How many developers did it take to make this webpage?

David Robinson, Senior Strategist

How many developers did it take to make this webpage?

You might be reading this article on your phone, or on your computer, but unless you have printed it out (which I will wager you haven’t), regardless of device, you are reading content on a webpage served in a browser. This probably isn’t the first webpage you have opened today, and it probably won’t be the last.

Now not all webpages are created equal, some simply contain content to digest (like this one), others have interactivity and function as applications, regardless, they all have a lot in common. But have you ever wondered how the content ended up on your screen, and how many people were involved in making that happen?

It’s quite probable you haven’t, and to be honest neither had I till it popped into my head last night, but thinking about the answer led to a nice analogy with the way we work, so here we go….

If we take this page as an example, you could say just 1, me. Because this blog is powered by a CMS (content management system) I simply copied the text from Word (where I had drafted this post) into a form, added a title, and hit submit. Hands up, I didn't create the image on this page, so adding Caroline, the count is now 2. That’s all that was required to create this webpage for you to read.

However, that's not strictly true, and missing a few important pieces.

The CMS didn't magically appear, and the page you're reading sits within our website, which itself needed developing. It took a team of developers to build both the backend (the CMS and architecture which serves pages) and the frontend which then displays the content in different ways depending on the device you are using.

If we factor in the developers who built the site and its supporting structure, we’re up to (at least) 7 people.

Those additional 5 people were split over front and backend development. But the frontend developers didn't write all the code found on this page. They used common open source frameworks to speed up development. jQuery and Bootstrap are frequently used, creating shortcuts for enabling page interaction and responsive layouts respectively. They aren’t needed to make this page what it is, but they simplify the development process. (Other frameworks are available.)

Now it’s not quite as easy to say how many people developed those frameworks, but being open source we can look on GitHub and see who has contributed their time to these projects. If we look simply at total contributors, then jQuery has 269, and Bootstrap a whopping 941. Not all contributions are equal however, but even just looking at the top contributors we can confidently say there are more than 10 developers working on each framework.

Now our count is up to 27 developers, quite a jump.

I could go on in a similar vein, and think about the developers who made the tools the other developers use to write the code. What about the people that wrote the code that runs the server on which this site sits, or the tools to upload it. And then there is the browser you have open, and the operating system the device you are using requires simply to function. You wouldn’t be able to read this without a service provider and the infrastructure that powers the web. I don't think we need to mention the national grid, that's going a bit far.

Without all those developers, you wouldn't be able to read this page, and if a webpage exists but no-one can see it, does it really exist?

(I think the answer is yes, but you get where I’m coming from)

So, to read this page as you are now, you could argue it took the input of thousands of developers.

But of course, those developers didn’t do all that work just for this page.

The OS and browser you are using is installed on more than your machine. The servers are serving over a billion other websites. The frameworks are used everywhere, with jQuery being used on 2/3rds of the top-ranking websites alone. And of course, on our website, the CMS is being used to serve more than just this one page. Everything is being reused.

It could’ve been done differently. I could have manually written the page in any text editor. We didn't have to use the frameworks, or we could have used different ones. But to do that, it would have taken me a lot longer. We use the tools, frameworks and services we do because they improve our workflow. And we chose the ones we do, because they are powerful and easy to use.

And it is because they are easy to use that they become the most popular.

Everything mentioned in this article has been built with the user (in this case a developer) in mind.

That’s how everything on the internet should be, built with the user in mind. A UX led design process has ensured this page has been built with responsive layouts working seamlessly across mobile and desktop, and considered accessibility considerations. The CMS used to populate this page was built so that anyone, regardless of technical knowledge, can add content with ease.

If you are building anything without your users in mind, you won’t be providing them with the best experience. And if you don’t provide them with that, they will look to one of your competitors.

There are lots of different things you can do to make sure this happens, but one such process which we have discussed recently is the double diamond. You can read about that in Daisy’s recent article.

At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter how many people are involved in creating something on the web, or even how many people are using it. What does matter, is that all those who do use it, can, and in a way which allows them to achieve their goals.

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As your brand and technology partner, we’ll help you discover what’s possible.

We’ll make sure that the way we work is the right fit for your business, and we’ll ask the right questions to make sure you’re set up for success.

Together, we’ll create a unique advantage for your brand.

We are TheTin – building brands through technology, email info@thetin.net

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