Interview With a Web Developer

I’m sure a large percentage of people who enjoy games or using computers have considered what it would be like to have I.T. as their profession. To try and answer this question we managed to drag the EGR tech department (one guy going by the name of Colonel Mustard) away from his desk to talk to us about his day job as a programmer.

Good evening. Could you give us your official job title and a brief description of what you do

I’m a web developer, and I work for a large publishing company in London on a number of different websites

How did you get involved in this type of work?

I’ve had an interest in computers for as long as I can remember, so when it came to deciding on what to study in further education computing seemed an obvious choice to me. I got lucky with a work placement during my University studies and landed myself a permanent role which is where I am now

Have you found using computers to be any different if you are using them for pleasure or for work?

When programming at home I have more time to work with technologies of my choice. Also

browsing the web can become a different experience when you’re a web developer, as you understand why things are done the way they are. So when a site breaks you can often pinpoint the bad/lazy programming that caused it.

Is it a challenge to keep up to date with advances in IT that may affect your work?

Yes, I think in that respect being a web developer is one of the most challenging jobs out there. There is such a vast range of technologies being used, and you have to understand everything from the front end to the databases.

Most jobs however focus on a smaller subset of technology, often supplied by a single vendor such as Microsoft, which makes it a bit easier

Is much of your time dedicated to training and learning new things? or do you cover enough of the same topics each day that this isn’t necessary?

Well I do try to keep as up to date as possible with the fundamental languages and the things I work with a lot, as I feel that I like to have a complete understanding of them. There are other things that seem to come and go, often like fashion in the software world. I try to get an understanding of these, but I don’t spend too much time focusing on something that I don’t think I’m going to use much.

I probably spend a few minutes a day reading blogs and articles covering a wide range of things. I particularly like the Microsoft blogs as they provide a good insight into the development of some languages.

What opportunities for advancing exist in the job? in terms of climbing the career ladder.

There are a number of directions in which to progress. The main directions you can go are either towards a more people-oriented position such as team management, or a more technical role such as a software architect.

There are many more opportunities, for instance a good company CIO will often have a programming background.

What would you recommend to people currently at school who are looking at this or a similar career?

Don’t study maths! I was told it was necessary for a career in computing, but they were wrong.

You can study maths if you want, I’m sure it will get you far, it just isn’t mandatory. It can help to get a degree in a computing-related subject, but often the course content won’t be hugely relevant, it’s just a way into the industry.

Try to be sure it’s what you want to do, as a lot of people give it a go and find they just

aren’t naturally good at software development.

with this being an EGR the interview wouldn’t be complete without some mention of gaming. Are you currently playing anything?

I like to play Insurgency occasionally, and a bit of TF2 every now and then. I’m against giving WoW a go as I’m scared it’ll consume my life for the next decade if I do.

I’m also currently contemplating playing Oblivion again as I started playing it when I was younger and never got round to finishing it. I used to play a huge amount of CS:Source, and was in a couple of clans a few years ago.

Do you have an all time favourite game?

That probably has to be the half-life series, especially HL2. The success of the series doesn’t surprise me. It’s one of the few games I’ve played more than once. My favourite online game has to be CS:Source

It does seem that Valve always produce top notch games, what do you think it is about them that other games companies find hard to emulate?

that’s a difficult question! Maybe it’s because they really seem to understand their audience and take the time to properly design games. Too many modern games seem to be a graphics showcase with little in the way of gameplay.

Then you get games such as Battlefield 2 which seems to have been rushed, constantly crashing before a patch was released.

Lastly, are you able to give us a quick sneak preview on what you’re working on for EGR?

Well hopefully in the near future we’ll have a more visually appealing site. It’s something that’s been on my mind for a while. Front end styling isn’t my strong point, but I think I have some good ideas. I am also busy working on both the “TF2 tactician” and “WoW tactician” which will allow users to build a large collaborative database of guides and tactics for the games they play. There is also a very snazzy CMS running behind the site which cannot be seen by the users but is being developed to allow easier posting of articles and updates and in the future will allow regular guest posts to be made by anyone wanting to try their hand at a bit of games journalism.

Those are the features I’m currently concentrating on coding and testing, there are also plans in the not too distant future to provide more functionality to the front page in the form of a calendar filled with gaming related events and various media players on the front page containing things like frag videos or just the latest virals.

Thank you for your time, I hope these answers have helped some people decide whether a career in software development is something they wish to pursue. Are there any final thoughts you wish to leave us with?

Yeah! Don’t ever bother with IE 6! Some of our biggest customers are various government bodies, and most of them happen to be stuck in the past with this monstrosity of a browser which makes my job that little bit more difficult.

5 Tips for Choosing a Web Developer

So you’ve had a moment of inspiration and conceived an idea for a new website that will change the way people everywhere use the internet. That’s a great start, but finding the right people to build it can be a challenge, especially for first timers.

1. Utilise your search methods

Word of mouth is a powerful tool and not something to be sniffed at, but appointing someone on the basis of a single recommendation is a huge risk. There’s a wealth of talent out there, so make sure you dig deep.

The web has some great sites where creative folk can advertise their expertise. Comparing work side by side allows you to make better judgements on who’s style fits your vision. And with ever increasing ease of communication, it’s not a necessity to stay local.

2. Do your homework

If you are new to the world of web design, much of the jargon is going to fly over your head, especially the acronyms. Do some research into SEO, AJAX, CMS and PPC and avoid a situation where you sit nodding vacantly whilst being bombarded by random letters and talk of cookies. Of course, if you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask for a plain English explanation.

3. Make sure you’re on the same page

It’s vital the developer understands your ambitions for the new business. Go through your business plan with them, explain your annual projections. All these details can feed into the design process ensuring the site is tailor made to your goals. A good relationship with your web developer will last long beyond this initial stage, so explaining future development is essential.

4. Look at past work & get references

Employing a web developer is no different from hiring a new employee for your business. Get references from past clients. Have a search on Google to find sites they have designed and built.

When you find someone to quiz make sure you ask the right questions; Did they deliver on time? How were they to work with? Do they have good after care services?

Source the references yourself, if you rely on them providing client details for you to contact, you’ll most likely end up with a biased view on the quality of their services.

5. Get the correct balance between experience and ability

The scale of web development firms is vast; from the one man band to large commercial agencies. Deciding who to go with is going to depend greatly on your priorities.

If money is no object and deadlines are tight, appointing an established, professional agency may be your best bet. A large office will likely be reliable with regard to hitting deadlines, the depth of their experience and wealth of knowledge is going to bode well for a smooth and well delivered project.

Young companies and freelancers may be less experienced but there’s a good chance you’re their number one client. Working with a small team can provide a more personal experience, and new starts generally have bags of enthusiasm and energy which is great to feed into the creative process.
If you are more flexible, working with a young, energetic team could provide the spark your site needs to take off.

Appointing the right people will make a huge difference to the future success of your business. You’ll be itching to get started, but putting the time and effort in now to make the best decision you can will pay off massively in future.

Has Your Web Development Team Made Your Site Able To Handle A Traffic Surge?

Have you ever been watching television and been told about this great new website only to see an error message when you type it into your browser? Or been perusing Facebook and seen a link to a site that a friend thinks everyone should check out only to be told that the “server resources might have been exceeded”? This is a result of the website being unable to handle a traffic surge.

If you are unsure whether your website is able to withstand a sudden surge in traffic, you should speak with your web development team to find out what they are doing about it. There are actually two ways that you can ensure that your website will not crash:

  • Choose a suitable host
    Make sure that the hosting package you choose for your website is suitable for your needs. There is no such thing as an ‘unlimited package’ – there will always be a cap on the resources that you can use.
  • Optimise your site to use fewer resources
    Make sure that your web development team has optimised the website in a way that does not put undue stress on the server. You should try caching, compression, limit database queries and optimizing images.

Ultimately, you never know when your website will receive an unexpected traffic surge, which is why your web development team needs to make sure that they are prepared for a special mention on television or a share on Facebook. What use is all that free advertising if your site is going to go down the moment 20 people try to jump onto it all at once?