As has been over time, trends have always come with their opportunities. Like the Bitcoin craze creating quite a number of millionaires overnight, the Information age has also opened a number of doors and professions for the people, programmers have sprung out in droves and have actually attained a status as one of the highest paid workers in the world.
Web Development is one of such professions and it is considered a bedrock because it demands owning a website to even be a part of the global community. When Tim Berners Lee created the World Wide Web in 1989, there was only a small demand for websites at the time, limiting their services to big organizations that have the means and the foresight to create a space online.
Websites then were not a necessity. Webmasters, as they were known at the time could not even develop websites fully, juggling it with other Tech related activities since market was small. At the time, getting a functional and responsive website was a niche that demanded a level of technical skill that is inaccessible to the layman. Web Developers were rarities and were paid as such. It was not till the dotcom boom in the mid-90’s early 2000’s that we saw a rapid increase in the number of websites created.
But knocking on 2019, there has been a shift in the scene. Constant innovations have managed to demystify the abilities of Web Developers and has pushed back the power to the end consumer, offering them the leeway of creating aesthetically pleasing and relatively responsive website in a single afternoon. Platforms like WordPress (which accounts for over 27% of the Internet), SquareSpace and Wix offer the same services a Web Developer will give you without the steep learning curve associated with programming. On paper, it might seem that the art of Web Development is dying, even the figures allude to it. But how true is this claim?
Mitchel Okorie, Co-Founder of HoverGenie, a Web Development Company that has served major Nigerian Clients confirmed that Web Developers aren’t as needed as they were a couple of years back. “The playing field has been levelled” He had said. The conversation is now between drag-and-drop platforms and freelancers, kicking out Agencies from the mix. This claim is understandable, as it costs way too much to pay an Agency for a job when eager freelancers on Fiverr can perform similarly for a fraction of the price.
He also blamed the apparent over-saturation of the market, and pointed to the absence of any form of certification or regulation to deem individuals competent to properly carry out quality work. There have been numerous cases of multimillion-dollar projects given to confident WordPress Developers only to produce mediocre results. These reasons, in themselves are enough to incite skepticism in anybody towards modern day Developers.
When we asked Mitch how he managed to pitch his services to Companies, he said it had been quite difficult. The magic he performs has been completely demystified and most times, he has to resort to the physical drawing of wireframes on paper to show that the website would be built from scratch and not ready-made templates. Buzzwords are important to show he has a better grasp of the concept and that’s not all, he also has to throw in extensive support as the deal is being struck to seal confidence.
When prospective clients ask him why they should hire his Company and not use SquareSpace, Shopify or WordPress, Mitch laughed and said he sometimes loses that argument because in reality, Agencies offer no real advantage over “drag and drop” platforms when simple websites are concerned. These ready-made platforms in fact, offer more security than hand-built platforms because they have invested heavily in SSL. They don’t require much manpower and it is possible to get a full website spending the equivalent of $20.
However, these platforms fall short when hybrid websites are required. It is difficult to manipulate a template to perform efficiently if a lot of uses are required and that is where Agencies excel. Giving the luxury of complete creative control and functionalities tailored to taste. This brings us to a conscious shift in their roles as technological experts. It is even evident in the name, from Webmasters to Web Designers to Web Developers. Web Developers now have a prerequisite to be full stack experts and must be conversant with the front end and backend. To the lazy eye, the learning curve is no longer existent but upon closer inspection, it is steeper than ever.
He also talked about data control and protection, citing it as an edge Agencies have over drag and drop platforms. “Security-conscious clients are more liable to hire us over the ones that just want a simple website” Mitch said.
“Now we have witnessed a shift almost reminiscent of the old days, big corporations hire agencies for their projects and the SMEs do it themselves” He continued.
It is almost logical to assume Web Developers will never be out of jobs as long as websites are being created. A survey carried out in January, 2018 by NetCraft revealed that there are over 1.8 billion websites in the world today. It is quite interesting that it witnessed a 100% spike from 2016 to 2017, doubling from 906 million to 1.8 billion. Subsequent increases since then have been conservative.
The bigger issue is that of quality as most people seem to agree that there aren’t a lot of skilled Web Developers out there. The common sentiments tilts towards a favorable opinion of the few that know their salt in the market. There is a stark difference when a website is built from the ground up and that is a result some people in the market still appreciate and are willing to pay for, handsomely.
Granted, Innovators will continue to improve on the performance and creative control drag-and-drop platforms provide. Maybe the next decade will completely see out Web Developers or change their roles to something different but for now, the mantle of quality still lies with skilled practitioners.
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