.com. Send me a resume or CV, and point me to some sample code or demo projects.

-Tony

You are confused. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15506952)

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 do can't find work at all. Its not about the quality of your work, its about the impression your clients got from you. If you made a shitty, exploit riddled pile of crap for them, but were always giving them status updates, working with them to make everything look and feel the way they want, and met your deadlines, then they will love you and recommend you to all their friends. They have no way to know that your work was garbage, just that it looks the way they want.

Re:Frank, there's something wrong. (1)

DBruce10 (978081) | more than 8 years ago | (#15507586)

"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.

Re:Frank, there's something wrong. (2, Insightful)

Anthony Boyd (242971) | more than 8 years ago | (#15508060)

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 February/March/April/May 1995, I got featured in a few magazines, and was AOL's "site of the day." I had started putting up tutorials for all the things I was learning. I heard that Borland (close to where I was living) was looking for Webmasters. I sent them my URL, along with press clippings. They called, I was hired, and then I parlayed that into more & more.

If I could give a person any single bit of advice, it would be to be curious. Not black-hat curious. But "hey, interesting technology, wonder if I can pick it up" curious. I hired a guy a while back, Jeremy Meigs, and he was REALLY green. But the thing was, he stayed late learning, he read books, if he didn't know how to do something he figured it out -- even if it meant a little extra effort on his part. He didn't farm the hard stuff out to others. He didn't beg for favors. He didn't say things couldn't be done. Sometimes he would ask me for some pseudocode or something to get him started. Sometimes I'd see him searching Google really hard, looking for a long time for tutorials or discussion forums or any helpful data he could find. But in the end, he'd have a finished project, and he'd be able to speak eloquently on why he built it the way he did. He took the time to really absorb stuff, he drank up knowledge like a sponge.

Because of that, the fact that he had zero background in programming mattered little to me. To go back to what I said in my original post, I know his skillset. "He's the guy who is good at learning anything technical." So if I ever need someone to pick up a new technology, he's the guy I'd contact.

So that's my help for you, for what it's worth. Be interested in learning. Be willing to accumulate a body of knowledge, so that after a time, you have a great foundation. Don't rely on consultants, procedures, diagrams, and other meta-chatter. Get into the actual creation of something. Become great at Photoshop, or become great at PHP. Whatever you pick, understand it deeply, and then branch out and apply that deep understanding to new skills. If you do, people will see that, and they will find you valuable.

-Tony

I like websites (1)

captainclever (568610) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504861)

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/gui stuff. It all boils down to the environment you're working in. In the right setting, I say that producing web based products is much more rewarding than traditional software that the user needs to install and upgrade. I should point out that I've never really done the latter tho.. so I could be missing out :)

You live in two worlds. (1)

neo (4625) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504867)

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 document.

It's your job to speak both languages and translate.

Ah office politics.

Same feeling (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15504873)

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 months then finally came back, drunk, and shout and me because the work I've done was now "bad" but used to be the best the world just before he left.)

Customers are never happy, never. They may seem to be satisfied, but they always want something more. They never pay on time. They never tell you want they want or give you what you need on time. All that, and the site is often just an intranet site or a public site that closes a year later. That makes it difficult to grow a portfolio!

I'm currently, since last year, the webmaster of a call centre. Here the "customers" are the team managers and operations managers. They're not sure about my real position within the company and the requests they give me range from doing an extensive new database-driven application for customizable interface to pull out call data statistics for the past years to posting "cute" pictures on our intranet. Most projects I do here get cancelled or unused once done, and they often get superceded by other projects when managers feel like it. My position was supposed to be independant, but they've put another guy to supervise me with who I often need to argue to get things done.

Plus, the full-time job I have now is finally the first one I ever got in my domain. Ironically enough, I don't like it. I think it could be much better. The only other kind of work I've done was technical support on the phone.

To be honest, I think I prefered being a webmaster when it was just a hobby. As a job, I must say, I know I'm good personally, but I somewhat could never succeed. Personal satisfaction always lacks. At least, when it's by myself for myself, I know I'm satisfied with my work and I know I can get things done. But the money won't pour in!

I'd love to do something else, but like you, I have no idea what or how. Good luck!

R.

Crap shoot (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504910)

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 development, front end or back end, assuming you're in the right place with the right company. If you're unencumbered, consulting is a good way to make money and not ahve to stick around any place long enough to get sick of it, though make sure you sock money away for a rainy day (you'll have them). If you have family or other obligations, try to stick with a permanent job with the most cutting edge company you can find. Make sure they'll help keep your training up-to-date and expose you to the newest and best technologies.

My 2 coppers.

Now? But its 2.0! (1)

KodeJockey (928302) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504943)

Bailing out now is a really bad idea IMHO. I stuck it out myself and had my lean moments but they payoff is great (if you are getting low wages you are being scammed). It takes a long time to develop the skills that you need to do this job efficiently, you really need to have a global mastery of servers, graphic production, and databases each of which is a discipline in its own right. (You often end up managing the project as well, another handy skill). You have to want to learn new technologies every three months or so, but I think this is what makes the job interesting rather than a drag.

You could be a mortgage broker if you just want to make cash, but if you've been doing this for seven years you're probably too smart to last long in that industry. Its true though, this job ain't for everyone...

A short answer... (1)

soliptic (665417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15504963)

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 (2, Interesting)

liliafan (454080) | more than 8 years ago | (#15505035)

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.

May not help much but... (1)

Piata (927858) | more than 8 years ago | (#15505045)

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.

Re:May not help much but... (1)

militiaMan (672558) | more than 8 years ago | (#15508365)

Sounds like fun. I quit my career as a Software Engineer to become a Militia Man, but the government has been a big pain about giving me gun licensing and such. I currently live in a motel, but I'm still mainly fearless at 31. I don't make much at $10.75/hr sorting boxes and putting them into a truck. It's better than making $1/hr on a freelance website, or working 100+ hour work weeks as a Developer for jerks that turn a 55k/yr job into less than $12/hr given the hours.

What kind of random job can you get there?

Same boat but I evolved (2, Informative)

Foofoobar (318279) | more than 8 years ago | (#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).

Become a DB admin (1)

deuterium (96874) | more than 8 years ago | (#15505482)

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/difficulty ratio is more attractive than many programming positions. As much as I like programming, if I need to find a new job in the future, I'm skewing towards databases.

Change focus to intranet/business apps (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 8 years ago | (#15506566)

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 IIS app and the suppliers and merchandizing staff could just use IE to see whats on hand and move items around.

Anyway its now popular for many businesses to hire former web developers for SAP and other intranet applications to solve business problems. Also if you know java and c# you could write desktop apps too since you obviously have enough experience to do and learn.

Also those closer ot the business process side are less likely to be outsourced to India. Any Indian or mouseclick jockey can create an app with Frontpage in under an hour. However you will be valued for saving your company money and be part of the business team if you shift focus to their needs and write more critical apps.

Dont let yourself be undervalued and learn business too if you feel weak in this area.

Re:Change focus to intranet/business apps (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 8 years ago | (#15506581)

I meant vbscript. Not vb for the intranet site. doh

From the artist's standpoint (1)

SocialEngineer (673690) | more than 8 years ago | (#15506618)

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 translating ideas, motives, and personalities into visual art - they should just back the F### off. I'm tired of doing websites that look like they were designed by pre-schoolers - "What the customer wants, the customer gets" is a piss poor motto for anybody who wants to be a web artist.



Don't even get me started on functionality - If I get one more little mom & pop shop who wants a full blown e-commerce setup for their 5 or 6 orders a week (which are usually from locals), I swear, I'll crack.

specialize or startup (1)

tclark (140640) | more than 8 years ago | (#15506957)

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 odds of success aren't great, but you may be happier.

Enjoy Your Work! (2, Insightful)

mongus (131392) | more than 8 years ago | (#15507007)

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 environment makes all the difference. Meet the people you'll be working with. If you don't get along with them you're all better off if you find something else. You may have to find temporary work while you're looking for a good job but in the end you'll be much happier if you take the time.

My current employer found me on Dice.com. After posting my resume I was getting several calls a day. Many of the calls were only good for laughs but at least they gave me options.

Web Development Careers (1)

callistra.moonshadow (956717) | more than 8 years ago | (#15507127)

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 generalist, but I can be flexible enough to morph into whatever is needed at the moment. There were days in the past that I hated Lotus Script but enjoyed manipulating the Lotus Notes APIs via C++. I did a large amount of Jave development but it was almost always middle-tier or back-end. These days I'm doing more UI work because in spite of my professed dislike of that type of development I picked up a knack for understanding what my users needed and find I don't have the same extreme irritation with it any more. If you can manage to merge what you enjoy doing with what is good for your career you will be in great shape.

sounds like an old dog... (1)

drunknjew (734994) | more than 8 years ago | (#15507132)

who doesnt want to learn any new tricks. If that's the case, then i think that career change is in order.
I came to the web development industry 3 years ago from nearly 10 years as an IT/Network consultant. I was bored out of my mind in that gig, and seeing as how i was only 22 years old (yes, thats right...i was fixing computers IN A SHOP, not out of my basement, when i was 13) something needed to happen fast. College @ Drexel University gave me a great opportunity: Co-Op. Drexel's co-op program lets a student take a 6 month trial run at a career, no strings attached. a good student will make the best of those 6 months and actually try the career, not just settle for coffe-bitch. I had a buddy who worked at a local interactive agency as a developer and had him help me get my foot in the door. i knew HTML, and enough CSS to get by. Within 14 days of hire i was developing css based, xhtml compliant layouts (not hard, i just edge the learning curve as much as i can). As soon as i'd mastered that, i moved onto javascript. once i was an office DOM guru, i took up some .net technologies, and have now moved into PHP/MySQL development. All in just under 3 years. the first 6 months were a jump start for me to realize that i LOVED a career that i never thought i'd enjoy. i thrive on the constant changing technologies. something new to learn every day. If my brain went stagnant for even a few weeks, id be back where i was with IT consulting and need to find something new. Bottom line...if you cant stay bleeding edge to a)keep your clients happy and b) stay ahead of your competition, you're gonna hurt in this industry.

Use WebObjects. (1)

macserv (701681) | more than 8 years ago | (#15507160)

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, including Apple's .Mac web suite, Walt Disney World reservations.

If you're looking to enjoy writing web apps, check it out [apple.com] ; it's free. One catch: you can deploy WebObjects applications on virtually any platform, but the development tools are on Mac OS X.

Re:Use WebObjects. (1)

Jasin Natael (14968) | more than 8 years ago | (#15508910)

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 your editor of choice and automagically apply any changes back to the server in real-time when you hit 'save' -- great for fixing live websites.

The only thing I've needed in the past that I couldn't do on a Mac is writing J2ME apps for a mobile phone. But see above paragraph about running Windows in Parallels. Parallels Desktop is saving me money on my electric bill and wear & tear on my office carpet (not having to scoot between Mac & PC a hundred times a day).

Try network engineering or hardware! (1)

Dryanta (978861) | more than 8 years ago | (#15508264)

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, and landed a sweet job for a start-up wisp/equipment sales company. There is just as much (more!) money in hardware engineering and equipment sales consulting (buy this, it will do this) and takes less overall effort. Hardware changes much less frequently than the software that runs on it. More has changed about web design in the last six months than tcp/ip and unix basics have changed in a decade!

Business Analysis (1)

erinacht (592019) | more than 8 years ago | (#15508394)

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, classic specs and verification and validation of requriements. The solution was built out of a bundle of 3rd party tools (RSM, Casewise, DOORS, Word, Test Director, Gorilla Logic) and my job was to script them all up so that the analysts could have an end-to-end workflow. Interesting contract that lasted 2 years and was a lot of fun. Something happened to me though, I realised that being out of the business programming business and going into the analysis tools business. Had to spend a lot of time thinking about the process of business analysis and then training the analysts to use the new tools made me realise that business analysis was the only place to actually make significant changes to an organisation's IT. My new role is as a Technical Business Analyst working on the interfaces between a billing system and all of the other components within a pretty major corporation. Definately a career shift from programming/web design into business analysis. One that I didn't take lightly, but one that was effectively forced upon me because the salaries available for Business Analysts are about 30% higher than for programming contracts. as an aside, I've started development of my own Requirements Definition tool since I now have free mental space from a programming point of view, might as well put everything I learned to good use.

Focus and Streamlining are the Key (1)

fritz5150 (981523) | more than 8 years ago | (#15509800)

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 the development tools he uses. NetObjects Fusion, Adobe Photoshop, and a slew of predeveloped frameworks like osCommerce. I think that he may have actually found the key to having a good business by focusing on a smaller market, select frameworks, and by heavily using open source projects. He doesn't seem to have any problems attracting clients. He runs his shop from http://www.eriksdesigns.com/ [eriksdesigns.com]
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