How to Distinguish between Good and Bad Web Development Careers

By Kathleen Taylor, Bud E. Smith

So what is a “good” web development career versus a “bad” one? That’s actually a hard question to answer. The whole field of web development is constantly changing. For instance, a few years ago, people might have said, “That web designer who knows all the latest HTML 2.0 tricks, is expert in Internet Explorer and Firefox, and is starting to learn CSS is really on the cutting edge.”

Today, to express a similarly positive opinion, people might say, “That visual designer who knows how to replace Flash video with HTML5 video, is expert in design for personal computers, tablets, and smartphones, and just wrote a textbook on CSS template libraries is really on the cutting edge.”

Below, you will find a list of what is usually considered a good web development career versus a less satisfying one. Feel free to take issue with the list, and to add your own plus and minus points. In web development, you can design your future just as you design a website — and you can experience the same uncertainty and randomness in how things will really turn out for both as well!

Several of the points that appear in the list involve other people, and this is problematic. You can’t completely control what other people think or say, no matter how good a job you do. But you are the only one who will benefit from others’ good opinion of your work, or suffer from a poor opinion. So play the “meta” game — don’t just do good work; sell it to your colleagues and bosses.

And if your colleagues and bosses are too slow, benighted, jealous, or insecure to recognize your good work? Sorry, their problem is your problem. You either need to find ways to get your colleagues and bosses on board with your contributions, or move to a new organization where people will understand and support what you’re trying to do.

“Good” Career Points “Bad” Career Points
Well-regarded by current colleagues Poorly regarded by current colleagues
Boss understands and supports your work Boss doesn’t understand your work and doesn’t
support you
You feel like you get a lot of good work done in a day You feel like you’re not fully productive
You accumulate experience with new technologies as you
You keep using the same old technologies over and over in your
You find time to learn and practice with new technologies and
tools outside of work
You don’t learn and practice with new technologies and
tools outside of work
You can show people your accomplishments in public-facing work
or summarize it in easy-to-understand numbers
You can’t show people your accomplishments in
public-facing work or summarize it in easy-to-understand
You achieve internal recognition – meetings, newsletters,
congratulatory emails, and other feedback about your
You don’t get internal recognition for your
You achieve external recognition — get positive attention
or leadership in an external professional group relevant to your
work, speak at a meeting or conference, and so on
You don’t achieve external recognition
You accumulate both agency and in-house organizational
experience as you progress
You feel stuck in a boring job in a non-web development
organization — or you feel like you’ve been on the
agency side too long and no longer understand the client’s
point of view
Your salary increases as you go on Your salary stays the same or regresses as you go on
You hold jobs for two or three years and then move on, and at
least somewhat up, even if the new job is in the same
You hold jobs for less than two years, or more than four,
without moving either on or up