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Since I started learning to develop websites and applications things have changed dramatically, changing the outlook for web designers / developers and customers. I am not able to use the skills I developed in the way I envisaged as the landscape has changed so rapidly. For the small western based developer and customer, emphasis is moving away from technical ability towards what you could call a consultative or management role.

Technical skills are still required, but increasingly, only in terms of being able to validate and understand the value of what you are buying.

OK there are still people out there writing bespoke applications and earning a living at it, but things are changing, rapidly, why?

  • Reliable high speed Internet access is more widely available
  • Developing countries increasingly have access to the above
  • Open source applications have put prohibitively expensive applications, such as E-Commerce within the reach of smaller customers
  • Open source applications require little skill to deploy and modify
  • Sites like getafreelancer.com makes it possible for anyone to outsource

So what does all this mean? In my opinion it means that the number of SME’s using web applications will increase dramatically fuelled by:

  • The availability of good quality open source applications
  • The success of online retail
  • The need to include online marketing within a wider marketing strategy

Online retail increased by 50% over the Christmas period when compared to the same time last year, and a retailer can now get an online store up and running for a couple of hundred pounds, or for free if they can use any of the following applications:

Equally, companies wanting to incorporate online marketing into their wider strategy can do so easily and effectively with open source content management systems such as

Or use blogging tools, such as WordPress (used to host this blog) to promote their company (for the ease of deployment / use and SEO).
So what does this mean for the freelance Web Developer? Well an increase in business hopefully, but what kind of business will that be?

In my opinion it will be providing consultancy and managing deployments as opposed to serious coding. Where extensive coding is required it is increasingly likely that it will be outsourced, due to the ease with which this can be done, and the savings (up to 80%) that can be made.

The problem for companies wanting to outsource modifications to open source applications is that they often do not have the expertise to outsource effectively, which is an area were existing developers can add value by:

  • Advising on security
  • Controlling which areas of the application are made accessible to offshore coders
  • Integrating off shored code into applications
  • Providing a guide as to the correct price of off shored work
  • Assisting with release management

I am sure a lot of people will disagree with my arguments, but have a good think about this:

  • How hard is it to offshore code for web applications?
  • By comparison, how hard is it to offshore manufacturing?
  • What has happened to manufacturing?

It is far easier to offshore code for a web application (which is fairly generic) than it is to offshore manufacturing, involving the movement of equipment and highly specific knowledge transfer.

Incidentally, whilst I was Googling the URL for getafreelancer.com, above it was an Adword for a Chinese off-shoring website, the first country specific freelancing site I have seen.

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    Comment by David Hopkins

    Unfortunately these packages, with emphasis on osCommerce, are not particularly customisable and/or implement high levels of coding.

    If your client has something in mind that can’t easily be fit into one of these packages your left with not many options. Over the past month I have had two people come to me with osCommerce sites that want mandatory registration taken out. Knowing how terrible osCommerce is, I tell them I will charge them an hourly rate to do it, at which they are extremely unhappy. No one likes hourly rates. One of these guys paid £5,500 for his off the shelf osCommerce site with a disgraceful degraded jpeg ‘skin’ forced over the top of the bloated and ugly code. Another company I was in contact a while ago paid £8,000 for an similarly disgraceful degraded jpeg design botched into osCommerce and are paying £150 a month for hosting.

    The way these open source apps are being used in conjunction with really low quality web development companies in India is killing off the web development companies over here that actually give a :!: and try to give their clients high end products that will actually work for them.

    I think there really does need to be some sort of body to oversee web development companies to make sure that both quality developers and clients are informed and looked after. I hear about companies that get swindled by web development companies on a regular basis. Currently I am working with a guy who has spent over £60,000 on web development but has never received a working site or anything that comes close to working.

    (Comments wont nest below this level)
    Comment by SiteLogic

    £5k is a real con let alone 8k, you can get osComm setups for a few hundred.

    The fact remains that offshoring you can get 5 programmers for the price of one in the UK.

    With the right management infrastructure and European representation / standards / controls there is no reason why companies cannot do a good job…

    I would agree that the for really high end stuff you would not outsource, but give it a few years and that will change.

    Japanese motorbikes were ridiculed when they were first imported to the UK… I.T. is no different in that context.


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