Being a Generalist is Important
It may be a bold statement to make in the rapidly evolving web development ecosystem, but I think it still holds true for the most part. Being a generalist is becoming harder and harder to achieve, but it sure is worth it.
What is a generalist you may ask? That is someone who can touch all parts of a website or web application. For example, you can do work on the design (mockups, HTML), implement server side code, fix/implement server setups, etc.
With how the web is evolving, more and more people are specializing in a particular area, for example front-end. I am not saying that you should not specialize in an area, but that you should be experimenting, touching as many parts as possible to give you a better understanding of what is possible and what is not.
Why would you want to know about how this works, or how that works does not only give you a better understanding, it also can fill your desire to learn more, which is something I cannot get rid of, nor do I want to. I am sure that other developers experience this too. I mean, why else do we have side projects, or if you work full time for an agency that you do work on the side. It is this yearning for experimenting, learning and honing your craft.
There are other benefits to becoming a generalist, or at least in parts, which is being able to build the things you need/want whenever you want. Hey I have this side project, I’m awesome at HTML, CSS and JS, but I don’t have a back-end to store all the database interactions, well there is a great opportunity to learn a back-end language such as Ruby, Python, PHP, whatever server side language floats your boat. Now you will get to play around with a new language (always helpful for your learning and may change how you develop in your current stack), you get to complete your side project on your own and see it come to life.
What I am trying to say is, experiment, give in to your inner generalist and start hacking away, getting out of your comfort zone and push yourself.
Be a generalist, its fun and always exciting.
Side Note: There are many full time generalists out there, such as Drew Wilson, he is someone I look up to as he always tackles something new, whether it be design, development (front-end and back-end), iOS, whatever he needs to see is idea come to life. Check Drew and his many projects out, there is no way you cannot be inspired.