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Being a webmaster. increasingly difficult

When content doesn't seem to be king anymore

     
4:27 pm on Oct 9, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Hi webmasters, I always research and try things before posting a thread of a problem, sometimes I find the answer and other times when it's a discussion I might be surprised answering my own question, this is not the exception but can't find the light.

Been a webmaster for years, first website in 1998, and several running with decent traffic to this day. I remember the Wordpress chapter, when everybody said WP was the solution to everything, easy to use, etc, this is not about WP or against it, is about that time when people thought X brand or X cms was the universal answer to all questions. At that time it was difficult to sell something that wasn't Wordpress based, and sure Google even supported blogs and their ecosystem with pingbacks etc. During that period I had two choices (1) keep working to sell non-wordpress and talk about the risks, and (2) work some WP and still talk about the risks. Sure, many had their sites built on WP (by me or by someone else). Soon problems appeared... get a new hosting company, increasing costs, the site is slow, upgrades break the site, plugins breaking the whole thing, etc. It would take too much for a webmaster not knowing what I'm talking about, WP is not a word for problems, but you know how things can turn out.

Later I found clients and companies walking away from WP. "WP? no thanks!", WP is not bad but lost the crown on being an universal magic solution. At that point I haven't mentioned clients or companies talking about content because that's... difficult to find, rare. No WP? good, still many asked for it while hating it, why? they wanted something easy to give to someone else, another webmaster, or one webmaster in the long list to come. I understand standarization, when you want and need something that other developers can pick up. Propietary systems are often rejected in that area, often... didn't say always.


Now. Seems like a ghost shadow of the WP chapter. It doesn't matter if you can build a solid website, content, traffic, etc, people and specially companies want to hear you talk Angular, React, Ruby, Sass, Django, Kendo, Laravel, Symfony, Yii, etc. The profile asked for a regional webmaster, here... usually demands: C#, C++, Java, Laravel, Ruby, Cake, Skeleton, Bootstrap, Jquery, .NET, Crystal reports, MYSQL, PHP, Oracle, PostGress, VB and Microsoft Dynamics (also Facebook, FB marketing, social media, video editing...) No kidding, all of them basically (some ask some more). Then you question yourself what kind of task demands all of that, is the system built with duct tape too? you might be an expert on something and might fail on one of the test in other areas.

One big problem is... I've found new hirings are rarely being made by people in the field (coders) is mostly done by human resources personel. I rarely (never?) hear people talking about UX, interface design, testing, traffic, content, strategy... instead they replaced Wordpress by all of that "but you talk PHP + some-weird-framework?". Then I see the job position open again in 6 monyths, workers being replaced and if you think "oh God I finally got that job" being good, then you surprise yourself pickup up ugly code written by someone who has no idea of what was doing, at times seems better not to get that job rather than getting it.

Clients? is happening again. Years ago desktop coders created a chaos, now is happening on the web: clients with terrible past experiences not wanting to invest, why? nobody told them 5 pages of terrible content on a WP would get them nowhere. Still charged big bucks don't want to spend anymore. The local webmaster market is looking more and more like a bad place to be. When you bring this up people tell you "oh but... here and... you did something wrong there"
only to discover this person telling you this never buit a decent website, 200 steady visitors per day seems like a miracle for them, but sure they talk to clients about thousands and thousands of visitors (an actual lie). When you prove your work has 1,000 visitors per day minimum, o worse, more: 2K, 3K, 4K... they don't get it and look at you as if it wasn't true.

Been working on my own for quite sometime, but the market is not good, kinda dead. Working for a company has proven to be a nightmare and I'm finding more and more sad stories from developers. The only ones that seem happy are 20 years old. A quick search on the web about "I hate being a webmaster" is bringing some interesting results with similar stories, also searches like "I quit my job as a coder". For most jobs in the region, when you make the numbers about hours-work-paid-sallary, you think "meh..." but when you actually take a look at the amount of hours per week... it looks terrible, you begin early, leave the office really late and you must be connected, you know how this is, online work never ends. If something fails at the office everyone can pick it up next week, not the webmaster... not the webmaster.

Doesn't look fun, doesn't even look like a good idea anymore. Comments?
4:48 pm on Oct 9, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I've found new hirings are rarely being made by people in the field (coders) is mostly done by human resources personel. I rarely (never?) hear people talking about UX, interface design, testing, traffic, content, strategy... instead they replaced Wordpress by all of that "but you talk PHP + some-weird-framework?"


That is a complaint I have heard from software developers (not just web software developers) and it is not a new one.

It doesn't matter if you can build a solid website, content, traffic, etc, people and specially companies want to hear you talk Angular, React, Ruby, Sass, Django, Kendo, Laravel, Symfony, Yii, etc.


If what they actually want is developer, that makes perfect sense. They either want someone do to a specific job that requires familiarity with the frameworks they use, or they do not actually know what they want. They may actually need someone to do some of the work, and hire people to do the rest, but not realise it - they just want someone to do all the web stuff.
5:46 pm on Oct 9, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I feel your pain; your writing bleeds.

There are two basic types (yes, there can be overlap) of webmasters these days:
* those that develop their own properties.
* those that develop for others.
Of the latter, there are again two basic types, with again, possible overlap:
* those who are their own shop.
---who may also contract with other shops.
* those who are employees.

That last has become the most common entry point and, as you say, posted 'requirements' are a list of the latest full stack buzzwords. Frankly, if there is actually anyone that meets the typical 'preferred capabilities' list the posting employer couldn't possibly afford to hire them. Human Resources departments are pretty much a swamp of ineffectual (if occasionally great) methodologies and staff.

The first decade of the web was experimenters and adventurers and a whole new web world; the dotCom binge and bust was true gold rush behaviour. And a hell of a lot of fun.

The second decade saw the beginnings of enterprise level business getting in on the action, the advent of third party ad networks, and the adoption of blog software and the beginnings of easy use CMS (although CPS content publishing system is a more accurate description). Many early practitioners left fora for personal blogs and self branding.

We are now over halfway through the third decade and enterprise has muscled in pretty much everywhere albeit not always well, there is a growing backlash against the privacy incursions and in your face irritation of most online advertising, and webdev platforms such as Wix have lowered the entry bar even more than WP a decade ago. Many early practitioners have left the business.

Basically, default webdev has become a commodity. And as such it pays bupkis. And is boringly repetitive. The bottom 80% of webdev has nothing to do with quality (although it generates 80% of the complaints; strange that :)); the next 15% wants quality aka rank in Google but doesn't want to pay for it (and is frequently conned); the next 4.9% wants quality aka rank in Google and is willing to pay through the nose for it; and the final 0.1% actually either have a clue or are willing to learn what it takes to build an online business.
Note: define quality as you will.

We have gone from 'you charge way too much for something my nephew can make' to 'you charge way too much for something the cloud will do for (almost) free'. I got out of building for others a decade ago in good part because sifting the masses of cheap ignoramuses for worthwhile clients was becoming a depressing bore. I can only presume this has not improved.

Even a majority of webdevs developing for themselves fall into that horrible mass category, no business model beyond WP and Google, no revenue plan beyond third party ads or drop ship the same products, no marketing plan beyond Google search. Yes, it's become increasingly easy and simple to start a business online. At the same time it has become increasingly complex and difficult to build and maintain such a business.

One category I neglected was as part of a team in an enterprise business. Basically, they are looking for a compatible cog to fit the current methodology machine. A major problem is that many/most long time developers don't make good cogs. A close look shows that most cogs change employers every couple of years, often because there is a new manager with a new methodology. I deal with similar changes in their marketing departments; it seems to be a common behaviour of new brooms sweeping in new fads. Initially I was surprised at how things in enterprise can shift so much while somehow staying the same old.

Building great sites that attract traffic and convert well is a major undertaking whether one is doing it for oneself or for others. The difference is that the first only requires educating and convincing one's self, the second requires also building a great business of building great sites to attract the few that will appreciate the result and are willing to pay well for it.

Being a craftsperson in a commodity market is always a painful difficult experience.
7:27 am on Oct 10, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Webmaster can mean many things... but all the above appears to be employee commentary as a cog in a larger machine as webdevs, not webmasters.

One can be the head honcho or the worker bee. Webmaster, old term, is the one who manages a website. If you aren't that person you are a worker bee and subject to all that employees must endure.
6:20 am on Oct 11, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@graeme, exactly. Recently many famous and amazing developers complained about the way devs are hired/tested, they created a movement against the white blackboard, why? many great coders don't know everything by memory. I've seen many job positions empty and unstable due to unrealistic expectations for coders.

Another problem... I've seen job positions that increasingly become a hell. The pay looks average, not good, not bad, but you only have clear hours to begin, not to end. You vanish, hirings go to people with no life. I had offers to code in banks, it was a nightmare so I declined, they were looking people with "my profile" I disagree, I didn't even fit the requiriments in many cases. The thing is I know coders who worked in banks, is terrible.

@iamlost, you nailed it.

@tangor, yes and no, I see the case. I'm not the best to explain the nightmare of unrealistic expectations today, people who don't understand the dotcom buble was many years ago and expect building businesses in 3 months generating good money. They read the news, saw some cases, think is easy. Dealing with unrealistic expectations is becoming a nightmare, and this also involves in my area the WP effect, "Wordpress" many years ago, now is Angular, React... and can you add some sugar and PrEact? too? it makes websites better (nope, is not like that). I see unhappy faces all around, more than years ago. Sometimes some industries become intoxicated. Interestingly, IT is not so poisoned (average client support) while coding is.

I've been working in some stuff lately only to find many of those magical technologies don't work. Today I was working with something from a big player (great documentation, etc) and surprisingly the code doesn't work. The official documentation says "do this and that" including sample code...

And it states: "if everything goes well... you should see..."

Well, it's an official example and doesn't work, there are gazillion open threads at stackoverflow complaining, even at the official support forum saying "well, it doesn't work".
6:27 am on Oct 11, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The last years at this big media company I worked for (13+ years) was very interesting. It support faced difficulties but was actually more about incompatibilities, OS, etc. Devs... had it worse.

The web departments... had the worse. New hirings of people replacing technologies, new designs, new this new that. It's easy to think "oh we hate change" no, it wasn't like that. Most of what they did was wrong and expected quick results generating big money. Some people got fired, some walked away, some stayed there. I went to another company.

Long story short: not a single objective was reached, there was no increase of traffic (sites went actually down), some sites died in the process, half the sites are up (and ugly, slow, with errors, terrible). All the people they hired (mid management and top managers) are not there anymore. Did they go away? no, they got fired. What a mess they created. I'm talking about a big media company. So sad. Now? today they post job positions with impossible requirements... every year, and their sites still suck.

They recently launched a new website. Their home page weights 23mb. Another quick to die project.
5:18 pm on Oct 11, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Above, first line "it", should read IT, the tech dept didn't face those challenges. They had their own thing, but webs? everybody expected webs to generate thousands of dollars from one week to the other. Were the sites generating money? yes, did their changes helped? no, things got worse, and then the expectations went to the roof (ironic). They couldn't see their changes were making everything worse.

Those managers (and the next ones to come) were fired, I've seen the same on other companies. High expectations, salesman selling sand, clients getting upset because they were charged more money, websites down, traffic going down. Trying to simplify things:. I've seen two scenarios.

1. People hiring webmasters (yes, people who build websites) demanding lots of languages, frameworks, etc. To the point that facing impossible hirings, and liars. The problem here is it takes time to see if websites go up, most times they don't and the guy is replaced AGAIN.

2. Salesman... had it difficult in the past trying to sell something. Today? the weight goes to the webmaster, why? the salesman sells a possibility, and if something goes wrong then the webmaster is to blame, so people look for magic words like "he talks React, Angular, so this is going to work". The responsibility rarely goes to the salesman or project manager, instead to the webmaster.

I believe being a webmaster is still wonderful, being a coder is near, not the same. But there are lots of bad practices making this a no longer great area to work, at least in my area. As a guy building websites I've seen how clients increased their unrealistic expectations, and as someone who applied to some job positions, also saw the same, unrealistic expectations, but specially (specially when it comes to companies) it was about unrealistic and insane deadlines.

After all... whatever you want to build, doesn't matter how long it takes... there is an article or 10 on the web saying that's piece of cake... and they did it in 10 days. Many managers don't understand the difference between a sales article, a testimonial, a marketing strategy and a lie. Besides there is something else... university careers and specializations in my area are abundant, you can become an Engineer - Master of Web Strategies in Online Education. I have nothing against it, the problem is how many of them end up on manager positions demanding unrealistic results... and never, ever built a website. I had contact with some people teaching at the university... many of them failed to qualify on job positions, education is telling people about something, not exactly proving is possible. Think about it. I know people in the education industry worried about getting fired because all they can do is teach (I mean: telling people what things could be possible) but they don't know how to build them in real life, the result is managers who sell impossible projects.
7:26 am on Oct 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Their home page weights 23mb. Another quick to die project

Glad I didn't have a mouthful of coffee when I read that

I believe being a webmaster is still wonderful

I agree. I do very little client work now, but I've always got best results for people when I can control the code and the content.
9:36 am on Oct 14, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The only time I worked in an IT department writing code for a national company, I didn't do well. I'm too much of a perfectionist and spend too much time on detail. Mediocrity is difficult for me so I couldn't get the work done fast enough, never satisfied with the final work.

I do much better working alone and even better if it's my web property. I'm finding I don't really like working on someone else's pages anymore.
4:37 am on Oct 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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FrantifFish: Glad I didn't have a mouthful of coffee when I read that
After some of us left, it's been fun to visit the "projects" from time to time to see what surprise awaits, and IF there is still something there. Lots of money is wasted there, is not the only place it happens.

I agree. I do very little client work now, but I've always got best results for people when I can control the code and the content.

Me too. Sometimes I'm asked about projects but they provide the content... well I have to see it, it's got to be good for things to work. It's better when I'm in charge of the content too (worked in the past as an editor and just like many of webmasters here I write my own content).

The only time I worked in an IT department writing code for a national company, I didn't do well. I'm too much of a perfectionist and spend too much time on detail. Mediocrity is difficult for me so I couldn't get the work done fast enough, never satisfied with the final work.

I do much better working alone and even better if it's my web property. I'm finding I don't really like working on someone else's pages anymore.
Matches my current experience. I'm getting increasingly tired of working with clients, why? they often have unrealistic expectations. Sometimes it's realistic but the deadlines are not, like #1 on X in 3 weeks... ok!

About what you said about perfectionism... well I've seen people delivering the products in amazing timing, but no layers of security, pure MVP (minimum viable project/prototype), it's just the interface that makes it look as a final product when it's not. So, at times I'm confused on the new hirings, I don't know if they are looking for the impossible employee, or just someone who promise to deliver the imposible (either way the job position is often open after a while, or not... but it's rare to see the final projects).


During an old friendly discussion with a canadian, there are lots of failed projects/startups on the web area. It's... what it is, but when it comes to local market this turns into a bad rep, as in "my idea was perfect, they didn't deliver", and no I don't believe the client is always right, many times there is bad rep due to bad projects, bad ideas or poor execution. I wouldn't mind at all about this, but it really affects the market.
10:27 am on Oct 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Well some things in the IT business never change, most of the above could have been written about mainframe projects in the 1980s,

I am just grateful that I have retired from the day job and took to music journalism instead although I still run a couple of small sites.
6:56 pm on Oct 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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A very interesting discussion that mirrors much of my own experience over the last two decades.
I also went down the route of no longer building sites for clients in favour of my own projects - there was a time when it was nearly always a more profitable use of my own time. However, that time is over and I am in the process of moving on from the business of websites.

We need to be honest about the cause. There was a time when the little guy could (with a little bit of savvy) drive plenty of 'primed' traffic to their website from search engines. When Google came along, with pagerank, this especially favoured the small specialist 'craftsperson' website that earned lots of incoming links from expert users/consumers that valued that work. Again, that time has passed. As much as traffic can be gained from facebook et al, that traffic just does not convert at the same rate, even when it is well-targetted: it is not the same to get a user from facebook, as a user from a search engine that has just searched for "where can I buy a blue widget?".

There have always been 'clueless' clients, that is nothing new. The vast majority of people charged with creating the spec for a website have no idea what any of it means, and are simply copying and pasting from elsewhere with a good measure of the latest buzzwords thrown in. They are nearly always asking for languages/platforms that they do not need or understand. This creates a problem in itself: only liars bid for the job, as nobody has experience with every programming language.

Burn and churn seems to be the business model that works at the moment. Salespeople over-promise and deliver a product that doesn't deliver. Promise the earth to your staff and then fire them before you become liable for any bonuses or statutory obligations to them.
Sell a hardware product with half-finished firmware. If the product moves, then fix the issues, if not then, ah well.
The Google search of 2017 is the very epitome of mediocrity: deliver results that will just about do, perhaps because it's too risky to deliver a result that may be considered fake. Cheaply remove all of the spam, taking out all of the small Mom and Pop websites with it, and users will still be satisfied 65% of the time.

As it happens, I seem to have 'lucked' into something that will hopefully keep the wolves away for the next few years. Ironically, it requires a high degree of mediocrity. I have also suffered from the perfectionist syndrome for my entire working life, however there doesn't seem to be any room for it in modern business. Perhaps perfectionism is best kept for hobbies.
7:01 pm on Oct 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I'll offer a contrarian opinion. I believe working on the web is still a good deal for many if not most people. The average, experienced front end developer in my town makes around $75,000 per year which isn't bad considering the median home price is a little over $210,000. I agree that most requirements listed in job ads are comically unrealistic. However when a company truly needs workers those requirements go right out the door. I remember working at a startup that filled 40 developer positions in about 60 days. Guess what happened to those unrealistic requirements? Right in the dumpster. Salaries went above their cap as well.
7:51 pm on Oct 15, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Hi CPhttps and welcome to WebmasterWorld [webmasterworld.com]
5:40 am on Oct 16, 2017 (gmt 0)

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First, this is a difficult topic. Why? difficult to say it without sounding bad, but is not a complain, this is meant to make a point: consider the gazillion frameworks today, yet WebMasterWorld only has a branch for Javascript. No React, Preact, Node or Angular is discussed there. Talking about PHP? Laravel, Symfony, Cake, Yii, Phalcon or similar are not even mentioned. Other webmaster forums? filled with MonkeyRar, ChocolateBAHBAH, WhateverPHP, LalaScript, etc. So we are talking about different ecosystems. I know many webmasters here do things with their own tools, self built libraries or pure code.

And I haven't seen brick and mortar sites on other forums but this one. I learned this way and it provided results, I'm sticking with this.

@piatkok, I agree the same could be said about mainframes, but this is different. In the past new languages appeared, today? new frameworks working on the same language (let's say PHP, there comes the new wave of frameworks, same with Javascript). Also, many old languages are still alive and kicking, no frameworks. Ok Frameworks are ok, but the amount of changes in terms of one year are huge you have to stay married to it, and companies often ask for several... (and that doesn't mean all of them are used). That's complex, but I agree, it's better to move on to another area.

@Glitterball: right in the nail, every single word, every single pharagraph. Well said, very complete post. I could add: in the past people built websites because it was not only a tool, it was part of their business. Today people want to build sites because they have great expectations, like "results right away" failing to realize traffic is difficult to build, more than ever, and just like you said it doesn't convert as in the past. Besides, in the past people paid for an AD on TV and that's it. Today they still do, pay for an AD and that's it. The company is not held responsible if they sell 20, 5 or 3 units, but the expectations towards websites did change. Today people build a website and expect sales. They might not argue with the TV company for the failed ad campaign but they will do argue with you about the results. Such expectations seem to me... absurd.

@CPhttps: I don't know. In my region I've seen the ads, rarely see the end of the story (what happened) and worse... I rarely see a final product. Specially when it comes to mobile apps, it's just like kickstarter: new and new projects but never see the final product (none in fact). This is also happening on big companies locally (at country level, the whole country). So much noise and the final product (if any) has been an app to browse a PDF file... sure what a bomb right? I made an experiment locally and sure there were lots of guys saying "piece of cake" regarding some apps for mobile, then asked who actually made an app... total silence. It's easy to talk about whatever framework or technology, but difficult to talk about final products.

I'm seeing a few old soulds around (from my generation), actually people I knew around the time. They started their own thing and built sites that work. So much for the companies who didn't hire them. This reminds me of a post around here (other thread) that big companies move slowly, while one man band can move faster in terms of building websites that work.
3:15 pm on Oct 16, 2017 (gmt 0)

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This was a great post with a lot of worthwhile insights on the frustration of this biz today. But, no clear what to do. And that's because that the way it is. We could easily adapt what was said here to all of the creative arts.

Around 2000, The New York Times paid $13 million for a platform that you could build today for about $500 using a PHP template. (It was called Abuzz.) It died, but ten years later something similar came along called Facebook.

There is a lot of luck involved in all business. Why is this singer famous but this one not? Or this restaurant growing, but this one not? Everyone point to this reason and that reason, and they sound valid. But there is a lot of luck involved as well.

It should be said, deploying a website has evolved into a creative art. It takes a high level of skill and that other undefinable called talent. This is true of all aspects of it, including the technical. And there is all kinds of skill levels and all kinds of (and levels) of talent.

So, we read in this post about mediocrity taking over. In music, photography, acting, and writing, it's called being a hack. The music is not even on the same planet at Beethoven. The writing is not Shakespeare. Even if you were the Shakespeare of coding or web design, would it matter? Ohh, that hurts to say.

Yet, you making your way in the world with your thinking. You are part of what is exciting in 21st Century. And, tomorrow is another day and you might not have even come close to your real potential. Shakespeare was once just someone with some ideas.

People think being a "creative type" is fun. It can be, but it can be a very frustrating.
3:51 pm on Oct 16, 2017 (gmt 0)

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In many ways all businesses become difficult, more competitors, less sales, less income, practicality or mass production makes things cheaper or technology makes everything easy to copy, replicate, etc. Yet being a webmaster has it's own challenges. The Advertising ecosystem is struggling to reach users and keep profits, many websites business model depended on advertising (Adsense or any other), we have seen the decline, still no recovery.

In comparison, in other businesses you create a final product, period. In this area is different, a website is a non stop product, always demanding content, interaction, and even redesigns from time to time. Clients could have an opinion on materials (for their product) but in websites more and more clients insist on having a say on technology: develop the site on Cake, on Wordpress, on Laravel, use Angular, React, and the new magic words "Rest, Soap" I mean webservices. What? is as "ping" (Wordpress) in the past. Part of client insisting on this is due to magic words supossing to bring your website to life sin some way, magical thinking, don't even know what's that about or if the site needs it. But there is another issue on clients asking for specific technologies... And that's because in advance, the work is being planned for self management (client says they will create and upload content) or is being planned as a work that will be handed to another webmaster. Doesn't sound bad, in fact this has happened in the past but the way is happening is different: they want you to develop on something easier for others to pick on were you end.

At what point is this planned to benefit the client, or the next developer?


Back to the comparison of industries or products: a chair is a chair. You make it, you deliver it, people sit on it. Website? unrealistic expectations can make it easier to clients complaining about the results, to some it's the code, to some it's the CMS, to some it's you, anyway if the website doesn't perform as they expected in the short term, then you made a bad product. Usually the next developer can twist things around to win the client saying the product is bad, it has to be created again. I've found more and more clients willing to create a website but having less and less budget for it, why? they come from a long road of liars, the first one getting the most, the best, leaving a tired client. Today more than ever instructing and explaining to the client is more and more part of the business, something they can do nothing but listen and trust you. The benefit is having your own websites, why? because you can prove what you say works (let's remember: only if you are in charge of the content), otherwise, most developers today have a list of websites that doesn't work, zero traffic (you are the exception).

@weeks makes a very solid and valid point on the case of the New York Times. On the big media company I worked... they bought a very expensive suite of software for collaborative work, only like 30% of it was used, only to change it 3 years later with something even more expensive. The results for the main website? slower, painfully slow lossing traffic, a pain to make it mobile. But there is another issue involved there and I witnessed it: gifts for people if they buy that software. Many things they ended producing with that software was possible with free CMS, no kidding, they would have saved tons of money.

The web changes really fast, and clients are not usually willing to wait for a site to build rank, build content and position on search engines. That... takes time, you know it, we know it. Many clients want instant results for cheap. Many things are possible yes but not instantly, it takes time to build after the site is finished. I've been there, where clients come back and tell you "you were right", but usually they already spent the budget and don't have what it takes to start all over again. I still love creating websites, been doing so mostly on my own projects (less and less with clients, is too time consuming, dealing with silly expectations and short time frames, silly deadlines, or usually "I want this (copy) but with that (some other copy)" I'm not into that, clients wanting to clone other people projects. The thing is, over time I've been doing other stuff (non-web) and been surprising myself on the ROI in X time being better, specially more healthy. I'm walking forward now to final products, stuff you create and deliver, end of story, no updates, no tweaks, constant work. Interesting enough, in this area of internet, hosting looks better than developing in many ways to me.
6:16 pm on Oct 16, 2017 (gmt 0)

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explorador, I'd be wary of any job where you are building chairs or any other physical product. China will undercut you, your chair will go out of style, someone will fall off the chair and sue you... What you describe as a problem is actually a positive if you're in the biz. (Not a bug, a feature.)

And, ya know, if you're selling chairs, you're going to need a kick-tail website.

I'm not into that, clients wanting to clone other people projects.
Then show them something better.
8:00 pm on Oct 16, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@weeks, the chair was just an example, but I see potential on being useful information, like expanding the topic.

I happen to work on wood, in the past it was mostly due to needing some stuff built, then became a hobby and also a therapeutic activity (makes my mind kinda blank and relaxes me). Some people started buying stuff I built, I was very surprised about this, like "I like this, please make one for me". While struggling with some clients found myself using more time than planned on wood, felt good. Over time it proved more easy on my head, I don't mind coding, in fact I enjoy it but on the long run has been more comfortable than coding for clients. I don't work on wood full time, but there were chapters when it proved to be a good source of income, more relaxing, less problems, and keeping me in shape (I often avoid electric tools on purpose).

The previous might sound off topic, well it worked for me on showing me what people I know were talking about: physical products, the benefit of building and delivering, the end. People can come with unrealistic expectations on wood but this would be very expensive (difficult to the mind to deny), and if you don't do it, IF the expectations are unrealistic, it is very unlikely that other service provider would build it (because it's impossible), the results will confirm the truth in short time. This doesn't always happen to digital products... clients can come with unrealistic expectations and find other people who sell garbage, then concluding something went wrong with you or the other provider... not the idea. That's something I slowly discover by accident.

On the other hand I read by accident some articles on the stress of working with digital products. Our mind needs to see, touch, to feel what you produced is real and exist. Most challenges in the digital world happen only inside your head (and server). It was explained how many are facing problems in the long term due to this. I had friends working on graphic design explaining this to me (n all their products turn into paper products now), and now I understand the difference on delivering a physical product, I knew it but somehow forgot. The previous by no means is to say I disagree with your post, I do agree, but there are things that can hit someone in the long run (not everybody).

As for showing them something better... is tricky to me to explain. I've had clients saying "yes! that's what I want!" while looking at some of my websites. Then say "and I want it in pink, I have no pictures and I will write my own content", well it's difficult to educate a client. Sometimes it's about saying "this can only be done if you agree on following the cooking recipes.
1:55 pm on Oct 17, 2017 (gmt 0)

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As for showing them something better... is tricky to me to explain. I've had clients saying "yes! that's what I want!" while looking at some of my websites. Then say "and I want it in pink, I have no pictures and I will write my own content", well it's difficult to educate a client. Sometimes it's about saying "this can only be done if you agree on following the cooking recipes.


This is what, for many, being a webmaster has become. It's not the technical side. It's that people–clients, users, vendors–cannot explain what they want, what they need. The last five years it has gotten worse. Everyone is so confident that they are being perfectly clear. And, when you invent something wonderful out of thin air, they believe they did it. This happens time and again.

And, for the record, while it's getting worse (as far as I'm concerned) it's nothing new. I worked in print before the web and it was that way.
7:08 pm on Oct 17, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@weeks, the clients in that matter are part of the problem, a challenge perhaps. But this goes beyond the client. I recently found an interesting article of all the technologies for mobile that died in one year. There are tons reviewing the next big thing, but very few counting the casualties. The coders suffered a lot there. I experienced the same with Mosync and Intel XDK. I took a lot of time researching before choosing Intel XDK to avoid experiencing the same bad situation, turns out it died too with lots of coders alone now, and in case anyone is wondering, it's not just about jumping from one phonegap to another, in fact many things in phonegap don't work even as there is documentation about it saying it does (a big part of the problem is Android fragmentation, something you don't see on iOS).

As for print, I worked in that area too, design, print, pre press and color management. I understand the comparison but it's quite easy to cope with the many software solutions on print, specially when many things end up in compatible formats like PDF or postscript. It's not the same to learn and keep up to date in Illustrator, CS, Corel, even old stuff as Freehand etc, but being familiar, knowledgeable and developer-level at Angular, Vue, React, Preact, etc... is not the same, I don't see the similarity. and that's just JS, then there is Node, server side, PHP and all the frameworks, etc.


Working alone in this field seems easier, as you can choose your technology, many things are possible this way, or at least less hassle. But when it comes to clients and companies wanting a say on what technology to use... it's difficult.
7:41 pm on Oct 17, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The web is what it is. What has changed (for some) is the need to be relevant. One way to do that is to create a new mumbo jumbo and call it web elixir and then, like old medicine shows, hawk it about to find the suckers, er, those desperately seeking a leg up no matter how absurd.

if you work on the web for yourself, you are a webmaster. If you work for someone else, you are an employee. If you hire others to do the work you are an employer. Each is different.

If webmaster: you code it like you need it.
If employee: code it way instructed.
If employer: do the instructing.

All are valid methods of making a living. All have good sides and bad.

As for frameworks, et al: see first paragraph. One of the facts of life we all have to deal with.

Me, I keep it simple. Perl still does all my real work, js is rarely to never used, frameworks don't provide anything I can't already do. HTML5, on the other hand, and refined CSS has made a great difference in presentation.

Is it more difficult to be a webmaster, or is it more difficult to get through the noise of "webmastering"?
9:44 pm on Oct 17, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Is it more difficult to be a webmaster, or is it more difficult to get through the noise of "webmastering"?

A bit of both.
It is more difficult in that it has become more complex. Of course we are also able to build a much better/interesting product across a wider variety of devices in return.

The cacophony seems to double each year, which makes picking signal from noise more difficult especially for those new to the business.
9:53 pm on Oct 17, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I've said this before, and it is not an idea that is favored by "webmasters" in general, but I am seeing more and more evidence that most, if not all, websites are heading towards being irrelevant on the ever changing web.

Search referrals are down significantly from a few years ago, mobile apps & social media dominate the time spent online and users no longer need to visit a website when they can get most all the info they search for right on the SERP.

It has become imperative for today's webmaster to be innovative to stay relevant.
10:50 pm on Oct 17, 2017 (gmt 0)

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First off, this comment
companies want to hear you talk Angular, React, Ruby, Sass, Django, Kendo, Laravel, Symfony, Yii, etc.


Reminds me of this hilarious post from Jatar_K back in 2004!
[webmasterworld.com...]

WP is not bad but lost the crown on being an universal magic solution


I'm not sure that's how I would see it. In fact, the percentage of websites that run on WP is increasing and, perhaps more importantly, there are more enterprise-level sites running on it than before. I think something else has changed.

1. At the lowest end, Wordpress.com siphoned off the person who would have paid someone else to do a basic install.

2. At the next level, the one-click installs and premium themes have siphoned off people who might have hired a designer. I've seen some pretty substantial businesses running on virtually unmodified premium themes.

3. At the next level, you have people are still going to hire people, but they're going to the lowest bidder

4+ Then you have people with budget, and they're not at the bottom levels because they *think* they need something more than what those levels can offer. Many of them could be on Wordpress, but it just doesn't feel "enterprise" enough for them. I've seen this in my own company where very expensive Sitecore builds (10x the cost of WP site) became the norm because Sitecore marketing was so good at FUD regarding "enterprise" vs other solutions.

I've found new hirings are rarely being made by people in the field (coders)


Similarly, I've found, also, that the "level 4+" decision makers are commonly marketers with little to no technical background.

PHP + some-weird-framework?


That said, I've found the limitations of Wordpress frustrating in many cases. So you bump up to Drupal, which especially lately is unpredictable and unstable in my opinion. I've had Drupal jobs where I have a time estimate based on a module doing what it says it does, only to flip it on and find a glaring bug and I've spent as much as 20 hours debugging something, contributing a patch and seeing it through the commit phase so I could use the module.

That sometimes has me thinking that I should just be using "PHP + some-weird-framework" and not try to create something that does everything (which is what leads to the Drupal issues).

WebMasterWorld only has a branch for Javascript. No React, Preact, Node or Angular is discussed there. Talking about PHP? Laravel, Symfony, Cake, Yii, Phalcon or similar are not even mentioned. Other webmaster forums? filled with MonkeyRar, ChocolateBAHBAH, WhateverPHP, LalaScript, etc. So we are talking about different ecosystems.


And that is key. A lot has changed, and that is less true on WebmasterWorld. Perhaps we need some young blood. I'd guess the average age and the average time spent building websites are both much higher here than on the other forums you're talking about.

It is not just that it has become hard to keep up on the various web technologies and be a generalist. It's impossible. A friend who spent several years away from being a dev wanted to get back into it, and decided to go all in on React Native (and it has worked out well for him).

Back to Drupal 8, I think it's becoming almost impossible for a single person to master the skills needed to build and run anything but the most basic site. There is so much to know:

- First there's Drupal 8, built on Symfony and Twig. So there's PHP + MySQL or other + Symfony + Twig + Drupal API + all the ins and outs of running Drupal, unit testing (no patch or module can be committed on Drupal.org without full test coverage).

- Then there's all the front-end stuff. Responsive design, modern CSS, SASS/LESS, Javascript and JQuery, web typography and and and

- Then there's the fact that more and more Drupal sites are "headless," meaning that Drupal manages the content, but doesn't serve it up. That's done with React or Angular or whatever that ties into Drupal web services.

- Then there's all the dev tools stuff. Before just git was enough. Now, Composer is a must and probably something like bower or grunt or gulp

- Then there's the devops stuff - Docker, Jenkins, continuous integration, yadda yadda.

- Finally, if it's a high-traffic site, you're going to need some server admin mojo - reverse proxy, server tuning and all that.

Ten years ago, anyone with a bit of PHP knowledge could get in, hack around, launch a Drupal site in a day. Another couple days to crank out a theme, and done!

Now, it really takes either a team, or you hire out more and more services. Some of it justified (test coverage is good; Docker is or the equivalent is good), but it gets to be a lot to know.

That's just Drupal, which is a bit of an extreme case as the Drupal core team made the decision to leave small websites Wordpress and focus on the enterprise market. Still, I think it's indicative of what's happening in general.

When several of us started, there was no book on CSS. When the first O'Reilly book on CSS came out, it was comprehensive at a few hundred pages. Recently, O'Reilly published an entire book on CSS Grid, the six or so rules that make up the new CSS Grid standard (still only at about 40% browser support, but coming to a browser near you).
5:46 am on Oct 18, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Tangor: Is it more difficult to be a webmaster, or is it more difficult to get through the noise of "webmastering"?

Well I do believe the topic is difficult. Yes I would answer "a bit of both", and yes Perl is also my weapon of choice, so many benefits. But there is more in this cloud of dust (the topic). Yes one can get away on your own (very easier than working on a company), that's a benefit of isolation, but that isolation has limits on itself. Years ago every website was an island, literally. Today the web pushes webmaster and websites on connecting to other websites and services. XML solved some, Json some, then Webservices appeared. I mean more and more people want to log in using Facebook instead of creating an account on your website, making their user&pass list grow more and more. Then we might face the challenge of connecting stuff, putting stuff on our website in that context. Then we face the nightmare of having that thing broken because the SDK was modified, something is now deprecated so you must update your code (why fixing what it's not broken? but hey, oops! it's not broken), then facing those "just update your SDK" only to find it's about 5mb, or 15MB... depending what you are doing. We can stay as an island, but that's has it's own limits. I've seen many things still offering Perl stuff to work with their SDK, but some don't. I hate it but it's ok.

Keplyr: It has become imperative for today's webmaster to be innovative to stay relevant.
Absolutely agree. I've seen cases (and I'm one of them) were some tools were built for specific work, and that's ok. The portal and websites work amazingly web, then bringing AMP would be easier, ok, same with other stuff. Problem? those webmasters are working on hebrew or latin, considered dead stuff (it's not, it's just something different), so your experience might not be interesting to a company hiring you. I mean, some very good CMS and portals have been built for specific purposes and do great, but that doesn't exactly help to get into some company.
5:57 am on Oct 18, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@ergophone: awesome post, very complete, exactly what I mean. Drupal is a very good example of how complex things have gone (and it was my tool of choice when it comes to not using what I've coded), but yes it requires too much work (yes it's doable) but at the moment you are up to date something is changed (sounds natural but it goes beyond what it sounds like). This is exactly what I was refering to about not seeing graphics/print areas as complex as being a webmaster. Sure we can become experts in Drupal and that will last for some time, but then a new hiring could be about the same level of expertise... in Angular. Sure we can do the same on Angular (becoming experts) but it takes more time, sure will make it difficult to also become an expert on some other stuff too. It becomes a risky bet, we can only bet on so many horses right?

About the Wordpress being a magical solution and not anymore, I was refering to a situation in my region, where everyone thought Wordpress had some magic stuff going on in the background with Google or Yahoo making your site an instant success with 200 visitors per day in just one week of existance. Yes, Wordpress is still relevant and growing, but I meant is not considered anymore in my area the magic sauce (it was an unreal perception), and today more and more people are aware it's not magical. That's what I meant.

A very nice example of this complexity and how increasingly difficult this kind of work has become, can be found on working with Xcode. Sure is good, but every update moves, replaces, renames and hides things to new levels making it difficult to just pick it up, not to say many old projects just won't work, hell, in some cases not old projects won't compile and build. I experienced this, it was a nightmare, but I enjoyed the posts and complains on forums. Yet I found a lot of people praising it, but most of them were new to it. So, in some ways it's easier to learn than re-learn.
5:58 am on Oct 18, 2017 (gmt 0)

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And that reference to the old thread, sure made me laugh, sometimes things can be solved that easy, yes, some people want magic, seeing an extension "jsp" and that makes them happy.
3:38 pm on Oct 18, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Just came across something interesting: Ember.JS, a new magic framework for web apps. Babel transpiler, unit testing powered by Testem & Qtest, build assets with Brocoli.js, templates with Handlebars, talks Json and all you need is Node + Ember-Cli to get started.
12:53 pm on Oct 19, 2017 (gmt 0)

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For me webmastering is all about playing to my strengths, what I can do well I do, and what I can't I pay others to do for me.
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