Will web developers become obsolete?

My housemate (who is currently a 3rd year at Leicester, studying Computing) is convinced that web developers will most likely become obsolete in the future – mainly down to services such as Wix which for a small fee allow people to create their own websites using simple and easy drag & drop methods.
Meanwhile… I personally beg to differ, and I say this as someone who is currently working as a web developer intern & someone who most certainly is more familiar with web development than my friend.

On a personal level, I hold the belief that machines are only as intelligent as we – humans – permit them to be. Many people (particularly those who watch waaaaaaaaay too much TV) are convinced that we will genuinely reach a day where the human race will be overpowered by robots who will be so intelligent that they will be able to learn by themselves & potentially overcome humans. In a way, sites like Wix are robots. They write essentially ‘write the code’ for you.

However, this is where my argument comes in. First I think it’s important to differentiate between web developers & web designers – which was the first hurdle my housemate failed to jump over. Web designers are those who utilise applications such as Adobe Photoshop and come up with UI/UX concepts and design a website – they essentially just create a picture of what the final website should look like. However without the developers to convert the design in to actual functioning, responsive code a design doesn’t meet much in web context. Essentially, what websites such as Wix & Squarespace offer are pre-made templates, which look okay but probably half decent to the average internet user that are customisable but only within certain limits. So there we have it, the first issue – customisation of the more complex (i.e. the ones which are actually okay) templates is extremely restricted. So for example if the page has a row which is split three ways with different widths, it may be possible to change their colour, change their content yet more precise changes such as using a custom font face, applying a stroke or shadow to some of the text or even splitting one of the columns in to a column of two rows wouldn’t. Now in theory most people utilising websites like Wix & Squarespace probably are n00bs in computer terms in the first place however ultimately I’d still imagine that most people would hold the belief that they’d rather pay slightly more to get precisely what they want therefore there will always be a gap in the market for web designers or front-end developers. I have more reasons but I want to hear your opinion on this before I bring this topic up further in my next and first blog post of February.

Designing aside, I’ll know state roughly why I don’t believe Web Developers will ever become obsolete (note the difference between developers & designers).
Ultimately, the design phase of web development follows and fulfills the same challenge every time. Ask the client what they want -> Design it -> Ensure the client are satisfied -> Pass the Photoshop file on to the developer. It doesn’t matter whether the client asks for something ridiculously difficult to implement, because through the means of Photoshop the designer could implement it visually by drawing two silly boxes. The designer always creates nothing but a theoretical visual representation of what the client wants.
However, developer workflow is much different. The fundamentals remain the same which is the process of converting the design from a graphical prototype to functioning HTML/CSS however websites are not just HTML & CSS anymore. In fact if I went on a website which was simply purely static, I would feel like I’ve probably accidentally stepped in to a time machine and gone back in time to the year 2000 (*gets flashback to the song year 3000 by busted*). The mass majority of websites today are DYNAMIC. This means they change based on the user and it is the norm now to see a significant use of CSS animations, javascript use & of course the master of them all PHP. I don’t want to drag on too long but I want to use an example that even non-web developers can relate too. Let’s say a client requires a website which genuinely executes some sort of logic in the background to perform a function. Let’s take a Taxi service website which allows customers to book in advance online. My question is, can Wix or Squarespace satisfy this request by allowing the clueless client to simply ‘drag & drop’? Sure, Wix & Squarespace have commerce packages which provide the client with some rubbish databases and tables but what about the logic which determines whether a random person asking for a taxi in Leicester from somewhere like Uganda is eligible or not? What about the logic which receives the request and has to be integrated in to the taxi services’ existing system so that taxi drivers can be alerted & accept or decline jobs? What about the logic which determines which drivers to realistically offer the job too & which ones to ignore? I could go on all day. But do you see what I mean?

In conclusion, I think Wix & Squarespace fulfill a purpose from a web design perspective and we may see a very slight decrease in designers in the future and more User Experience designers emerge instead (because us developers are rubbish at making user friendly interfaces, right?) but I can’t see web developers dying out… aaaaaaaaand if they do die out, then most of them can just become regular software developers anyways 😀
But seriously, when Microsoft Publisher & similar programs came to existence, did we see a decrease in designers, publishers etc? No, not a significant one. The concept is the same as discussed above.

Anyways, what do you guys think? Let me know below & I’ll continue my front-end quarrels in the next blog post as this is very long already.


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About Karam

Karam has now retired from blogging. Hello everyone! My name is Karam and I'm a second year BSc Computing student here at the University of Leicester. I'm also this year's Computer Science sports secretary and possess a strong love for the beautiful game that is of course football. I can speak English, Arabic, HTML, PHP, SQL, VB.NET & Java…

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