Knowing too much

Ever since the dot-com bust I’ve noticed a greater risk of something that used to be a fun challenge and generally an exciting part of working in the web design/development business turning into something that will take too much time and energy out of your life.

What I’m talking about is the increasing need for web developers to know, and be good at, widely different things. Common skill requirements include graphic design, database development, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, XML, information architechture, usability, accessibility, writing, typography, ASP, PHP, SQL, Flash, QuickTime, interface design, content management systems and web server configuration. All in the same person. Fewer employees and smaller budgets means more work and tighter deadlines for those left. And just muddling through often isn’t enough. Most of the time you have to really know what you’re doing to deliver the quality worthy of a professional.

Having a wide set of skills is good. It’s even a necessity. But you have to draw the line somewhere. You cannot know everything about everything. After all, there are only 24 hours in a day, and everybody needs at least some sleep. Most people also need to spend some time with their friends and family. There just isn’t enough time to learn all you need to learn and still have a life.

I’m interested in knowing how other people deal with this. Do you try to limit the number of different areas and technologies you work with? What about quality? I find it incredibly hard to constantly produce top quality stuff in so many areas that require completely different mind-sets. And lowering the bar doesn’t feel good to me. Do you lower it anyway, and try not to think about it? What about working with just some of these skills for several weeks or months, and then switching to something else, and then back? Any other ideas?

Or do you just cope with it?

Posted on February 10, 2004 in Web General