Learning web development can expand your horizons in much more ways than you might expect.
Yes, it’s true, you might now be able to build beautiful websites, and it’s true you’ll be joining an industry always thirsty for new talent. And while yes, it’s also true there will be over one million unfilled IT positions in America in the next two years, with demand for front-end engineers coming within the top ten jobs, learning web development can provide so much more than just a well-paying and rewarding career.
Here are seven things you’ll pick up on the journey of learning web development, even if you don’t choose to become a full-time developer.
1. Improved Communication with Developers
With the growth of technology rapidly outpacing any other industry, having to communicate and understand other developers becomes inevitable.
Without digital literacy and a comprehension of what coding is and how programming languages work, it’s challenging and inefficient to try to work with or manage technical staff. Developer team workflows often vary significantly to another team’s, so it’s often hard to set the right expectations, leading to a gulf of miscommunication. Understanding developers better lead to better outcomes, making it a critical skill.
2. Understanding and Adapting to the Digital World Better
There are not many jobs out there digital technology has not touched. Industries such as digital marketing, graphics design, and even traditional agencies such as accounting, law and finance, are rapidly facing digitisation, automation and disruption. In fact, disruption is moving so fast it’s predicted the average lifespan of an S&P500 company will halve, to just 14 years by 2026, compared to the 33 years in 1965.
Just as we don’t learn mathematics in primary school to become mathematicians, digital literacy has become just as important. Technology has permeated so deeply into every workspace, understanding the mechanic of how everything around us works helps us work more efficiently.
3. Talent Evaluation
For any startup or company that leverages technology (a.k.a. almost all of them), hiring the right team is mission critical. Your staff are one of the driving factors of success, and if you don’t understand what differentiates good and mediocre technical talent, you’re positioning your company for costly errors.
Hiring for technical roles within companies traditionally has often just been up to the HR department, who, midway through an interview, will drag in a disinterested, most likely overworked IT staff member, who will ask some basic questions to assess a candidate’s competency. It hasn’t been a model that’s always worked. HR departments often use outdated vetting processes, such as relying on qualifications, and a few technical questions are not enough to fully understand someone’s capabilities. While several startups, such as Hired, are trying to change the hiring paradigm, it’s this broken process that has partly been responsible for so many jobs being unfilled.
If you understand code, you’ll have a better understanding of what to look for in a talented developer or chief technology officer, a web developer or a jack-of-all-trades. Hiring right is often a make-it-or-break-it factor.
4. Project Management
If you are managing the development of a tech product, like a website or a mobile app, you need to be able to understand the required resources to set out a realistic development timeline.
Through a solid understanding of HTML, CSS and the development workflow you are better equipped to make decisions about what to include in the scope and what impact each element might have on the timeframe and complexity. When you understand coding, you can better relate to and empathise with your development team, and this fosters mutual respect and higher morale.
5. Build critical thinking and attention to detail
Strong critical thinking skills facilitate good decision making, and there’s nothing like building critical thinking skills by learning how to code.
In coding, there is always more than one way to do things, and you need to evaluate each solution on a number of factors (such as build time, scalability, maintainability and stability).
Aside from the macro level problem-solving, you also need to develop attention to detail on a micro level. In an environment where a misplaced full stop can break a website, you’ll need to develop the patience and attention to detail to carry out repeated processes without missing a thing.
6. Take control of your online presence
Even if you continue to outsource development, or have a dedicated team of developers, there are often when you need a minor change immediately. Understanding how to code means that you aren’t reliant on anyone else when you need to make small changes to your site. It also means that you can communicate clear instructions to ensure things are done correctly.
You wouldn’t believe how much of a difference it makes to say to your developer ‘Can you adjust the grid layout for mobile devices to a narrower breakpoint and decrease all padding in a 676px media query?’ as opposed to ‘it doesn’t look good on mobile everything is all squished, can you fix it?’. When you speak the same language, you can provide actionable instructions with reliable results.
7. Quickly Build Digital Products
In the age of lean startups, understanding how to create a simple landing page for a business idea goes a long, long way towards creating a live prototype for a scalable product.
Many successful startups began life as a simple landing page detailing what the product could potentially achieve; just look at the likes of Buffer. A landing page could serve as your company’s first iteration.
Having the ability to build digital products, websites, email campaigns, and manage 3rd party CMS, webhooks, tracking pixels and more open up a world of possibilities.
It doesn’t just stop at opening up possibilities either; by building things yourself, you’ll be able to iterate faster, which means more learnings and a better shot at success.
These are seven skills you’ll pick up along the way while learning web development. Learning front-end engineering goes much further beyond just learning code. It opens up opportunities for you and your company, giving you more control, independence and ability to move with speed, even if you don’t become a developer.
Written by: Josh Li
Digital Marketer at Institute of Code