The web developer’s career – how it has evolved

By Robert Half on 22 March 2016

Anyone who has been in the workforce for more than ten years, even 20 years, will appreciate the immense changes that have occurred on the internet over the last decade.

The ‘web’ has gone from being the mainstay of technical and scientific data to a global hub for anyone seeking information on pretty much any, and every, topic.

During this time the role of web developers has changed enormously too. The original “webmaster” has become today’s “web developer,” and as a consequence the web developer’s career options have changed radically too.

Across Asia, and indeed the world, demand for web developers remains strong. With this in mind, let’s take a look at how the role of web developer came about, and what it takes to enjoy career success.

Remember static HTML?

In the early 1990s the language of the web - Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) didn’t have the interactive capabilities we see today. HTML and Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) specifications allowed users to extract files from a server and review them via a text interface - but not much more.

There was no “web developer career” as such in those days – just a relatively limited number of people who reformatted text using HTML, and posted it online in the hope others would find it.

Webmasters and ‘The Early Web’

The introduction of the Common Gateway Interface (CGI) system was pivotal as it allowed websites to interact with users. As the internet gained traction, CGI was really the sole programming model available that allowed programmers to truly develop the worldwide web.

At this stage, web developers were more typically referred to as “webmasters”, and they were often responsible for a number of tasks including writing code, website design, maintaining servers and marketing websites - an early attempt at search engine optimisation (SEO).

The CGI model was essentially the POSIX shell script model (used by UNIX and Linux). Development was slow and debugging was tedious as the languages and systems of CGI were never intended for use in web development. Moreover, those early webmasters had very limited reference sources to turn to for help in their work.

The arrival of the game changers

In the mid-1990s, the arrival of languages like PHP, ASP, Java and MySQL changed the game, quickly displacing the CGI model.

The open source MySQL database made it possible for low cost web hosts to offer a database backend, and the emergence of web development tools like those featured in Eclipse and Visual Studio, made it easier to work with large and complex codebases.

These initiatives meant even small organisations could afford a relatively sophisticated website. This in turn underpinned the growth of web development projects - and the web developer was born.

In fact, a vast range of functions developed into quite distinct and specialised IT careers – web designers, system administrators and experts who focused solely on SEO. As part of this branching out, becoming a web developer focused primarily around writing code.

The current phase of web development

Since the start of the 2000s, functionality has evolved to deliver new applications faster, allowing web developers to create quality applications and respond quickly to changing demand and market appetites.

For IT professionals currently pursuing a career in web development, a wide range of management techniques and tools are available that have removed the struggle, the guesswork and the time factor – with new applications able to be delivered in record time.

Making the Most of (And From) Your Web Developer Career

As the global community becomes increasingly connected via the web, the skills of web developers are highly sought after by many different types of organisations. If you’re considering a career as a web developer, it helps to have a university degree in computer science or a related field. As part of a broader group of IT professionals, you must be able to work within a team, and critically, the ability to communicate technical ideas to people who don’t have a technical background will enhance your market value.

In terms of technical skills, web development calls for a strong understanding of web technologies and tools such as AJAX, ColdFusion, JavaScript, COAP and HTML/DHTML.

To discover more about what a web developer career entails – and how you can gain a foothold in this ‘in demand’ field, speak with a Robert Half Technology recruitment specialist today.

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