Web Developers Weigh In

Web development depends directly on the Web developer, indicates the new study, "The State of Web Development 2006/2007." Researched by Ektron, a developer of Web content-management software, and SitePoint, a provider of content and resources for Web professionals, the report surveyed more than 5,000 developers to investigate current best practices and to find how developers are using and adopting which technologies. The survey found that differently motivated Web developers implemented and acted differently, but that across the board developers are more motivated to maintain standard compliance and believe Web sites will become more user-oriented and AJAX-enabled in the future.

The survey, which Ekrton and SitePoint claim is "the largest survey of professional Web developers to date," collected data from more than 5,000 Web developers, most of whom (40 percent) own a business or freelance. The bulk of the remaining percentages manage sites for companies or work for a design firm. The study found that the respondents' answers followed basic patterns that allowed them to be categorized. "We found that the clearest clusters represented stereotypes of different web developers," says Nick Langmaid, principal consultant at Solution Space and coauthor of the study for the SitePoint team. The four personalities isolated in the study were "the guru," who uses CSS primarily and puts a premium on technological excellence, "the entrepreneur," whose biggest motivator is creating an audience, "the designer," who chiefly employs Dreamweaver and focuses on visual effect, and "the corporate," who wants stability and reliability from her Web design.

Although the type of developer was found to directly affect the choices made in Web development, such as development of a blog, validation of markup, and use of microformats, many general trends common to all types were also uncovered by the study. PHP was found to be the most common language (68 percent) to be used by developers. Ian Muir, a Web developer at Ektron and coauthor of the study, says that because of PHP's ease of use, this percentage was to be expected. However, he says, "what we find interesting is that about half of the PHP developers surveyed also work with at least one other language." Twenty-four percent of respondents said they planed to work with Ruby in the next year and 22 percent said the same of ASP. "These results suggest that many Web developers might get started with PHP, then move on to object-oriented languages, such as Ruby, NET, and JSP," Muir says.

As for the future of Web development, richer user interfaces, standards compliance, and the creation of object-oriented code will be driving usability and design, according to the study. The study found that 78 percent of developers validate their markup while a quarter said they would "go the extra mile" to ensure 100 percent compliance. Additionally, AJAX was cited as the most popular new tool to be employed in the next 12 months (46 percent), which will allow developers to create more visually stimulating sites. Whether the builder is a guru or a corporate, users will benefit in the upcoming year, Muir says. "The Web is clearly moving in a direction that is both improving the user experience and creating more efficient code."

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