< Back to all blogs
Will web developers become obsolete
June 1, 2022
Will web developers become obsolete? Being a web developer is a career many people have chosen specifically because it’s long been thought to be a future-proof career. Everyone will need websites from now, and the need for a website doesn’t change with economic downturn or inflation. Global pandemics increase demand for good websites, if anything.
But the rise of AI technology has some people worried. The fear is that eventually AI could be good enough to build websites with minimal human input. While that idea is sure to excite some- just think how great it would be to feed in a bit of text and some images, and have the AI construct the whole website for you- it terrifies others.
That’s because there’s already widespread concern about how automation, AI and robotics could be replacing lots of human jobs in the near future. It’s always been assumed that jobs like web developer would be safe from that kind of automation, and now there’s some doubt. But is that doubt warranted? Let’s find out.
Will Web Developers Become Obsolete? Maybe They Already Are
Anybody who’s started a small business, a blog, or a podcast in the last ten years knows that you don’t have to hire a web developer to create a nice looking website anymore. You can use services like Squarespace or WordPress to create your website quickly, easily, and for a lot less than what it would cost to hire a dedicated web developer.
While those websites are all based on a bunch of templates, they’re good-looking templates that are generally designed well. Someone else’s business may use the same template as yours, but the content on your site will still be unique. And a lot of people like the fact that so many businesses are using the same templates. It makes navigating their websites simpler.
So, if you can use one of these services to create your website already, isn’t that a sign that web development is already becoming an obsolete career?
Web Design vs Web Development
While a lot of people make this point, they’ve actually misunderstood something important. What they’re really talking about is web design, not web development. These are related, but very different, fields.
Web development is the building of the actual website. It’s writing the code for the website. Web design is all about tweaking the appearance of the webpage, changing the layout, the text, the font, etc. While it’s possible for the same person to do all of this work, it’s usually considered two different jobs.
You can think of it like the difference between building a house and finishing the interior. There’s a big difference between pouring the foundation, building walls, hanging drywall, and putting in hardwood floors, countertops and plumbing fixtures.
So, will web developers become obsolete?
The next question is: just because you used a service like Squarespace or WordPress, did you really put a web designer or developer out of a job? Of course not! Who do you think is building and designing the websites that they sell to you?
The only thing you’re doing when you use one of their templates is choosing which content to put on which page of the website. And that’s exactly what would happen if you’d hired a web developer directly.
All you’re doing when you use one of these services is, in effect, hiring their teams of web developers and designers. They can save you money because you aren’t getting a custom-built website, so there’s less work involved. They design and build the templates that you use.
It’s a quicker, cheaper, and more streamlined way to get your website up and running, for sure. But it still requires web developers to build and maintain the websites. So no, the use of services like these does not mean that web developers are already becoming obsolete.
Will Web Developers Become Obsolete: GPT-3
Web builders may not be a threat to web developers- they’re literally made by web developers, after all. But one of the chief drivers of the question will web developers become obsolete is the rise of new AI technology like GPT-3.
GPT-3 stands for Generative Pre-Trained Transformer 3. It’s extremely impressive- capable of writing text that’s indistinguishable from human-written text. It’s even been used to write poetry. One of it’s most interesting uses is to take human language and translate it into computer code.
You can literally describe the website you want and GPT-3 can generate the code you need to build it. The implications of that are huge. If this technology becomes widely available, anybody could build a brand new, custom website without using pre-made templates. You can simply describe what you want the website to look like and what you want it to do, and it will generate the code you need to make it happen.
Not So Fast
Anybody who’s done any amount of programming can already see where the problems are going to pop up. But some of them are not so obvious. First instance, if you have no experience as a web developer, how would you even know what to tell GPT-3 to do?
You’d have no trouble explaining what you want the website to look like, and even some basic ideas about how you want the user interface to function. But what about all the behind-the-scenes stuff? Unless you have technical experience, you would have no idea how to describe the backend functions of the website for GPT-3. Without that, your website won’t be functional.
That’s exactly the sort of thing that people without technical experience would get stuck on, too. Even if GPT-3 is smart enough to handle that level of intricate coding, it needs the instructions from you to write the code. And it can only write the code you tell it to. Anything you forget to tell it won’t be included. Anything you don’t know to tell it won’t be included.
In other words, in order to use technology like GPT-3 to build a website, you still need to be a web developer. Only a web developer is going to know how to give the right instructions to GPT-3. If anything, this technology should be thought of as an incredibly useful tool for web developers. It can dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to build a website, making your life a lot easier.
Will Web Developers Become Obsolete: Who’s Writing The Code for GPT-3?
The other thing to remember is that somebody wrote the code that makes GPT-3 function. And it doesn’t just invent the code for a website out of thin air, either. Web developers came up with the code that it uses.
GPT-3 didn’t create itself, it needed human input to even exist. And it can’t write code by itself, it needs human directions to know what code to write. Saying that GPT-3 is making web developers obsolete is like saying that automated sewing machines made fashion designers and tailors obsolete.
Will Web Developers Become Obsolete: Nothing to worry about
At the end of the day, most of the things that are seen as threats to web developers are nothing of the sort. Most of the time, the people asking “will web developers become obsolete” are people who are trying to decide if this is a career they’re interested in, not people who are already working as web developers.
That’s because most web developers recognize what those outside the field might have a hard time seeing: all of these things that people think can replace web developers still require web developers in order to work. They’re either services that use web developers to create easy to use templates, or AI tech that can really only be used effectively by a web developer.
Web Builders and CMS’s Should Be Worried
If anyone should be concerned, it’s services like WordPress and Squarespace. AI tech like GPT-3 could very easily make those services obsolete, because it would enable independent web developers to compete with them more easily. Will web developers become obsolete? No, but some of these services might.
If that technology becomes widely available, suddenly freelance web developers can offer the same ease of use and affordability that you get from web builders and content management services. In fact, all they’d have to do is have the client use GPT-3 to create the website they want, and then handle the back-end construction for them.
Non-technical web builders, far from being one threat to web developers, are actually the businesses most at risk from AI technology. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
They could change their business model to incorporate AI into their web builders. While they’re at risk, they’re also poised to lead the way AI-based web development for small businesses.
Speed is King
When it comes to web development, the faster you can build the website, the better. At least, that’s true as long as you don’t build a buggy website. Web developers who take advantage of new AI technology and change their business model accordingly are going to be at a huge advantage.
They’ll be able to create websites with unparalleled speed. Even if the AI can’t handle the more technical side of things, by handling the non-technical aspect of web development in minutes, instead of hours or days, they can still deliver the finished product much faster.
AI technology is going to be a game-changer for web developers, there’s no doubt about that. It might take longer than some people think- people tend to be overly optimistic when it comes to new technology- but it’s going to happen eventually.
But there’s no reason to think it can or will replace web developers altogether. AI will be able to handle some basic parts of building a website, but there will always be a need for web developers to handle the more advanced tasks. Will web developers become obsolete? No! If anything, they’ll have even more work to do.
Someone has to write the AI code
On top of all of that, somebody has to write and manage the AI code. An AI that can write it’s own code, while also correcting any mistakes in that code, and dealing with any errors that pop up during normal operations, is pure fiction.
It’s a fun sci-fi trope, but it isn’t possible in real life. Nothing about computer code would make this possible. Maybe, eventually, there will be AI that can write the code for another AI, but someone would still have to write and maintain the original AI’s code.
There’s always going to need to be a human in the loop, inspecting the code, rewriting it as needed, and checking for errors. No matter how good the AI gets, it will never be self-sustaining. So even if we start using AI to write the code for our websites all the time, we’ll still have web developers. It’s just that instead of working directly on the websites, they’ll work on the AI that creates the websites.
If anything, that should get you excited. You might be able to use AI to create entire websites in a fraction of the time it takes now. That means a single web developer can get a lot more work done, and earn a lot more money.
Will Web Developers Become Obsolete: Maybe the bad ones
This next part is probably going to sound a bit mean, but there’s no way around it. The only web developers who might become obsolete are the bad ones. As AI technology improves and gets better at writing code, it’s going outpace the mediocre or lazy web developers pretty quickly.
But skilled web developers will always be better than the AI. They might not be faster than the AI, but the quality of their work will be better. Think about the difference between products that are mass-produced in automated factories, vs the same product made by a skilled artisan.
You can buy a cheap kitchen knife for $10 at the grocery store. It was made in a factory, probably without ever being touched by human hands until you opened the package. It technically works fine, but it’s uncomfortable in your hand, gets dull quickly, and wears out fast.
Now compare that to a $200 handmade chef’s knife. The quality of the steel is far better, so it gets sharper and stays sharp longer. The handle is ergonomically shaped to be comfortable in your hand. The materials and build quality are far better. It’s a much better product.
That’s going to be what it’s like comparing websites built with just AI to ones built by good web developers. The difference in quality is going to be noticeable, and there will always be a demand for good web developers.
Will Web Developers Become Obsolete? No!
The bottom line is that there’s always going to be a demand for good web developers. No matter how good AI technology gets, it can’t replace web developers, and here’s why.
AI Can’t Do Everything
While AI might become very good at many of the basic tasks of web development, it’s never going to be able to handle the most complex parts of it as well as a good web developer. More importantly, because AI requires human input, you’re going to need a web developer to tell the AI what to do.
Without the expertise of a web developer, you’ll be able to tell the AI what you want the website to look like, but that’s about it. The backend functions would be unfinished and the website wouldn’t work.
Web Developers Will Shift What They Do
Web developers won’t become obsolete, but they might not be doing the same kind of work in 20 years that they do now. We can envision a future where web developers are spending more time programming and managing AI’s than they are on building websites. The AI will be the tool they use to build the websites, but it will only work well if it’s run by a web developer.
Web developers who embrace AI as a tool for web building are going to have a huge advantage over their competition. They’ll be able to complete quality websites much, much faster.
People Will Always Value Quality
Finally, people will always value quality work. And to get a quality website, you’re always going to need the involvement of a web developer. Whether they’re building the website directly or giving instructions to something like GPT-3, without a web developer your website will suffer.
Good web developers are always going to be in demand. This career field isn’t going obsolete at all. It might be changing a bit, but web developers are here to stay.