Becoming a Web Developer

by | Nov 15, 2016 | Insights | 0 comments

The Wikipedia definition of a Web Developer is: “a programmer who specializes in, or is specifically engaged in, the development of World Wide Web applications, or distributed network applications that are run over HTTP from a web server to a web browser.”


I’m often asked how I got into the business I’m in today — e-commerce. Did I study it in college? Did I work for an e-commerce business before? Did I start out working for a Web Development Company before starting my own?

Truth is, I learned by doing. While I had built several e-commerce sites in the very early days of the Internet, it wasn’t until we built our own e-commerce business in 2005 that we truly learned the art and science behind successful online commerce. We dove in on all fours and treaded water until we found the perfect stroke to take us to the highest levels of our market niche.

Just the other day I met a man about my age (mid-50’s) who wanted to start a second career in web development. He said he was taking an HTML course at a local community college and asked me what the next step should be.

Simultaneously, we got the infographic on this page from Varooma. We’re not sure why a British car lending site would post about becoming a web developer, but we did think the graphic encapsulated a viable path for someone who wants to explore Life as a Web Developer.

Complex Industry

Ten years ago, I considered myself a web developer. I had skills in some web programming languages, HTML, CSS and MySQL. Armed with those (all self-taught, by the way), I built my own e-commerce platform system for our store, as well as the front and back end interfaces. I managed the dedicated servers it ran on.

But, today, the world of e-commerce is much more complex. And complexity forces specialization. UI/UX (user interface/user experience) designers have to devote all their energies to front-end technologies to accommodate responsiveness, mobile apps, etc. This means others have to cover the back-end programming, while a different set of specialists focus on the resulting metrics. Then, there’s the online advertising and social media components.

Therefore, it’s important for anyone diving into “web development” today to begin with a singular and sole focus based on what they find the more enjoyable to tackle.

If design is your forte, then UI technologies should be the first you learn. For those who enjoy tackling logic problems, database scripting or programming languages might suit you better.

Start Simple

The key to success, though, is knowing what your hoped outcome is to be. If you’re aiming at a new career in web programming, become a “master” of a particular technology or niche within this field. Learn it very well, and begin building solutions around that technology to showcase your capabilities.

Once you feel you have a handle on that technology, promote yourself on Upwork or similar sites. Price your services very competitively (i.e., cheap) in order to get some initial jobs which can show you can take a client’s problem and create a proper solution. Armed with this portfolio of work, begin raising your rate, as well as searching for permanent jobs.

Become a Platform Master

After we sold our e-commerce business in 2009, I wanted to identify an e-commerce platform that would serve the needs for a large number of our SMB clients. As much as I initially hated its complexity and bugginess back then, Magento remained the best for our purposes.

Therefore, I set out to become a “master” of Magento. When I discovered how little solid documentation was available, and how much was erroneous, I approached Packt Publishing about authoring a book on Magento. Mastering Magento has been one of Packt’s top sellers, and it established me as a “master” of Magento.

This year, I co-authored Mastering Magento 2 and Learning Magento 2 Administration. I’m often introduced as “the person who wrote the book on Magento.”

The point is that by concentrating my efforts to dive deeply into a specific platform, I have established a reputation as a leading Magento expert. That reputation has been a key to novusweb’s success.

Whether you decide on Magento, WordPress, NetSuite, SalesForce, or some other technology platform, by becoming an expert, you raise your prospects for employment and, ultimately, a sort of “brand recognition” for your work.

Bret Williams

Bret is the a co-founder and the Managing Partner of novusweb®. He is also author of several books on Magento and e-commerce and is sought as a speaker and trainer. Bret has been crafting internet innovations since 1995.


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