In summer 2026, I will have been in commercial web development for 30 years. That seems hard to believe, and yet, as long as I remain healthy, there I will be. I am hoping to be a retiring elder shortly after making that benchmark, though. (Note to clients: don’t worry, continuity of our business is being planned past my working years.)
I saw another of my web development generation announce her retirement upcoming at the end of the year. She’s been at it for 25 years. We’re going to see a lot of announced retirements of folks with that much experience in web development over the next 3-4 years. With those retirements, the contract web development industry is going to lose some assets. One of them is going to be historical reference – some of the reasons of why we do in what we do in the process of web development came in the early years, learned by experience and success and sometimes failure. That process may have changed some over the years, but the lessons learned have not. But they may well be forgotten with this loss of the first generation of commercial web development.
Another thing we’re likely to lose is some of the client – developer wisdom attained over the years. When a client wants something, sometimes you have to dig past the words to find the needs. Sometimes you have to gauge the client’s capacity to adapt to changes. And you sometimes need historical reference to do these things.
Anyone that has been in web development since the 1990s has seen several business cycles and several technology shifts, sometimes convergent and sometimes separate. It takes time to go through a few of these cycles, and it takes more time to understand some of the causes and ramifications of those cycles on one’s business, technology used, and the industry at large. Often, clients do NOT have that time experience, and haven’t had the opportunity to gather the wisdom that comes from navigating through them.
The same can hold true for developers. Someone that has been developing web sites for three or four years may have all the technical expertise needed for the next iteration of the site. Historical reference and the wisdom that comes from that may not hold as true, however. The industry NEEDS young developers to grow old in this industry. But I do think that the world need to retain access to some of the more senior members of our industry. There’ may be a clash in any environment between the younger and the older about new ways and old ways, and there are often good reasons on either side of those clashes. Historical reference is valuable.
Let’s not lose the knowledge of the reasons behind the old ways, because those reasons may still be important or may impact things in previously undetermined ways. We’re going to need some effort for retention.