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Being a newbie now as opposed to a decade ago

Is it really that different

     
5:08 pm on Aug 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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When I first got involved in web development it was the mid-nineties and it was a challenge. You had to be able to get a grasp of what the WWW was and discover how you could leverage it. Today that part remains true, but the journey will be very different.

I remember picking up a piece of website creation software (I actually looked to see if I still had it. I don't and have no idea what it was called) It was a very cheap generic WYSIWYG editor. I used this for several of my early sites and that's where the learning began. I kept hearing about this brilliant tool called Microsoft Frontpage. I ended up buying this under the assumption it would improve my sites ten fold. Needless to say, it didn't, but it opened up another learning opportunity via HTML "code view". Through time I found I was using code view a lot more than "design view" and I started using notepad to make simple edits rather than waiting to MS Frontpage to load up.

It was round about this time I started getting interested in "scripts" They were great things that you could download from places like hotscripts.com You learn how to make these scripts work for you, and you also end up learning a scripting language along the way. Let's say you want to add a certain functionality to your site, simply search for a script and install it.

As you learn how to create pages/sites and install and modify scripts you kinda realise that not everyone can do this. I remember there was a period in the late nineties when I was able to almost earn a living simply installing and customising scripts for others.

As the web evolved it was vital to keep up and make sure you are well versed on the current technologies and best practices. The web will continue to evolve, but it does appear that fairly radical change is on the horizon. The web is now moving firmly to mobile first and as web developers, you have a simple choice. Embrace change or become less relevant.

If you were wanting to get involved in web development now, or if you knew someone in that situation what advice would you offer?

My 2c:
I think learning to wrote code by hand is still very important. Even if it involves using bootstrap or some other framework and learning as you go. Never just accept "This code will do this" learn why. Once you know how something works you can make it better.

I think knowing how to use a scripting language is also very important. If you want pages to actually "do things" they need more than simply HTML/CSS.

Right now there is a lot of uncertainty regarding how the web will be shaped. Mobile is clearly the way forward, but will the web continue to mould it'self for mobile, or will mobile evolve as well and become more web enabled. I have had people say that the mobile web is a lesser version of what the web was, and what it could have been. I can see where they are coming from, but change is happening and there is still an opportunity to be a part of it.

Your thoughts?

Mack.
5:22 pm on Aug 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I think learning to wrote code by hand is still very important. ... Once you know how something works you can make it better.
Completely agree!

Almost anyone can take a pre-made script or plug-in or module and add to their web site/CMS. That doesn't differentiate you from the thousands (millions?) or other people who can do the exact same thing. Those who are able to code their own custom script/plug-in/module is still a fairly competitive space, but certainly far less crowded/competitive than NOT being able to do it.

At that point, you have the tools to allow you to differentiate yourself and build something that no one else has done. This is critical whether you're working for yourself or for someone else.

I would also add that knowing how databases work is also critical in today's environment. It's doubtful that you're going to make a static site, so it's important to know how to put data in and (even more importantly) how to get data out efficiently and correctly.
1:46 am on Aug 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I think one big difference is now you are not burdened with having to deal with numerous browsers and a lack of web standards from coding to image use. I know 20 years ago I had to consider how things looked in "A" browser vs "B" browser vs "C" and so on. Each had its own quirks and its own elements link "blink," "marquee," "scroll," and so on. And, back then, you had to design for dial up connections. I can still hear those connection tones.
2:01 am on Aug 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I would also add that knowing how databases work is also critical in today's environment. ...it's important to know how to put data in and (even more importantly) how to get data out efficiently and correctly.


Today It is no longer just knowing how to get data in and out. It is about knowing how to derive the full value from the data. Companies like Amazon do not dominate because they have fast scripts and server banks, that allow them to show users data quickly. They dominate because they are able to parse through terabites of data to find the optimal matches for each user. No, not even, they do it for each user action.
9:10 pm on Aug 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Yea Marshal, I too can still hear that ear killing modem sound. A bit like running your nails down a blackboard haha. I remember being at the stage where fast internet was starting to make inroads and the big decision then was page load times... Make the most of the faster connections, or still cater for dialup user. Those were the days lol.

Mack.
10:59 pm on Sept 1, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Great topic Mack
Being a newbie now as opposed to a decade ago... Is it really that different
Being a newbie nowadays is a double edged sword:

Pros
Web Standards have been adapted by most (as Marshall noted above) so it's not so much a guessing game what works now.
There's Content Management Systems available now. With very little (or no) understanding of coding, a reasonably attractive and functioning website can be put together quickly.
Choices in hosting are almost endless.
Lots of information available...There are now a multitude of tutorials, help groups and discussion forums that freely supply information.
Potential for profit is endless.

Cons
Domain names are difficult to find, or if you do find one that you like, there's often a hefty price attached.
Competition is enormous. Getting good ranking is nearly impossible at first.
Most, but certainly not all, ideas for a website topic have been done. You probably won't be the first to talk about it.
Too much information... where to start?
Potential for profit is arduous.
1:01 am on Sept 5, 2017 (gmt 0)

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<snark>The biggest differences are that the FUD is two decades deeper, the smoke swirling in front of the mirrors is denser, and much of the advice given is wrong, harmful, or past sell by date. </snark>

In one sense the bar to getting up and running now is almost non-existent: online drag and drop la Wix, full featured CMS [sic] such as WordPress both with easy peasy 'on domain' hosting... of course every site looks just like every other site and no one, including the SEs, is actually interested...

The greatest differences between then and now though are that the medium (the web) is generally niche saturated and enterprise dominated such that few are staking 'discovery claims' but arriving after all the obvious industry/niche/vertical real estate is staked. Therefor, while business model and point(s) of difference and marketing et al have always been important they are now absolutely essential/critical.

Cookie cutter no longer cuts it. Period.

Can a new site thrive and prosper?
Absolutely. I encounter good to great new ones regularly.

Do most new sites thrive and prosper?
Absolutely not. They either add nothing new or they can't locate an audience or they can't attract adequate revenue.

So, the webdev considering a new site must:
Business:
* present the info/product/service better by a difference in kind not degree as visitors are overwhelmed by whatever current standard of quality.
* provide a voice/tone that better connects with preferred market segments than current niche dominators.
* continually differentiate oneself, both explicitly and implicitly, from all others; become the standard rather than meet some current one.
* appropriately market oneself at all (major) gatherings of desired audiences.
---corollary: appropriately market oneself at all (major) gatherings of desired sources of revenue.

Tech:
* render fast and seamlessly on all (major) devices.
* visitors' wants, needs, desires must be readily accessible, usable, find-able, convert-able from any point of entry.
---this gets the SEs for free, something that doesn't always work in reverse.
* content, be it text, image/graphics, multi-media, what-have-you, must be best in class (see first Business point).
* bots must be identified and accounted for, at the least; preferably identified and blocked to minimise hacking, scraping, click bots, and associated damage before it occurs.
* site security and user privacy are (becoming) foundational in much of the world (see EU and China among others for approaches/concerns) not some bolt-on after thought.

I've not mentioned a single "how to" because that is best left to the webdev as things do change over time. That said, I am a proponent of hand coding; at the very least it provides understanding, at best control.
5:09 am on Sept 28, 2017 (gmt 0)

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If you were wanting to get involved in web development now, or if you knew someone in that situation what advice would you offer?

Depends. As a hobby or personal stuff is easy, you said most of it, reading webmaster world forum is a must, lots of old threads are still valid for today.

But if you are talking about being a webmaster and working on a company... I would say think twice, try other options first. The market sucks, I see the ads hiring people and the list is never ending (php, oracle, .net, C#, etc etc etc, frameworks, Angular, Node, virtualization blah blah yada yada, and also facebook, video editing, etc), when you actually look closer or talk to people you see nobody stays for long on those job positions and worse: the production sucks, terrible websites with insane, unhealthy and absolutely unreal deadlines.

I've faced some of those challenges and to my surprise, most of the hiring is not being done by people in the field, but people from RRHH having no clue, seems like they think it's a cake so they mix php, some laravel, angular, react, symfony and specific versions: 2, 2.1, 3, 5 etc. I've seen some sick but honest articles on the web on how many web developers now hate their jobs. I love it, but working on those companies... nope, I hate it.

Many stuff is still valid, the same, and we can learn it online for free, we can build great stuff, but job positions are something else.
5:57 am on Sept 28, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The world of wonder has worn off.

The highest peaks have already been scaled (how many times can you climb Mt Everest?) and all the many ways to drop code created by middle school coders is the rage. Take that to mean "It's Easy To Code". Besides, the Plug and Play CMS and Copy Paste Code makes even that moot.

Content, on the other hand, and Audience are a completely different animal. These days it is near impossible to find a niche to dominate that has not already been overcrowded by other wannabe masters of the universe.

Advice to newbies? Go for it. Just have a day job and salary first. Web fortunes are about as common as hen's teeth, and rising to the top is more difficult than getting a starting position on a pro NBA or NFL team, and even then public opinion on your product might tank you before starting. (speaking of content and the audience and things unexpected)

Knowing code, frameworks, programming lang ... these are a plus, but if you don't have killer Content, all the rest is merely tools to reach an end, these are NOT the End Itself. (Success as a Website)

What some seem to be ignoring is that web development is rapidly becoming passe ... the device of common use will dictate where and how the "web" goes and these days that's the phone.

Worse, "sites" are not required, only "answers". Other worse is APPS ...

The web hasn't changed all that much, ...

.... wait for it ....

But the USERS have.

Not doom and gloom, just realization that for NEWBIES the row to hoe is immense and that for those of us who have been here since 1995 it becomes more difficult every day to remain "in biz" and now is the time to make plans, prepare, and find any and all OTHER methods to create BRAND and REPUTATION to remain viable over the next Five to Ten Years.

The USER (and their device of choice) is changing, and we must change, too. Or perish.

Best advice for the newbie? Don't believe the gitricheqwik fables. It does not work that way any longer. Meanwhile, advice to new CODERS: learn all you can! There's another 20 years work ahead to get a reasonable PAYCHECK from companies chasing the top spot.
5:09 pm on Sept 28, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Best advice for the newbie? Don't believe the gitricheqwik fables. It does not work that way any longer. Meanwhile, advice to new CODERS: learn all you can! There's another 20 years work ahead to get a reasonable PAYCHECK from companies chasing the top spot.

By no means I disagree, I agree on every word you wrote. Just want to expand this bit, I see it useful considering the investment it can take.

I used to be a master on Photoshop X, then X+1 came along. Then the updates came more often involving Flash, Freehand, PageMaker, etc etc. It became more and more difficult to stay updated on every single program. Sure the basis are the basis, still many companies when hiring you want to test you on the latest version. Then you might surprise some things moved from this menu to another, some vanished. Staying up to date became increasingly difficult even if you can still master the trade, even if you can still build skycrapers, but remember sometimes what matters is what the person hiring you/testing you thinks and values, this affects many industries.

Coding? can you?, I never see this topic on WebmasterWorld but I want to bring it to life. Many companies and job positions require tests, yes, many of those are unfair and push you to code on a whiteboard, then you might find how difficult it is to remember some commands and functions they want to test on you. And perhaps you just built a big community on the web, an amazing CMS... and still FAIL the test. There was an online movement on this, many experienced and famous coders started joining and complaining: "I would also fail that test blah blah", others posted stuff like "I copied code to build X thing", others things like "I copy my own code and reuse because no matter what, after so many years I still need to google how to regex".

It's not only the web that changed, it is the hiring process too. You might get hurt even if you can get things done.

The multi flavor war. I'm personally sick of this. So, someone needs a timer + disabling a button + validating some input. You can do all of that on javascript, yet many will go for all those 3 things to Jquery, Angular, React, Vue, etc. And demand you to do it there. Perhaps you would avoid Jquery for speed and size, besides it's only 3 things!. You might be surprised how the industry changed, you can get things done but on February 2016 you are required to master Mangular 2.1, BlahQuery 4.2, BooTools 5.0.

I don't know... I see constant job ads requiring:
- Angular
- Vanilla CSS Framework
- Coffee Script
- Bootstrap
- Skeleton
- Laravel and Symfony
- Ruby on Rails
- Phyton
- PHP
- CSS
- HTML5
- .Net
- Oracle
- MySQL + PostGress
- Java

Looks pretty huh? do you now all of them? are you sure every single one will be required? what kind of job requires all of them?, I can think of possible scenarios where they require this from you, but they won't be abundant, so why so many ads asking for this? doesn't make any sense. Besides, you might just need 5% of Ruby and 10% of Laravel for that job, in full reality, still the test won't measure your 5% or 10%, will test you beyond that, you might fail on a test that goes beyond what you are required to do. For what? only to see 6 months later the company just built a garbage slow website and app.

Isn't that enough? you might train yourself on all of that, then find 6 months later some new version came out breaking a lot of the code. Take per example Symfony, there is a gap in versions where your code is just not compatible. The same website says is version x.1, and then version x.2.1 (just saying) but they clarify, it's a rewrite so it's like two diff frameworks in many ways, totally incompatible. It sucks.

You can learn javascript, no problem, go for it, you are done. You can learn Symfony, really? I applied for a job where they asked Symfony, learned it, yes, only to find out many things are broken (100% honest on this) and "sometimes, some things work", yet you might find abandoned threads everywhere on X commands that are not reliable because they tend to fail and doesn't work as the manual says.

I've been recently reading about coders who now hate coding, coders who quit and are now on something else, and many of those articles hate the NVanilla version 4.1, the new release of BlahFramework 4.1.2 that fixes all that 4.1.0 failed to do, then MonkeyScript, or SpaceJS 19.20 etc. Just posted on the native development for mobile something like this too, and it hurts to see many of those BLAH frameworks dead after 1 year.

Technology goes way fast, too fast that you might fall from the taxi before getting in depending where you get to work. I worked on a big media company, and at one point they said "let's go to JSP, move everything to JSP", it was such a fail... errors everywhere, we got the manuals, sometimes you mixed things like the manual said only to find it didn't work. Check online "JSP pages suck", you might face this over and over as a coder. It is sometimes difficult to get managers to understand why you should stay to X tool and not Z, they might wonder why "you" say this while the industry promisses a big change on version x.1.2.1.2.3.1.

I've been working alone on coding, I've seen the places for teamwork and many times the members of the team change as quick as the software versions. Yes, that's why quality has dropped.
5:57 am on Sept 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Technology goes way fast, too fast...
This actually goes beyond web development. There was a time when the skilled craftsman was king. Handcrafted work was praised. No fancy tools or tricks, just skill, patience, and the desire to make something wonderful.

Today, with the "instant gratification" society we live in, coupled with "it is newer, it must be better" attitude, (is it vogue?) we all too often overlook the simpler things (remember the KISS principle?) when being creative. Newer is not always better. If a website was working fine say as HTML, why change to JSP? Granted, one should always be alert for security updates, but that is a side issue. Make improvements to what you have. Unless the foundation is shot, or the need exceeds the current capabilities, if it ain't broke, don't fix it! In other words, and words which I think people should seriously consider all the time - Just because you can does not mean you necessarily should.
8:41 am on Sept 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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And that is why a half dozen of my 1996 websites still produce. :)

Content, after all, is King. Presentation is merely Gift Wrap. And Delivery can be a cost in excess of the reward. Pick and chose the battles that NEED be fought. Otherwise, KISS still applies.
12:09 pm on Sept 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Being a newbie now as opposed to a decade ago. Many things come down to how the content is delivered to your audience, you can achieve that using php, ruby, perl, etc, it won't matter as long as it's well done. Sure you can have two devs, one versed in old technologies and one in new ones... both can create good websites. I've learned many things here in WebmasterWorld that proove many things are just the instruments, what matters is the music.

But at the end of the day the previous only matters if you have freedom of execution, you work alone, one man band, personal projects or able to lead projects. If you are inside a company chances are you will be pushed to use X standards, Z technology, W approaches, XX methods, etc, all having to do with the company ideology (sometimes arbitrary decisions from the tech dept), or methods adopted to make each dev replaceable, easy to replace with someone new. The pressure to learn new (even untested stuff) based on arbitrary decisions can be difficult to deal with).

@Marshall, those are very valid points. Many times companies switch technologies having no need to. Besides, instant gratification. In the past you could build a webpage and end up with two options: go slow, brick and mortar and positioning, or invest lots of money on promotion, ok. Today most of the market EXPECTS building a website day 1 and having sells or return of investment by day 5, impossible, impossible? we are living the era of selling false expectations, and mostly people demanding impossible results.

A huge difference from past to present: I remember companies were more aware of building sites = takes time. Today I see companies selling the dream of "invest with us and you will have a working site selling your stuff tomorrow" the problem is when you are involved on those meetings where people lie to the client saying those expectations are possible to deliver in short time. The trend is very solid now. There's always been and always will be people selling lies, but today as discussed in other areas: technology companies often sell impossible projects. What's the problem? as a newbie you might be inside that company and you can't do anything about it.
12:21 pm on Sept 29, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The amount of information available has changed a lot too. As many people did here, you learned by trial and error and some nuggets of information here and there, and maybe someone elses libraries ,or even a book.

Now, the web is awash with tutorials, libraries, plugins, courses... so much more choice in achieving a singular aim.
10:21 am on Sept 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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There are so many ways to achieve exactly the same thing. That is and always has been, one of the great things about developing. You do it your own way, create your own method and with that potentially have success. As Brotherhood of Lan touched on, there are so many tutorials and resources out there. Being able to learn from various sources and merge that knowledge into your own method is key.

Mack.
4:31 pm on Sept 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I think it depends on what kind of "Web development" you intend to do. If you're working for clients, what you need to know will depend, to a great degree, on the size and nature of the Web site. Building a site for a bank is going to be different than building a site for an online retailer, and building a portfolio site for an ad agency is going to be different than building a site for a local government or a public library. And if you're creating your own blog, that may require a different skill set than creating your own static information site.

The Web is a lot more diverse than it used to be. Today, "Web" is as broad a term as "print," so general rules no longer apply.
10:33 pm on Oct 1, 2017 (gmt 0)

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What @EditorialGuy said, only even more so.

You can do HTML, backend development, front end development (meaning JS)..... Back in the day most people were full stack developers, who did it all. Now there are far more specialist positions. I get a lot of approaches from recruiters who specifically want a Django developer, for example, and they are often back end only. Other skills are auxiliary - they might want someone familiar with Postgres, but they do not expect a DBA, and they expect people to know tools like git.

There are also a lot of opportunities for people who can do web development together with some related area - there are a lot of jobs in things like fintech.

ON the other hand, smaller, non web focused businesses tend to want someone who does it all, but they want multiple skills at a relatively low level - if you can install Wordpress and customise a theme that is good enough for them.

There are people in-between who want a genuine full stack developer. Its a wide range of skills, but all those frameworks (backend and frontend) help, and there is a lot of documentation and opportunities to learn.
7:45 pm on Oct 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Ten years ago I did everything, now I hire people to do it so im more like a project manager than a webmaster, thats the main difference for me.