The Excitement and Challenges of Modern Web Development

Software development today is evolving incredibly quickly with modern platforms, modern devices and the “Modern Web” creating more opportunity for creative design and more challenges than we ever imagined. In my role as a front-end developer who creates impeccable HTML5/CSS3 Web pages for agencies & start-ups, it’s the thrill of developing for the modern Web and the way the modern Web works across all kinds of devices and OSs that intrigues me most.

Stephanie (Sullivan) Rewis, owner of W3Conversions.

Modern Web development is a fascinating and extremely specialized field. Gone are the days of the webmaster who developed the client’s content, did the UX & UI, visual design, front-end development and tidied it all up in a sturdy database. The transformation our industry has gone through in the past 10 years is phenomenal. Since I specialize in front-end development, I talked to other developers (via Twitter) to discuss what we’re all dealing with in our current development. Here’s what they had to share:

The overall consensus is that the Web is incredibly exciting today. There are rapid changes happening in every aspect of Web development. From content strategy, user experience, accessibility, and front-end development to Web and mobile applications and back-end development – and all the micro-categories within each of those areas – our industry is exploding. We’re energized by new techniques that make our sites more performant; by the move toward less graphics, more real text and better usability and accessibility; by the ability to do more than ever before directly in the browser and to take advantage of how browsers are working more tightly with the OS and the device. As this evolution happens, no matter what part of this big Web you work in, you’ve got to keep up – or be left behind. Some days these new “fresh and interesting” abilities can quickly change to overwhelming and frustrating.

Challenges facing developers today include the very broad range of browser abilities. As HTML5 and CSS3 features are added to modern browsers, as javascript engines and rendering is refined, the differences become even more noticeable in legacy browsers. Some clients still demand exact support across the entire browser landscape. This is a big frustration for developers since it limits their ability to give the client a highly performant, accessible site with the best possible usability. We need to educate clients and prepare them for an experience that may differ based on what the browser can deliver – though all content should be available for all users.

One of the larger challenges for the savvy developer is making their way through the minefield of information in the mobile space. Interesting theories are abundant, but as Bryan Rieger, a developer from the UK puts it, “far too little real-world pragmatism” exists. He also feels many developers lack perspective on how our work impacts the world. I think he’s spot on. Frequently, developers look at mobile development through US or Western European glasses, building apps for one or two platforms. Sometimes this is due to their inability to test on more than one device. It’s financially impossible to own every device, yet rendering can vary enormously from one to another. The ultimate question we must answer is, “How do we help our clients distribute their content everywhere with such a fractured device market?”

Many are inclined to rigid thinking and multiple theories abound: “Use responsive design.” “Only test for feature support.” “Sniff for platforms or browsers and serve multiple versions of your content.” “Provide a separate site (or sites) and use WURFL to send the user to the proper site.” Determining the proper method of “going mobile” will likely have varying answers – maybe even a combination of answers – based on your client’s specific situation and needs. As the mobile landscape changes, the answers may change. This is an area where we need to question everything, research thoroughly and create new paradigms.

While there is much excitement about the various new JS frameworks and HTML5 and CSS3 capabilities, there’s an equal amount of frustration at how time consuming some of this new development can be. There’s a gaping hole in the market today for some solid tools to assist in building Web-based apps. Due to the fact that much of this newer code has to be “hand rolled”, clients are sometimes unprepared for, and frustrated with the amount of time (and thus money) it takes to build a fully functional application. It’s definitely not an instant process.

But regardless of the challenges we’re faced with, regardless of which portion of the Web we work on, there’s one point we all agree on: there’s never been a more exciting time to work on the information superhighway, and there have never been more ways to disseminate content to the world.

Stephanie (Sullivan) Rewis is a front-end developer and owner of


, who creates impeccable HTML5/CSS3 Web pages for agencies & start-ups. She enjoys teaching others to do the same through training, speaking & writing. She’s can legally captain a chartered catamaran and still loves 80’s new wave.

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