We asked a panel of web experts whether knowing all the ins and outs of CSS and HTML is enough to guarantee yourself a job any more.
Jeff Croft recently argued that being someone who knows all the browser quirks isn’t enough to get you a job now that browsers have matured. We ask: is 'HTML/CSS Guru' still a marketable skillset?
Design, The Guardian
It's always easy to assume things are different to how they were previously. Yesterday's web developers had to wrestle with box-model hacks, image-replacement techniques and a thousand different ways to clear a float. Internet Explorer had become so dominant, that code was attuned to its various peculiarities.
As the old saying goes, "history doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme". We're still futzing around with box-models, image replacement has given way to web fonts, animations, transforms, filters… and CSS3 layout modules are ten a penny. WebKit has become so dominant, that code is attuned to its various peculiarities.
Everything changes and nothing changes all at once. Specialise or generalise, how you develop your career is up to you. Flexible freelancer or CSS consultant, as Zeldman said, the best advice is always "follow the path you love".
Front-end engineer / web designer
Software Engineer, Front-End at Twitter
Building and maintaining large web UI systems is still a difficult task that benefits from domain specialists. It's hard to find excellent UI developers familiar with the problem space. But having general knowledge and skills beyond HTML and CSS is necessary, because you're designing and working within a larger team and technology stack. I expect the situation to change more dramatically for HTML/CSS specialists once (encapsulated) Web Components are widely supported in browsers, and combined with design tools that output HTML/CSS for you.
In interaction development, solid HTML and CSS skills are invaluable right now. There are all sorts of new HTML5 APIs to explore and CSS animations to create, and you need to have a broad knowledge of many techniques to pick the right combination for a project. The playing field may have stabilized for implementing copy-centric designs, but we are just getting started when it comes to interaction. There's a lot of slack to be picked up in the wake of Flash. Browser implementations differ, specs are half finished, and there are deeper questions about how we build interactions that have yet to be addressed. The people who will ultimately answer these questions will also need to be masters of the full range of frontend technologies including HTML and CSS.
President of Sparkbox
Very. It's true, the web standards movement and tools like preprocessors have all but replaced our need to write CSS hacks. Yes, our jobs are changing — HTML and CSS alone are no longer enough. But I challenge you to remember this, we are an industry made of "I can figure that out" people. Ask around and you'll see, most people making the web came to it from something else. It's this incredible diversity that gives me hope, we will adapt our skill-sets as quickly as the industry itself changes.
Designer, author and host of Unfinished Business
Knowing how to write meaningful HTML and efficient CSS are skills that are going to be in demand for a long time to come. Browsers may have fewer differences between them, but those challenges have been replaced by needing to know how to implement designs for an almost infinite number of screen sizes.
Senior Designer, Twitter
To land a job as 'webmaster' 15 years ago I needed only the ability to utter the words "I can do you a website". The barrier to entry was low and everybody was making it up as they went along, learning on the job.
These days it's much harder to get started, and knowing HTML & CSS is a basic expectation for many roles. They're still extremely valuable skills – you're less likely to get in the door without at least a basic understanding, even though the hype around web standards has subsided.
I still occasionally dabble in code, but it hasn't been part of my day-to-day workflow for some time. A solid understanding of how it all fits together is useful every day, but as I've moved into more senior roles in larger teams I've found myself working with specialists rather than generalists, and my own hands-on skills have adapted to reflect that.
This article originally appeared in net magazine issue 252.