How do web developers prioritize their work?

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Anyone working in the digital or tech industries needs to prioritize their tasks. Depending on ongoing projects, goals, and deadlines, there will be some degree of planning and prioritization required. In the case of web developers, the most important tasks are usually the most urgent ones, or the ones that are due the soonest. Whether it's completing a new landing page by a deadline or migrating an entire website to a new host, developers generally work towards deadlines and will prioritize based on those. At the same time, issues, errors, and problems may arise throughout the working week, and a web developer will need to decide on how to approach those. It is not uncommon for daily tasks to get pushed aside in order to deal with an issue or ticket.

Working Toward Release Dates

Web developers who are developing apps and software will generally be working towards release dates. Whether they are making small updates to certain areas of an app, or making big changes and implementing a completely new design, there will often be a strict deadline. The scope of these tasks combined with the time frame for completion will inform the prioritization of their work. It is possible that there are multiple releases in development at the same time. In this case, priorities may be set according to the tasks that will take the longest or are the most complex to complete.

Creating a Backlog

Prioritizing work is an essential skill for developers to learn and is one of the biggest challenges they face. There will often be a backlog of tasks lined up for developers to complete, and these may change depending on the needs of the business. Coding takes time, whether it's updating an existing code or writing an entirely new program or feature. Web developers need to allocate sufficient time for this. They will often have to attend meetings throughout the working week and possibly handle tickets that arise from fellow teammates or customers, depending on the business. Items in a backlog may be de-prioritized, with less urgent tasks sent to the back of the queue until a time when they can be handled.

Curve Balls

Juggling multiple topics is an important skill for web developers and indeed for anyone working in IT and the tech industry. No matter how much you plan, there is always the possibility that something will come up that will need solving. A fellow teammate may need assistance with some website code, or an app feature may stop working and require attention. Small and big obstacles may pop up throughout the development process which may need solving before a developer can move on. These sometimes need to take priority until they are solved. Along with careful planning, both front and back-end web developers need to respond to situations as they arise - curve balls are not uncommon in the world of tech and development.

Setting Priorities

The overall goals and priorities will generally be set along with the wider team, in particular, the CEO, managers, and business leaders. The potential gains that can be acquired with a particular development or update will be measured, and priorities will be set accordingly. It is then up to web developers to break ongoing projects down into manageable tasks. They may need to allocate time for meetings, A/B testing, obstacles, and other issues throughout the process. Taking time to set up new tools or perhaps learn a new coding language may also be part of the project, and they will need to prioritize these accordingly.

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Freelance Web Developers

In the case of freelance web developers, they have a little more leeway with regard to prioritization. They generally work with clients towards deadlines and will aim to complete the most urgent tasks first. Again, it is a balancing act as, even with the most thorough planning, there may be roadblocks, obstacles, and issues to solve along the way. Freelancers have the freedom to choose the clients they work with and which projects they take on. Priorities will generally be set according to deadlines and time frames set by their clients.

Quality vs. Quantity

It is not only deadlines that inform priorities for web developers. In some cases, speed will take precedence over quality, but in others, quality and getting something perfectly right will be the main objective. In this case, testing, testing, and more testing will be required. Then, developers will need to assess the results of these tests, set priorities, and move forward based on the results. Quality vs. quantity may sometimes be the reason behind a given priority for a web developer.

Working in Teams

Learning to prioritize as a web developer takes time and is often a case of 'learning by doing'. No matter how carefully you plan and organise your tasks, there will often be a curve ball, or a new priority will appear. A lot depends on the type of organization you work for and how the teams are arranged. Whether you are working with other developers or working alone, this will also have an impact on setting priorities. Web developers often work with other stakeholders and teammates such as UX designers and data analysts. When this is the case, priorities may overlap or even collide. This will also inform how web developers prioritize their work and day-to-day tasks. 

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