Those who follow the delicious popular list probably noticed an article labeled The 10 most marketable web development skills, and if you are a web developer like myself you probably clicked on the link. It is an interesting article, but I expected something else — and it seems that a majority of the readers also expected something other than a list of programming languages / techniques.
Thus this article, in which I look at niches a web developer could have.
Web Developers, find a niche
If you are a web developer, find a niche where you can be an expert. How many web sites do you see where the company claims to make, usable, standards based websites?. Thousands of them, if you can become an expert in an area of web development you will find specialty projects and more demand.
1. Standards Expert
Lots of us know CSS, but if you are a master of CSS/XHTML like Eric Meyer you can open yourself up to writing books, publishing software, speaking opportunities, and large sites that depend on CSS excellence. This goes beyond simply understanding CSS and moving into shorthand, lean coding, pseudo selectors, etc
Usability gains more attention every day. With more people of all ages making the web a daily practice you can not put enough focus on ensuring a website is easy to use, navigate, and understand. I just recently talked to a gentleman who was a usability expert and focused on reducing all possible footprints on intranet applications to be displayed on mobile devices, and this super niche focus gave him 60 – 70 hours of work a week. Impressive.
Accessibility has a large amount of focus and attention, especially with the target lawsuit that most web developers have herd about. Despite a larger understanding of the importance of accessibility, few still choose to really learn and focus on accessibility. With this as a focus you open yourself up to all sorts of opportunities, including working with large web applications, governments (local/state/federal/etc), and other large corporations. Need a good example? My co-host of WebAxe podcast, Dennis Lembree has a great job as an accessibility expert for a financial application company.
This is most likely the obvious one, with a new CSS Gallery popping up every week people love a sexy design. If you are capable of producing knock out designs, you should be all means focus on marketing your design ability and improving your skills. Look at 31Three who simply provide design services for design challenged developers.
Want to push it a bit further? Work towards a micro-niche, become the designer known for vibrant designs, clean designs, simple designs, typography master, organizing large amounts of content visually…
6. Information Architecture
There is a local information architect Dan Klyn who is booked solid organizing all the information on extremely complex sites. We might all think that we known enough to do basic IA, but there are plenty of sites out there that need the library science of a true IA – and there are not that many IAs out there at this time.
7. Open Source Solutions
Open source software is extremely popular, and because of it there is a lot of demand for those who can customize and build off these systems. You don’t have to look too far to find people who need someone who can customize an OS Commerce installation, or even more so a WordPress site. The demand doesn’t stop there, plenty of people need a Drupul developer, ZenCart expert, Textpattern wizard, etc…
Analytics is a critical aspect of any successful web campaign, yet so many people ignore it. If you master Google Analytics, can track ROI, sales funnels, perform multi-variable testing, and maximize the effectiveness of a website you will never be with out a job. What company operating today doesn’t need more results from their website? None. Further you end up with the hard data of how you improved a clients ROI, that sells itself.
9. SEO Friendly Websites
There are countless studies that show the potential gains of being visible by search engines. There will be a time when search engines can determine the most relevant pages with out any assistance, but today there simply don’t have the capabilities. Creating a site that has optimized titles, keywords, descriptions, content, mark-up has high demand not only for the end client but for Design/Marketing/Advertising companies that want to provide clients with the best possible website.
There are plenty more, and I would love to hear more suggestions! In the mean time, think about what your expertise is and focus on it. Don’t be the 10,000’s web developer who creates “standards friendly website.”