The Best of Times, the Worst of Times


I don’t know about you, but for myself and others I have spoken to in the web industry, it seems over the last 18 months we have been having a little bit of a boom. You would think with things going well in this type of business environment that it would be the “Best of Times”. But with the good times there can also come the “Worst of Times”.

I’m not talking about the end of the boom times here. I’m talking about the fact that with high demand and high opportunity comes other challenges. Just this week another top end local web business closed it’s doors. You would question why and how in these “Best of Times” could anyone get to that point. Well it has slow been happening. No it’s not a bubble bursting. It’s something more. I’m seeing just so many people burnout or close to it.

Consider that with a time of high sales, comes to increased demand to cycle through the projects as fast as possible, while still producing a good quality product. To do this you need focused professional, highly skilled and experienced staff. Finding staff of this caliber can be difficult, especially within Australia at present as there is a dramatic skills crisis in the web industry.

It’s becoming increasingly harder to find and retain good designers, front end and back end developers. As the market is in a boom mentality it has become an employees market, with many graduates opting to freelance or setup their own business with no real industry experience at all.

The market has also gone weird, at one end of the market is expecting and finding (that really disturbs me) people to build complete web sites for under $100. Then the extreme other end of the market understands the value of professional web site development, but will only consider the experience of a multinational IT firm, that frankly have less web experience and professional knowledge of the Web Industry best practice than the average web design business. It’s the middle ground where sanity seems to rein.

So with any boom like in the Dot Bomb era you also are now get the cowboys, who normally under regular conditions wouldn’t be able to survive, but they are now appearing all over the place. You would think staying with industry best practice was bad for business.

So what’s it like for you in these crazy times?

Are you like the rest of us working insane hours. Getting little sleep. Processing work to quickly at times and with too many demands from all sides. In some ways wishing secretly that it would all just slow down, just a little, six months, twelve months was fun. Is it now getting to be a pain. Or has it got to the point where you just don’t give a damn?

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  1. Does the fact that I’m working on a Saturday night at midnight give you a clue as to how I’m finding it?

    WA has two problems as I see it.

    1. Lots of the good people move away. This isn’t as much of a problem at the moment because the industry is pumping and there is money kicking around. In fact, there are some coming back…

    2. We are in between an education cycle. It takes 3-4 years for students to get educated up. The Unis and TAFEs only got serious about the web (i.e more than a passing reference) about 1-2 years ago. In a couple of years, there were be an influx of web type people ready for work. Hopefully there is still this much work still around.

    This crazyness would have happened irrespective of the current economic boom – the boom just made it stupidly crazy.

  2. I’ve started picking my battles a little more carefully, and for the first time in a long time (maybe ever) having to say “no” a lot. I don’t like it, but I’ve been burned out before and it’s no fun. There’s no real reason for me to go nuts saying yes to everything – because it’s either less important than something else, or it’s something that will be there when I have the time.

  3. I can’t bring myself to do it – but I know I’m going to have to start turning clients away in order to a) keep my sanity and health, and b) ensure quality in the projects I’m currently working on.

    Luckily though I just engaged a subcontractor PHP/MySQL developer (who was also at BarCampSydney2 yesterday), so that’ll take quite a bit of the load and stress off me.

  4. Not to upset up, and I can only talk from the TAFE sector, but in many training areas we are struggling to obtain student numbers due to the economic boom. The income in the resource boom is very attractive.


  5. I think one the issues is the hosted services revolution and CMS systems. CMS and blog software make it so easy to depoly and install layouts that they will be happy to find one online than hire a developer to create one.

    With things like Sharepoint and Typo3 anyone in IT can take over the reigns for around an hire each week to keep the company site updated. Sadly the price for a developer may need to come down, or more devlopers need to begin support contracts for CMSes.

    With Blogger and WordPress, a company could effectively communicate it’s current state through a clean/simple blog rather than dedicate money and server space to a website that may not be updated much or accessed regularly: it could be just there for a phone number.

    God knows when companies will flock to MySpace. (Oh god) is also making some headway in eliminating designers, by offering such a large design base.

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