During my career as a web developer, I’ve noticed that a lot of the job is coding. But a lot of it isn’t either.
As much as I would love to sit at my computer building out features from fully thought out ideas, beautifully designed for every situation then sent to the test team to be tested against every use case. This is rarely the case.
Instead, web developers often need to take on the responsibility to do a bit of everything. This is because there is so much overlap with what we do. And being the production arm of a company, we have a lot responsibility to make sure what we build is great.
There is also a career benefit to being more than just a web developer. Stepping up and taking on these challenges will make you a more valuable employee and will greatly help you move up the career ladder into more senior roles.
So what else do web developers need to do if not just building websites. Here are some of the other hats you will need to wear during your career as a web developer.
You’re a business analyst
Business analysts take the requirements of the business and turn them into tangible requests for features to be built.
You will often get a request to build something but it won’t be clear exactly what or why you need to build this.
Building from unclear requirements is the worse thing you can do.
And when the requirements are unclear, it is up to you to find clarity. You need to find out why and from there you can figure out the best way forward. You need to find the right people and ask the right questions in order to be clear on what you need to build and why you need to build it.
You’re a tester
You need to make sure your code works. Simple as that. Even if you have an internal Quality Assurance team.
Sending them an untested product, expecting them to test the basics for you and file bug reports is a huge waste of time. It also makes you look like an amateur.
You don’t need to test every single use case under the sun but you need to at least get the basics down. It doesn’t have to be complicated, a few simple tests of the happy path and a few obvious edge cases can go a long way.
You’re a designer
If you work for a small organisation, then you will need to do some design eventually. Even if there is an in house designer, they are times when they are completely swamped and can’t take on any extra work. This is when you can step up and take matters into your own hands.
Some common design tasks that you will need to do:
- Turn desktop designs into a responsive design suitable for all screens
- Design full pages using components from a design system
- Build an interface for an internal tool
- Design pages from wireframes created in MS Word documents and Powerpoint slides. Yes, no joke, I’ve done this before 🙁
It pays to have a bit of design expertise when these situations come up. Just how like everyone thinks designers should code, I am a big believer in coders should design.
You’re a project manager
There are two levels of project management you will need to do depending on the size of your organisation.
The first level is for your own tasks. This is about prioritising your tasks, seeking out the right people and resources to help you succeed in your tasks and calling out risks to the project. This is something you’ll need to do wherever you work.
The second level will have you actually doing project management. You will be pulling together different people from different teams, gathering status updates and reporting the progress to senior leaders. This is something that happens on smaller organisations and especially if you have proven yourself to be the web expert in the organisation.
This is all an opportunity
I know all we want in our work as web developers is to live in our editors, code away and clear tickets.
But reality is different. Especially on small teams. There will be times where we don’t have all we need to build great things. We need to talk to people and to take on the work that others won’t (or can’t). We do this because we want to make sure what we build is the best that it can be.
It doesn’t mean you will need to do the full work of five individual specialised roles. It just means that sometimes you will need to do a bit extra and become more than just a web developer.
But this is an opportunity to step up. If you are willing to dig deeper than just the code and focus on the overall picture, you will becomes leaps and bounds more valuable than web developers that only focus on code.