Web development professionals: learn how to program, or kiss your careers goodbye

by Jason SalasTuesday, June 19, 2001

At this point in the game, we’re way beyond WYSIWYG editors...its time to take HTML to the next level


The Web continues to push progressively forward at a breakneck pace, and as such individual Web pages and entire Web sites have become more “intelligent”, having the ability to operate as self-sufficient solutions and attract more business. As these types of sites become the natural choice for clients, this puts a big burden on the developer to be savvy in the skills necessary to design them. So, for my fellow local Web developers, I have but one small bit of advice: learn how to program, or kiss your career goodbye.

Actual Web “programming” (to be understood herein as the authoring of code which brings about the logic that allows pages to process user information, retain data about the user, and other applications which rely on functionality outside of mere aesthetics...such as in e-commerce sites), requires that the developers working behind the scene carry a certain skill set to design, implement, maintain and expand these type of services. Arming yourself with the skills needed to build robust, secure, scalable, timely business solutions such as programming systems in Perl, JavaScript, VBScript, database connectivity via SQL, Java, C-derivative languages, COM/COM+, DHTML, XML, and others is a valuable tool and will extend your ability to provide services for clients. For those of you designing corporate intranets, these skills are a must, in building the systems which interact with the unique business logic of the individual firm.

Learning these skills should also be a natural step in your growth as a Web developer.


Programming provides competitive advantages
The harsh reality, especially since the climate of providing Web development services on Guam has really taken off in the past few years, is that designing static Web sites just don’t cut the mustard anymore. Clients need business solutions that will automate their operations, save them money, and secure future opportunities; not just mere simple graphics-and-links pages that reek of marketing fluff.

Existing WYSIWYG tools (what-you-see-is-what-you-get editors, like FrontPage and HomeSite) to produce static Web pages are limited in their design and often deploy vendor-proprietary technologies, which limits their effectiveness, and allow for very little customization. By deploying true programming logic, you can literally do whatever you want with the computer and gain more control over what unique system you build for a company. Flexibility is the key.

In fact, one of Guam’s leading local Web development companies, iCON Corporation started out as a largely aesthetics-savvy production house, but added a programmer dedicated to design functional, relevant Web apps for their clients. iCON Vice President Steve Dierking said of his company’s maturation, “We get a lot of clients these days that approach us needing much more than a static corporate brochure...they need a solution that works for them.” Dierking sees the addition of programming talent as a definite competitive advantage for his firm, noting that the price his company can charge for development services is lower, not dependent on outsourcing, which has long been a large concern for clients who are forced to pay exorbitant and often hidden costs imposed by third-parties. His company can also directly provide support for Web apps built, having done then first-hand. In short, it makes possible for the developer true, one-stop shopping.

Perhaps the single largest reason to increase your personal knowledge base would be the fact that most of the competition already is, or are in the process of doing so.  For years, Guam's best Web developers have been multifaceted in the various schools of discipline that entail Web design (graphic design, programming, HTML layout, database management, etc.), and many more independents are starting to extend their own skill sets.  In short,  they're beating you to the punch....so you can't afford not to keep up with the Joneses.


Ready to take your first step...towards the next step?
If at this point you’re sold on taking your game to the next level, great. Now for the hard part: it’s going to take a lot of work from you. Not being blessed with the resources such as massive bookstores, training centers, or a peer community of experienced, world-class developers on island, the skills you’ll need to have are going to have to be built from largely independent study, tinkering, and talking to people who know their stuff. Look around, find out who the best are, and get to know them. The best developers aren’t always those who write great code...they’re the ones who are willing to share their knowledge unselfishly.

The good news is that there are enough tools on the market which make applications development automated and relatively easy to learn. And while still expensive at about $500+ a pop, developmental environments such as Macromedia’s Dreamweaver UltraDev 4 and Microsoft Visual Interdev 6 make authoring advanced Web applications somewhat easier and aide in the arduous task of writing hundreds of lines of complex code by hand. And, with the Web still being a network of computer-centric users, there are literally tens of thousands of sites with tutorials, sample code and interactive forums with which you can build your knowledge base.

The first step should be finding out exactly and then determining what it is you want to learn, and then concentrate on that. The first step is yours, so good luck! Make the commitment to yourself to improve, and stick with it. It also likely won’t happen overnight....but if it sticks right away, more power to you! (I’ve been working with Web applications development for years, and I still get fuzzy on some areas).

It may be a hard road to hoe, but you’ll definitely be glad you did it...once you’re there.

"We get a lot of clients these days that approach us needing much more than a static corporate brochure...they need a solution that works for them.”
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