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Want to Know Which Small Businesses Are Booming? Ask Web Developers and Designers.

In the 1970s, if you wanted to know what sector was hot, all you had to do was go to the mall and see what businesses had the most customers. Nowadays, with an economy increasingly driven by the internet, all you have to do is look at what web pros (aka professional web developers and designers) are working on to know what small businesses are thriving.

According to an Evans Data study of web developers and designers commissioned by GoDaddy, consumer-centric markets for retail, travel, health and fitness are driving web pro growth today. And all that growth is helping lead to another growth sector: web developers and designers themselves. Based on research conducted in Brazil, Germany, India, Mexico, the United Kingdom and United States, web pros are also growing fast.

That retail, travel, health and fitness are leading the growth isn’t entirely surprising. Over the last two decades, as the global population has both prospered and aged, consumers are looking for experiences — and how to stay healthy enough to enjoy them. That’s broadly true across all the countries included in the survey, with one exception: India. There, the creative industries and education lead the way. It’s the only country where travel and retail didn’t make the top three:

U.S. Germany/U.K. India Brazil Mexico
1. Retail 1. Retail 1. Creative 1. Retail 1. Travel
2. Travel 2. Food 2. Education 2. Travel 2. Retail
3. Health/Fitness 3. Creative 3. Health/Fitness 3. Real Estate 3. Food

So, what will be next? As we enter the next stage of the internet — artificial intelligence and the internet of things — we’re likely to see transportation and advice-based industries — health, legal, investing for example — emerge.

But, web pros are not only a leading indicator, they are a critical part of small business development, and the research conducted by Evans Data shows that while the web pro business is an opportunity it also comes with pain points.

First, there’s managing growth. Nearly 80 percent of web developers and designers report client growth of 25 percent or more a year — with more than one in three saying it was 50 percent or more. It’s still a relatively young industry (nearly half of web pros reported only being in business five years or less), and it struggles with how to keep up with demand. That is especially true in the newer markets such as India and Mexico. The research shows the importance of continued learning and the need to manage growth and focus on looking where your next clients will come from.

In the newer markets, the focus is on gaining the technical and creative skills to provide services whole managing clients. But, in the most mature market, the United States, the focus is as much on how the business is run — project management and business skills — as it is staying up to speed technically.

To manage growth as the internet continues to reshape the economy, it’s critical that those who put small businesses online mature as well. There is a strong need for standards — as reflected by the 83 percent of web pros who say they support a certification program.

Instead of easing up, we’re likely to see the internet’s impact on the economy accelerate with the introduction of AI and other emerging technologies. The economy is struggling to keep up: It’s projected in the United States alone there will be 1.8 million unfilled tech jobs by 2024. As new ventures are created, that will put pressure on those who get those businesses online. So, if you want to know what’s the next big thing, ask a web pro — they are probably already working on it.

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