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What skill is most essential for a web developer?

Most people have a general idea of what it takes to be a web developer, but which skill is most essential to the profession? The answer might surprise you.

Pretty much everyone knows that in order to be a successful web developer, one needs to possess a great deal of technical knowledge and programming expertise.  One must possess formidable critical thinking capacity, and enough of a passion for the field to keep appraised of current events.  One must also be a hard worker, always hungry for knowledge and searching for the next big project.  Last, but certainly not least, every successful web developer must be able to manage their time to great effect.

Together, the skills I mentioned above form the core of web development. If an individual possesses all of them, they should have no trouble breaking into the field and becoming successful…right? Well…not exactly.

There’s one thing missing here. A skill which – though it seems far more at home in the world of marketing or public relations – is arguably the most essential web development skill of all. I am speaking, of course, about the ability to communicate.

Perhaps I should explain.

To some degree, communication has always been an important aspect of web development. After all, a developer isn’t always going to work alone – sometimes, they’ll have to operate as part of a team. That’s something which is effectively impossible if one lacks social skills.

Said skills are even more important today than they were in the past, however: web development has changed. Web design and optimization today are almost entirely centered on the user: what do they want? How do they think and browse? How do they use social media?

Not surprisingly, these questions aren’t exactly easy to answer without understanding how people interact.

It’s not just web development that’s changed, either – it’s the whole web. As you’re no doubt aware, we’re living in a marvelously connected world. Thanks to technologies like social media and the smartphone, our world is more closely-knit than it’s been at any point in human history. We are living in the age of the global village; an era in which knowledge is constantly exchanged through blogs, vlogs, podcasts, social networks, and conferences. Our civilization is growing steadily more social.

This is manifesting in a few ways. First, we’re starting to see web communities devoted to pretty much every profession. Web development in particular plays host to a positively staggering array of different social networks, web-forums, and blogging communities; powerful resources that no developer should hesitate to tap into.

Of course, in order to do so, a certain level of social acuity is required.

Second, our expectations are changing as to how we interact with one another. On today’s web, everyone has a voice. As a result, it’s becoming steadily more important that one knows how to market oneself; that one know how to communicate with both clients and colleagues and drown out the noise of those who don’t. After all, who would you rather hire – a skilled web developer who doesn’t know how to carry on a conversation, or an equally skilled developer who’s also a joy to be around?

Lastly, the clear importance of the web to the everyday has somewhat romanticized the web development field. With the runaway success of websites like Facebook, it’s suddenly become “cool” to be a developer of any creed. The stereotype of the quiet, unkempt, quite-possible-socially-incompetent development professional is the product of a bygone age. Those who still fit that stereotype are going to be shoved aside in favor of those who don’t.

Everyone knows that developers are technically proficient, logical, organized, and knowledgeable. While it’s still important that one possesses all these core traits, they’re nothing without the ability to communicate them to clients, employers, and colleagues. It’s a side effect of the modern web: our world’s becoming more social, and those who aren’t developing their skills in tandem risk being left behind.

About the Author:

Matthew Davis works as an inbound marketer and blogger for Future Hosting, a leading provider of VPS hosting. Follow Future Hosting on Twitter at @fhsales, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog, http://blog.nexcess.net/.

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