How to become a great web developer

With the massive expansion of the internet which has taken place over the last twenty years, there are a huge number of people seeking employment within the IT industry, and one of the most popular areas for people entering this trade is web development. There are now a huge number of universities around the world offering degrees and other types of courses and certifications in this field, and with the internet operating within a global marketplace, countries such as India are producing massive numbers of IT graduates each and every year, all of which are competing for the same jobs.

How can I stand out from the crowd?

Whilst purely having an IT based degree was enough to gain employment within a large company such as IBM or Microsoft some years ago, today’s employers are seeking individuals who have gone the extra mile and developed their skills beyond the standard curriculum. These are the types of people employers are now looking for, but this going the extra mile can take many forms as we shall see below.

The developer mindset

The first and foremost skill you need to be a great web developer is a logical mindset. Computers work using on or off (true or false, 1 or 0). You too must think this way, there are many many ways in which a piece of software can fulfill a requirements analysis, but what varies between them is the quality of the implementation. Using twenty lines of code where the same task could be accomplished in half of that is one good example. Have you properly understood what you program is aiming to achieve, or have you negatively affected the programs performance by not properly analyzing the system and inadvertently created extra work for the CPU? You should be looking to always use efficient algorithms and data constructs in your code.

There is the basic level of developer who may be able to create the functionality required, but his work is bloated and slow, where as a senior level developer is going to be considering how efficiently the code does it’s job. Could that loop iterate just three times instead of going through all of the records in the database? Math is always going to help you create efficient code. Perhaps you could be passing pointers instead of the actual objects themselves, how much memory could you save by doing so? If your task is one of creating a secure login system for a website, perhaps you could suggest that you could also pass some extra values back which might be handy for the website to use or display.

These are all factors which differentiate an average developer from a great one.

Don’t re-invent the wheel

When starting out on your web development journey I’m sure you started with the basics, variables, functions and other types of code construct, but as you start to work on larger projects and work within development teams your work load will increase, and starting from scratch each time is an unwise decision. There are a multitude of different code libraries out there for all types of languages, created by skilled developers and ready to be used off the shelf. Don’t make the mistake of many entry level coders, use these libraries and become familiar with how they work and for what roles they are most suitable for.

Learn the tools used by professional developers and software houses

In today’s world, you may find yourself working with colleagues who may not even live in the same country as you, you cannot just lean over and ask them a question, nor can you always chat to them on the phone if they are in different time zones.

A great developer is used to using tools which assist in this scenario, one of which for example is version control software. There are a few different programs out there which perform this role, so get familiar with them and learn about how they can be advantageous to you and those you are working with. You can as an individual work on the same piece of code as other team members and when you have completed your work, check your code back in, which will then make your code available to your other colleagues, and they will be able to see the changes you made, when they were made, and should any problems be found, a roll back to a previous version is possible. Everyone makes mistakes, version control software is what can save you from disaster.

As to should you be familiar with the various implementations of unit testing frameworks. You at first may think your code will work fine, but due to the wide range of situations your program may be used in, your testing is what will help you create a good solid, fault tolerant piece of code.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are two main areas which you will have to keep on top of to become a great web developer.

One is the technical side, creating highly efficient code which is well tested and bloat free, the second is being a great communicator, being able to talk about advanced IT concepts to an audience which may not be aware of the difference between a string and an integer. They are often the managers of firms, whom may have requested a new company website, and whilst they may be happy with a site which looks nice, you will have to describe to them in terms they understand why such and such is not a good idea in a manner they understand. If you do not, they may say the website is fine using the old database (which is filled with duplicates), but when it goes wrong, and it costs the business money, it is you who will be receiving the blame. Should you of convinced your employer why it wasn’t a good idea in the first place, then you may still be working for that company now.

It’s fine to come to people with problems, but those who come with solutions to problems are those which progress within their chosen career path and become an invaluable part of the team, where as others either find themselves doing the same things they were ten years ago, or find themselves too far behind the times and don’t have the skills required to catch up.

Your future is in your hands.