While on my last contract, I became aware (and alarmed) that I have fallen behind the curve with regard to front end technologies. I am just barely getting up to speed with MVC, and only now am getting used to products like Grunt, Bower, and Yeoman. I have had a little exposure to KnockoutJS, but there seems to be an even greater demand for AngularJS and BackboneJS.
I can claim credit for being pretty much up to date with Responsive design and Bootstrap, but there is so much else happening on the front end. Would you all advise me on the quickest/shortest route to fill in these gaps in my experience and become a taxpayer again? Thanks in advance!
Absolutely! There are so many frameworks around now it's easy to feel overwhelmed.
CSS frameworks IMHO do nothing but add unnecessary weight to a site's page budget, and let's face it you rarely use every part of those frameworks so you're loading kb's of CSS for nothing.
It's impossible to keep up with everything these days so I'd suggest focusing on your core skills and excel at them, don't try to be a jack of all trades! It's also worth investing time in the new generation of CMS's such as Craft and Statamic as these are slowly becoming more and more popular and demand is growing.
I'm kind of in a similar situation though without the raft of experience you've no doubt accrued.
As bluedreamer pointed out above it is impossible to keep up with everything, in my previous job I was the sole "web anything", so I couldn't spend too much time learning new things especially the latest fad.
There's always risk, when I moved forward with WordPress development many years ago I wasn't sure if it would become popular or die out. Turns out it became hugely popular (yay) and now everyone just buys premium themes (boo) and it was a double edged sword. If you feel you must learn then pick one and be amazing at it, no use in spreading yourself too thin.
I'm looking towards either making decent plugins for WordPress in the short term or starting off with a new CMS, I still need to spend time getting better at PHP though
Same boat as you are. Perhaps, you should be thankful that you're only dealing with front-end technologies... as there are new stuff on back-end as well. I was bit overwhelmed by grunt/bower/yeoman but it turns out that it wasn't much of learning curve. You only deal w/ yeoman+bower about 5% and 95% you're dealing with grunt. Once your environment is stable then you'll likely not use any command then "grunt serve". However, I've had tough time learning AngularJS in details. I've had to read 3 books to understand how to design in AngularJS.
I first got involved with Wordpress back in 2006 as a "gamble" - wanting to pick one CMS to work with or specialize in. I started way back in 1998 with Dreamweaver building "regular" sites, usually modifying existing templates. Today, I have a decent business, but sometimes it feels more like a "job" because of the time investment in keeping sites updated. Most of my clients pay me a monthly fee for hosting and an hour of site updates. A few years ago, it got to the point where I decided I no longer wanted to invest time in learning all the newest and greatest "stuff" and hired a younger developer and designer to help me.
This turned out to be a great move. At the end of the day, I believe you really have to learn how to market your services well. And that in and of itself takes time. Marketing has its own learning curve. If you can, specialize in one thing - plus marketing.
Going forward, I've decided to use my web development skills and tools to build some automated income sources to balance the "client acquisition" business model. By automated, I mean, creating eBooks and building an audience around a topic or two. As I've been in the webmaster for a number of years, I'm starting to find that the stress that comes with an increased client base isn't something I want to deal with forever.
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