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The Challenges Faced By A Modern Web Developer

October 19, 2016 - fifteen

Being a Web Developer is a bit like being a professional problem solver. Every single day we face very different challenges in our day-to-day tasks, and it’s our job to find ways to solve those problems. Whether we come up with very elegant solutions or just a simple quick fix depends on the size of the problem and the amount of time we have to fix it.

I’m going to outline some of the more consistent problems and challenges faced by our Web Development team on a weekly basis. Remember though that every day presents it’s own different set of challenges!

User Experience

Sometimes referred to as User Journey, a Web Developer has to keep the end user in mind constantly during the development cycle. This usually means making the end product (the website) as easy to use as possible, while also remaining powerful and doing everything the user may need. Sometimes there are compromises between usability and features, and usually that means we need to re-think how we’re approaching a problem.

Latest Web Standards

The web is constantly changing, and that’s a great thing. However it does mean that we as a Web Development team need to have our finger on the pulses to keep up with the latest in Web Standards, and often we need to be ahead of the curve and know exactly what is coming up. For example, I know that there’s a new specification for Web Payments currently in draft by the W3 Working Group – who make the Web Standards.

Knowing when to use Web Standards

We can’t just know about these brand new Web Standards, but we must also know when it is advantageous to use them. For example, there has been a new way to position blocks on a page that iss nicer to work with, Flexbox. But we have had to wait for all major browsers to support it before we can use it on any of our websites, otherwise people on older browsers such as Internet Explorer would be broken as that browser does not support this new technology yet. Here’s hoping though!

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer is by far one of the biggest challenges that we as Web Developers face. We extensively test every single website that we put online against every major browser. So that list includes:

  • Chrome
  • Firefox
  • Opera
  • Safari
  • iOS Safari
  • Android Browser
  • Internet Explorer

Even if the website works and looks perfect in every browser, Internet Explorer always introduces new quirks which need to be addressed. For example, the way we create rounded corners was not supported by Internet Explorer for the longest time, so we had to find creative ways to work around that, or live with the fact that we wouldn’t have rounded corners on IE.

Task Automation

We often perform little, repetitive tasks every day. This can range from deploying a new development environment to compiling our stylesheets. Luckily there are tools such as gulp, grunt and webpack which do a lot of the work for us. We simply have to write the task in a language gulp understands, and then gulp will automate that for us.

An example of a task that one of our developers, Chris, has recently written is something which will compile our CSS, minify it, compile our javascript, minify it, backup the database, bump the version numbers in the code and create a new ‘release’ in our version control system. Each step on that list doesn’t necessarily take that long, but this task makes it take less time, meaning we have more time to write new features or start new projects.

Performance

Performance, as with usability, is also something Web Developers have to constantly keep in mind throughout the development cycle. Every action we take during development has the potential to impact the performance of the finished site hugely. If, during development, we upload large images to test – that’s going to come back to bite us at a later stage. If we’re not correctly managing our assets (css, javascript, images) from the beginning, then it’s going to get harder and harder to optimise them as we move forward.

What we always want is a blazing fast site that looks amazing and performs exceptionally for the user. That’s the award winning trifecta of performance, usability and design that we strive for in every single project which comes through the studio, and that’s usually what we get if we manage to solve all of these problems.

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