The nature of the job of web developer is changing (of course it always has been)

No, I’m not talking about actual site construction, although that clearly is always changing as well.

No, I’m talking about role creep – what the web developer is expected to do. This is caused by several reasons but a couple are very prominent:

  • As sites become more complex, there are more and more items that must be taken care of – and customized.  This provides for a systematic expansion of what has to be done.
  • But, as sites become more and more software-generated, this can take care of a lot of the “common” stuff that web developers used to do.

What this does, essentially, is expand the universe of what the web developer needs to cover for their clients, but reduce the repetitive processes that can provide stable revenue for expansion.

For example, there are now several “software-as-a-service” offerings in the marketplace for building and maintaining a web site, including things like event management, customer management, and web site updates.  But they do not offer email hosting.

If the client is large enough to be running their own email server elsewhere, that doesn’t matter.  But if they aren’t, they’re going to need email hosting elsewhere.   If a site is being moved from a server host arrangement that also provides email hosting TO such a software-as-a-service host, guess who often has to work out the issues of email?

The web developer.  Changing mailservers can be messy business, and if a client hasn’t done it before, they at least need to be directed in how to do it properly, and usually need more guidance than that to avoid email failures.  Email server needs vary, and often it requires some diligence and research to find the best long-term option, particularly since nobody is going to want to go through another mailserver change in the near future again.

Another example is the payment gateway.  The client knows they want to be able to take credit cards for transactions on their site, and for many that’s all they really want to know.  But that requires some sort of payment gateway to get funds to their financial institution, and a tie-in to their merchant credit card account if they take offline transactions as well, and that requires a secure server environment for transactions and usually software for providing a comfortable experience for the buyer.  All these things seem to work seamlessly until…

  • The client decides to change their bank; or
  • the client’s bank decides to change their allowed payment gateway(s).

Then it becomes a job of doing the research and diligence to find the most attractive fit for the shopping experience that has already been created or to improve on it, while working with the bank’s payment gateway.

Who can expect to help – or guide – through this?  The web developer.

The point is, the job of the web developer is becoming more analysis of need and fit for the client all the time.   The spaces AND choices between providers are becoming greater – specialty hosting, specialty software, plug-ins, web-based internet functionality – that require diligence to determine what sews up best together for the client, and then doing the job of stitching it tight.  It includes items that are not web-based (for example, email spamfilter choices or selecting the URL for print advertising or exporting formats for transaction data for use in internal accounting software) and assessment of items that are web-based (best practices for collecting analytics data or keyword searching for SEO purposes).

Speaking from our own business experience, I know that historically we have not budgeted nor priced appropriately for all of the “loose end” items we are involved with, but it has never been as big of an issue as it is today. For any given client, we now need to assign a value of hours that we can expect to be asked to work on web-related and web-connected items that are not necessarily involved to the day-to-day operation of the web site, or are offline changes that force changes to the day-to-day operation of the web site.

For 2016 we will have to take it into account, it’s just becoming that big of a part of the day to day practice of business.  We still appreciate that our clients find it easier to pay for service using a fixed fee model, but we have to include research and analysis costs because of how work occurs in this marketplace.