I’ve been thinking a lot about the job title of “web developer” lately.
When I landed my first job as a real web developer in 1998 I was really excited. I had become pretty adept at slinging around html to make awesomely static pages using tables. I was proud to boast to my friends that I was a web developer!
After about 3 days I was introduced to connecting a website to a database using Perl. Then using Apache variables and PHP and, well you get the idea. The learning was fast and furious. After 6 months my head was spinning. I took a job as some sort of webmaster/developer/sysadmin hybrid at a tiny startup in Gloucester Massachusetts where I was FTE #2.
Lets fast-forward a decade.
Web development is a narrowing niche. If all you can do is make traditional websites you may be in the same boat as a company that defined itself as a “newspaper company” instead of a “company that disseminates the news”. You may need to re-imagine yourself and your career.
What if you started thinking of yourself as a person that helped people achieve their digital desires? Is that different? What if their desire was a tweaked out mobile site – could you help? What about an Android app? How about automating some horrific manual process that they aren’t even aware can be automated?
Stop being a web developer and try thinking like a digital problem solver.
That doesn’t mean you need to stop being a kick-ass web designer, there’s a lot of problems that a better website can help solve. But what if you hand off the most awesome website ever created and nobody can find it – can you help? If you can’t help, do you know someone who can? What if the new site is so awesome the orders pour in too fast – can you help?
When was the last time you saw something that made you think, “That’s silly that their doing it that way, why don’t they just do X?” I see stuff like that all the time. When that happens you can either become an indispensable part of the solution or walk on by. Which do you usually choose?