New technology comes out all the time, new languages, new frameworks, but when is the time to drop the old for the new? Seasoned designer and developer Stefan Mischook offers some top opinon and advice
President of Web Mentor
Stefan has been building websites and web apps since 1994 and currently develops web training courses and apps. Webmentor is Killersites.com’s new online video training site that features practical web design and development training videos.
As a web designer or a web developer, you have to keep your eye on what’s going on out there in the field. But that doesn’t mean you need to learn every new thing that comes out. If you did, you would never have time to do any actual work!
The key is to look for bigger trends in the market and any major technology shifts. For example, when Steve Jobs blocked Flash from running on iOS devices, that was an event worth noting. Why? Because that meant the eventual death of Flash, given how popular iOS devices were at that time. So Flash developers had to take note, and people thinking of learning Flash should have put on the brakes.
In a short time, it was clear that Flash was on its way out, especially when Adobe (the makers of Flash) stopped producing a Flash player for Android. The death of Flash meant a new technology had to take its place. HTML5 adoption was already growing fast, and Steve Jobs decision to kill Flash and back HTML5, pushing forward HTML5 adoption in the process. It was clear that it was finally time to dump Flash and learn HTML5, as the market tends to favour open standards over closed!
“Don’t jump into something new for only incremental improvement. Before I jump into some new technology (and dump another) the new technology had better offer some major advantages”
I’ve been in the web design and development game since the early Nineties, and the one thing that I’ve seen over and over again, is that open technology is typically favoured over closed. Open technology (often called open source) is free and not owned by any one company. The nerd community prefers this because they feel locked in otherwise – this feeling is all about being tied in to some corporation that could suddenly raise prices or changes features in closed technology.
Don’t jump into something new for only incremental improvement. Before I jump into some new technology (and dump another) the new technology had better offer some major advantages. Sometimes these advantages can be technical improvements, say for example it could run much faster then our previous tech. Or perhaps a new technology might do something the current one simply can’t do at all – a new feature that is superuseful. One such example is that we are looking at using PostgreSQL for our database instead of MySQL, and this is because PostgreSQL does a few things that our project could really benefit from.
But it’s important to understand that everything will come with its own set of unique problems. So a new technology may do something really well, that your current tech doesn’t. But you might then discover that your current tech does other things, that the new technology has problems with. It is rare to actually find something that is an improvement over everything that you’re already used to.
Look to where the jobs are going. Another factor to consider is the job market; will learning certain tech open you up to securing more, or better paid work?
Experienced nerds know that they will code themselves into obscurity if they work with dead-end technology. So it’s hard for employers to find the coders, and so the pay is high. Finally, don’t fall in love with a technology – be ready to dump it when it’s time to move on!