updated: December 4th, 2007 / Ross Johnson / 5 Comments

Market your Web Skills – a response

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

2. Javascript / The DOM

A strong knowledge of the DOM, Javascript, and yes AJAX can land you plenty of jobs as an interface designer, consultant, speaker, etc. There are a handful of really powerful DOM scripters that have become go-to people for any rich interface projects. Chris Heilmann and Dustin Diaz come to mind as quality examples.

3. Usability

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.

4. Accessibility

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.

5. Design

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…

8. Analytics

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.”

5 thoughts Market your Web Skills – a response

  1. Yea, the article you cited is more like an explanation or comparison of web development skills. Also, if anyone is interested in a career in usability, consider the HCI degree at the University of Michigan.

  2. Good points…
    I think for any common/ normal person you need to concentrate on at least two of these areas. and if you lack in some areas, its good to have contacts or partner with someone who is strong in the area (ie graphic designer).

  3. Great article thanks! Being a one man company, I have gone the opposite direction and have continually expanded my skills over the years to enable me to stay in business. I would not have had sufficient work in just one area to keep the wolves from the door. Hence I am now designing websites, coding websites, programming flash games, designing printed materials such as brochures and adverts etc etc. However I now feel I have stretched myself too thin and that I have ended up with a basic knowledge of lots of skills but do not have time to become an expert in any of these skills. It is for this reason I think I need to specialise in one area and pray that this will generate enough work.

  4. Thanks for the response Paul. You do raise a good point, and that is that specializing does require that you break in and find that niche… which sometimes can break a new business.

    But the trick is to be able to hold out long enough and really start to funnel your growth direction into the area that you are best at. You can still take on other jobs, but hunt for the one that fits your plan. If you wanted to focus on becoming the best Flash Game designer you could start creative great and unique flash games for your own promotion and then develop an e-mail list of CEOs that could be potential clients. Show them your work and how it works. Soon enough you would be the go-to person for flash games.

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