Web developer sector trends

Web developers working on a website development project

(last updated July 2019)

What has been happening in the web development industry

The pace of change has been very brisk since the internet first became widely available at the beginning of the 1990s. By the end of that decade, a website had become essential for a growing number of businesses. Many homes and businesses had internet access and more and more people were going online to buy goods and services as well as just to browse.

The growth of broadband and then high-speed broadband internet access during the 2000s and 2010s improved the speeds at which users could access online resources, while changing attitudes and improved security led to huge growth in the number of ecommerce transactions. WiFi and mobile internet technology brought the internet out of the home and office and into cafes, pubs, transport and the open air. The late 2000s and first half of the 2010s saw more and more businesses and households get access to super-fast broadband, while smart phone users got fast 3G and then super-fast 4G connectivity.

This huge growth saw a brief boom in demand for web development services at the end of the 1990s. Web developers could charge very high fees to clients who often knew very little about what was actually involved in designing and publishing a website, and there was plenty of work to go around. These days, clients are more knowledgeable about what they need, what they don't need, and how much it should cost. More and more people are able to do basic web design and maintenance themselves, using easy-to-use software tools. Others use online website builder services to put together an inexpensive but quite professional-looking website quickly and easily. As a result, the web development industry has become very competitive.

The economic downturn which began in 2008 and continued into the early 2010s caused difficulties for the industry as businesses and organisations cut right back on their spending. Many businesses in the web development industry were forced to compete hard for a reduced amount of work.Things improved in the second half of 2013 and the economy improved during 2014 and 2015. Growth then slowed in 2016, and the vote in June 2016 to leave the EU introduced a great deal of economic uncertainty. The value of the pound fell, increasing the cost of imports and fuelling inflation. Businesses and consumers lost confidence in the economy and spending by both groups was very subdued. Consumer spending in 2017 and 2018 was lower than for several years and businesses put off investment decisions while waiting for clarity on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. The forecasts for 2019 are for little change. The market for web developers is very competitive and day rates haven't increased much recently.

To keep ahead of the game, web developers have had to look for new opportunities and ensure that their range of skills is right up to date. Now that many businesses already have a website of some description, developers have focused on making sure that their clients make full use of the power of the internet by incorporating services such as content management systems and collaborative interactivity, ecommerce and mobile commerce into their sites. The mobile apps (and mobile-optimised web apps) development market has opened up exciting new opportunities for suitably skilled developers and demand for developers' services was also boosted in the mid 2010s as many website owners responded to the growing trend for people to go online using smartphones and tablets by making sure their websites worked properly on screens of all sizes.

Keeping up to date with developments

Joining a trade association is an excellent way of keeping up to date with developments in your industry. The web design sector is represented by the UK Web Design Association (UKWDA) - you can find out more on their website.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develops protocols and standards to support the long-term growth of the web. Visit the W3C website for details.

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