I originally posted this on Quora as an answer to the question What are 5 essential skills any web developer should have? on March 26, 2012.
- Pulse on the Industry and the User
It’s impossible to know where web development will go in 5 years, but those who follow standards bodies or at least read tech blogs have a much better understanding of upcoming changes and growing trends.It’s not enough to follow the industry. Web developers must also understand their users and how they use the product. Analytics tools like StatCounter and Google Analytics are my favorites for gathering basic metrics of user interactions. A web developer should know if a third of the traffic is from a mobile device or that visitors are from Spanish-speaking countries. Maybe it’s time to think about optimizing for mobile and internationalization.
I list this as the number one skill because being proficient here will trickle down and facilitate the other skills.Things are changing and a lot has already changed. HTML 5, CSS 3, ECMAScript 5, and so on. If you can see these things coming, you will be able to adjust your priorities.
Developers must have an understanding of the state of the browser market and to some extent even the OS market. Did you know users of Windows XP are unable to upgrade to IE 9? Want to guess what the most popular operating system is? (hint: it’s XP). Knowing this, do you think it’s a good idea to drop support of IE 8, even though 9 is out? Maybe for your user base, that could be a good idea. But my point is that you should know where all of the pieces are on the board before you make your move. Continue reading
Patrick Meenan, the creator of WebPagetest, noted in December 2012 that 90% of issues on the forums are time to first byte (TTFB) problems. TTFB is the time it takes to make the first request until the first bit of content is received. This includes things like DNS resolution, TCP connection, SSL negotiation, but also server processing time. “Server processing time” sounds vague, because it is. What exactly is going on here? Why is it taking so long? Continue reading
Red Dwarf is a project of mine that uses a Google Maps heatmap to visualize the locations of users who “star” a given GitHub repository. The code is naturally open source and can be seen visualizing itself in the image above. While the application is mostly a one trick pony, there are some cool hidden features to explore. Continue reading
A flash of unstyled text, commonly referred to as FOUT, is the undesirable phenomenon during custom web font loading when text in the default font is abruptly restyled to use the custom font.
While researching the effects of asynchronous web font loading techniques, I found an interesting variation on the problem; Chrome and Firefox momentarily hide the text before the custom font is applied. This is what I’m referring to as an extreme flash of unstyled text, or XFOUT, because everyone loves acronyms. Continue reading
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