Worthy of your attention in 2008

Paul Boag

I want to look at 5 areas that need our attention if we want to ensure our careers stay on track in 2008.

As web designers we are all busy people. We are in such a fast moving sector that it can be hard to know what is worthy of our attention. Should we be focusing on Silverlight or brushing up on Javascript? Learning Rails or grappling with mobile devices? In this post I want to share my thoughts of where you should be focusing your energies in 2008.

I hate the raft of predication posts you see at the beginning of each year. I have intentionally tried to distance this one by leaving it a couple of weeks and by focusing on what we need to do rather than what might happen.

I want to look at 5 areas that need our attention if we want to ensure our careers stay on track in 2008. Of course, these are very generic choices and won’t apply to every web designer. If you specialise then this post is probably not for you. However, if you are a bit of an all rounder like me then it maybe relevant.

Focus 1: The rise of Javascript

Year on year we are seeing more and more creative things done at the cutting edge of web design using Javascript (and AJAX). However, despite that many of us still haven’t taken the time to become comfortable writing Javascript from scratch. Developers often consider it below them and designers find it too intimidating.

Until now we have largely been able to get away with it. We have copied and pasted when we need a certain bit of functionality and most of us haven’t had to build anything too complex that required Javascript. However, I believe that time is over. If you don’t know Javascript inside out in 2008 then I think it will really start to damage your career.

Having a good grasp of Javascript and indeed AJAX will be as much a requirement as knowing HTML and CSS. If you are a freelancer then you are going to struggle to fulfil client requirements and if you are in a full time job the next one is going to be hard to find without it.

Focus 2: The decline of web 2.0.

I don’t care what anybody else says we are in a bubble. I lived through the last one and this is another without a doubt. However, the problem with calling it a bubble is that it implies it will burst. I don’t necessarily think that will happen but I do believe it will slowly deflate like a soufflé over the coming year.

What does this mean to us as web designers? Well it could either mean very little or a hell of a lot depending on your circumstances. If you work for a web 2.0. company either directly or indirectly (your clients are web 2.0. companies) then I would be afraid. I can see many of these companies going under in the coming year and so you could well be without a job or loosing a lot of work.

If like the majority of us you aren’t working for a web 2.0. firm then the effect on you maybe minimal especially if you are working as an in-house designer/developer for an established company. However, if you work for an agency or are a freelancer you may see things becoming tougher.

At the moment there aren’t enough web designers out there for all the work that is about. Remove the majority of web 2.0. companies and suddenly you see a more competitive sector.

My advice, make sure you are working for a web established company or have a superb reputation to ensure you keep the work coming in when times get tough.

Focus 3: The necessity of frameworks

As times get tougher and competition gets more intense prices will start to drop. We wont be able to demand the rates we currently charge out at. Therefore efficiency will become king. We will need to work smarter if we are going to still make money.

Although I am not a great fan of frameworks I do think they will become important in this more competitive environment. Used right, frameworks allow for speed of production and keep costs down. Whether this means using “off the shelf frameworks” or developing them in-house I do not know. However, the key will be efficiency whether we are building applications, writing HTML/CSS or implementing Javascript.

Focus 4: The mobile web

But it is not all doom and gloom. As one door closes (those unrealistic web 2.0. businesses) another will open in the form of the mobile web. Whatever you think of the iphone and its lack of key features, it has stimulated the mobile market especially when it comes to the mobile web. We are seeing a growing number of competitive devices all of which have a strong mobile web component.

The mobile web offers a massive opportunity for a web designers career. With mainstream web design becoming increasingly competitive, the mobile web offers a new frontier where there are far fewer players. Being able to offer your clients mobile web services will start to prove beneficial as the year draws on and you may even find employers starting to ask for experience in this area when recruiting.

Take the time to learn the basics of designing for the mobile web this year. It will quickly pay off.

Focus 5: Widgets and the desktop

Finally, I believe 2008 should be the year that you look beyond building websites. For a while now the bigger players have been pushing their content out beyond the confines of their sites. Take ebay for example. You can view ebay products on other sites via widgets or even on your desktop through AIR applications. I don’t think it will be long now before mainstream website managers will want to do the same and it will be down to you to deliver.

Take the time to become familiar with some of the different widget and desktop standards out there. Admittedly there are a lot so if you are looking for one to start with I would recommend AIR from Adobe. I believe that being able to build AIR applications in 2008 will prove very beneficial.

So there you have it. Obviously this is not a comprehensive list and all of this is very subjective. However these will certainly be the areas I will be focusing on for 2008.