Worthy of your attention in 2008

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.

  • I cannot agree more with what you say in this post Paul. And since I dont have the time to tackle with all of those focuses, I think I’ll choose 1 and 4. Cheers Stergio

  • What book(s) would you recommend for a javascript illiterate to get started on it? Thanks!

  • Do you know of a list or a couple of places to look that outline specific applications of JavaScript? I know of some and have been trying to build my own list. I have seen it implemented in AJAX and know of a couple of simple behaviors. I am trying to broaden my thinking and have a better grasp on the benefits and application of JavaScript. I hope this all makes sense.

  • Paul, thx for sharing your thoughts on the coming year. The need to break from the confines of basic web design skills (html/css) and keep pace with the technologies the Web 2.0 bubble has created rings loud and clear in 08. I’d agree that the bubble will deflate, but in it’s wake it has left a whole new array of user expectations of what the web should and shouldn’t be. Keep up the good work!

  • Finally! someone has pointed out the Emporer in his birthday suit. I can agree with so much here.
    1. Web 2.0 cannot continue, despite being hyped by all within ‘groovy’ web design and the media. What is weird is that these guys are working there arses off to make castles in the sky, while there is still loads of, admittedly less groovy, work out there.
    2. We use a framework (Codeignighter) to produce simple to use accessible, web standard sites with simple and easy to use management systems, at sensible prices and guess what? we’re busy!
    3. Javascript is great, I’m a developer and I find it an inspiring language. Equally exciting is actionscript and Flex. Actionscript is very close to the ECMA Script and has all the bits that javascript misses (Classes, etc)
    4. Air is very exciting, works well with a number of web techniques, gives access to the file system and most importantly will install on visitors PCs quickly, easily and safely, and unlike Java won’t ask you to download an update every other day.
    5. Mobiles are the future, but not the iPhone, Apples greed has killed it, but it has opened the market to iPhone-a-likes, plus with the rise of WiFi, don’t forget the iPod Touch.
    Great peice Paul, happy new year to both you and Marcus, who help to keep me sane on my daily commute, cheers.

  • Thanks again Paul. I’ve been messing around with a some of this stuff wondering if I was trying to do too much – sounds like I should keep at it.
    I’m hoping someone can help me out with something – and I apologize ahead of time if I sound like an idiot. But, every time I hear the term “web 2.0,” I quietly cringe. I’ve always felt like it was a term invented by people who got tired of calling it the web – like the media. To me, the web is just a constant evolution of new techniques and technologies.
    But, it seems like you guys are talking about some pretty specific web 2.0 companies. What makes them web 2.0? Are they using AJAX? Or, is everything all reflective and plastic looking? And what are they doing or selling?
    If anyone has a couple links to Web 2.0 companies – and why they get that title, I would love to see them. Until now, I’ve just thought it was a made-up term.

  • I agree with most points but to the line “The decline of web 2.0” I would add “and the consolidation of other web2.0”.
    Don’t forget that web2.0 is bringing many good and successful services too.
    Nice article!

  • DOM Scripting. Nuff Said

  • DOM Scripting by Jeremy Keith that is. (I guess that should be “nuff”)

  • Paul very good write up. I for one hope that the discipline of Interface development is more understood by employers and clients.
    Its now becoming a specialism in its own right, an Interface developer should be able to pick the correct front end technology and do a damn good job with it. Key XHTML, CSS and JavaScript are all must haves as they are the cornerstone of what us developers do. It seems that employers are still looking for someone who covers everything from HTML to SQL, C++, python .NET etc etc.
    Hopefully 2008 will see the rise and importance of the interface as it goes even more interactive with the likes of AIR, Silverlight, Flex and Javascript and onto more mobile devices.
    Exciting times.

  • When you talk about widgets on the desktop its almost scary. Pretty soon there is not going to be a distinction between applications development and web applications development.
    Its all merging with the faster data rates and increasingly faster computers.
    Makes me ponder what the world will be like when I am 70.

  • Alex

    Very good list – thanks very much. Found my self agreeing with every one

  • I can’t remember if there has been a discussion about AIR in the podcast but you should definetely have one. Summon an AIR expert as a guest in to the show and go though some basics:
    – What is AIR?
    – Pros and cons of the different technologies that can be used to build AIR applications.
    – Accessibility in AIR applications.
    – Why should we use air? Few examples of the comon/typical applications of AIR.
    – What are the competing technologies of AIR if there are any?
    – What is the future for AIR?