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  1. Great Real World Article, Thanks

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  2. I’m so glad someone has articulated this - I also love reading up on all the latest development and try hard to incorporate them into my workflow and practices, but there are times when jobs just needs to be done and there’s very little time, budget and resource.

    Most of the thought leadership is fantastic, but sometimes it does feel like there’s the world of genius idealism that is removed from the harsh reality many developers operate in, and some of us don’t want to be up all night!

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  3. I couldn’t agree more. More than anything, though, I think this marks the Distant Early Warning of the generalist’s business sustainability.

    The small-business market you describe is being eaten by WordPress and Facebook and the attitudes these tools help spread that “the web is easy” and “websites should cost little or nothing” (despite the appallingly low quality content often produced by those who think it’s easy).

    Is this good thing or a bad thing? It’s a thing. Adapt or die.

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  4. It’s easy to forget that not everyone working in web design and development knows what you know. Within the last few months I’ve had someone running the IT department at a large company ask me what “responsive” meant. And another developer who asked me, “what do you mean by ‘semantic?’ I’m not familiar with that word.”

    It’s important to hear from those who are pushing the industry forward. But not everyone we work with or for is at that same front line. I think this article serves as a great reminder of that. Thanks for writing it!

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  5. This article definitely strikes a chord with me. I love reading about all the new developments in web design and development, but the reality is that I’m on a very small (two people, three if you count the project manager) development team with a user base that is still almost 10% IE8 users. So the real world development I’m doing is often very different from the world I’m reading about or the one speakers talk about at conferences.

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  6. I think it’s also worth mentioning that there’s a flip side to the developers/designers doing that work too: their customers, who don’t care about Sass, Grunt, Ruby, MVC, HTML5, or whatever technology we care about.

    They care about things like making sure their company’s hours, catalog, and payment processing just works. Every time.

    I tend to work on larger (I guess) teams to work on large site projects, and I’m also amazed how basic the understanding of the web, or how far behind current best practices, it is.

    It’s not just small shops or individuals who have these problems, it’s larger organizations. Perhaps these problems exist for other reasons, but they still exist.

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  7. I would like to add that this doesn’t only apply to generalists in business for themselves. Those of us in large organizations sometimes have to deal with content providers who learned the basics years ago, and have not had a reason to learn anything new. When you have someone tell you, in 2014, that “our sites aren’t ready for CSS” you know you have some hard work ahead of you.

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  8. I needed this article. So many web devs talk about Grunt and Sass and all this new technology as if it’s the Most Important Thing to do and I’m here like, “Err, vanilla CSS is fine…?” just trying to do my job. It’s nice to be reminded that that’s okay.

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  9. Thank you very much for writing this article, I work for a medium sized company that is trying to incorporate as much new web awesomeness as possible, but is challenging because of budgets, and legacy applications. I do appreciate our industry’s thought leaders, but it’s refreshing to see the other side of the world so to speak as well.

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  10. Great article Rachel. If we had our “thought leaders” respond to tech support questions for a week or two, we’d have much more useful tools and discussions, I’m sure of it :) 

    They operate in a “high touch” world, sitting down with their customers and working out how to best serve their business. They are often charging very little for their services, yet are making a huge difference to the businesses they develop sites for. They are doing great work, if we value that work by the difference it is making to those who benefit from it. Yet I rarely hear this type of work discussed outside of talking with our customers.

    Yes and we have to ask why is that? Do we not have something to learn from those of us in the trenches about agility ?  “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” indeed.

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  11. Agreed. I’m shifting away from ‘front-end development’ because I’m more interested in the cool factor of the end product, than which tools I used to create it. Nobody outside of other developers care if you used Grunt.js, Sass or Less, Git or SVN… And these factors only matter when working in large or distributed teams. Node.js is not a requirement for building a web site, and the end user doesn’t care if you used continuous integration or FTP to make the site live.

    Let’s refocus on building cool sites: what’s more interesting, driving a car on a beautiful day, or hearing about how it was built?

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  12. As an aspiring web professional, this seems to be my first crossroad. I learned web development and design basics back in 2008-2009 then stopped. So to come back now and see all this new stuff, it almost gets in the way of just being a web professional. I feel like a lot of time is spent learning tools, or preprocessors but all I want to do is design and build.  Often I ask myself, do I really need to learn this?

    Of course, I think about where I will go to for employment, will I stay in my hometown area that isn’t “techy” but might have a need/desire for things like responsive or will I go to an area that will understand the latest and greatest of web development. Even just starting out, it already feels like a heavy decision. I also have this belief that it shouldn’t be just the big companies with stellar branding, and a competent website. But then the question is how will I go about fulfilling a potential need without undercutting me and the industry? For now I’m completely fine with ensuring I become an expert at what web development/design truly is before I start embellishing, if I choose to even do so.

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  13. I read the web design, user experience, and freelance subreddits on Reddit. I find all of those forums quite valuable for hearing how working web designers and developers describe their problems, outside of the rarified world of conferences. What I’m struck by is that we may have different challenges in implementing new technologies or the scale of the projects, but everyone’s client management and project management challenges are the same. Whether your budget is $500, $5000, or $500,000, you need solid management processes to protect yourself. Great article and thank you for writing it, Rachel.

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  14. Thanks for this Rachel. As a soloist looking after the small end of town, I often despair that I’m behind the times and there’s so much to learn and not enough time. I’ll stop beating myself up and just take one small, strategic step at a time…

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  15. Well said, Rachel. I will throw out there too, that if we are shooting for wide adoption of the methods that keep the web moving forward, there needs to be continued education for designers/devs in smaller markets to know how to sell clients on the value of their work.

    Most small businesses don’t have a clue about something like responsive web design. They just know they need a site up and need it quick and cheap. As these clients learn what’s in it for their bottom line, the budgets become a little bigger and then more of our modern methods can be brought into the process.

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  16. There are resources out there for those who don’t care about the cutting edge, we must leave them to their area and carry on working with the best tools and concepts available and enjoying the fast-paced nature of the industry.

    Comparing the bang-it-out brigade to those who invest in their skills and knowledge makes very little sense. We are in very different markets, just as a second hand car dealer is different to an Audi dealer.

    The workload for those who want to break our industry and do interesting things is massive. I’m sure it looks bewildering, this industry was never easy though.

    Back when I started we were doing battle with obscure browser bugs, pulling our hair out at the insanity provided by table-less design in Netscape 4.7 and IE5 Win/Mac. DHTML was a buzzword. That sort of thing was not for everyone but it was not the end of the world. Those of us who got involved moved the industry forward, many of those who didn’t became irrelevant and moved onto other things.

    At the end of the day our crazy bleeding edge ideas *did* trickle down, as we can see by the way most people are working today.

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  17. Thank you. For me this needed saying. It’s the first time I recognize myself in an article in this magazine and I never minded, it’s not why I come here—I come for all the wonderful resources I’ve found here over the years and the food for thought it’s given me—but it feels like a balm for skin I hadn’t realized had chafed. For which much thanks; and in addition of course this too provides me with food for thought.

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  18. The technologies have become too diverse to wrap around for one designer. Learning new web stuff has become a chase.  If you’re a small business web designer you cannot possibly keep up with all the latest and greatest web trends and solutions. You stick with what’s been reliably working for sometimes.  The main thing is, at some point you become too exhausted to chase after new development possibilities because there are just too many. Web development growth is occurring like Big Bang, it’s not expanding in one direction, it’s expanding in hundreds of directions.

    What I see happening in large design sectors is that web design duties have been further sliced up. When web was young you were the developer, the designer, the UX guru, the everything web. Today we have, Ux designers, front end and back end developers, designers…etc.  A web designer who designs for small budgets still has to maintain the roll of everything web, and he cannot possibly care about everything in great detail. He doesn’t care about pixel perfection, slight ui adjustments to help with conversion and stuff like that in between.  He just wants to launch a product that works OK, but not broken.

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  19. Great article, really chimed with me as a long time casual developer, starting to get more client work through a Marketing agency. It seems like there are always new technologies to learn, I try to keep up by reading, but you’re right: people shouldn’t presume the reader knows it all!

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  20. ALA was introduced to me when I barely knew how to view source. The articles and conference speaker’s resources we so far above my head and I was just dying to understand without letting anyone around me know that I didn’t. Web design and development is truly a new foreign language to students in the 101 phase. We have to help them break the ice.

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  21. Sorry, commenting is closed on this article.