Web developers are, in many ways, the cornerstone of the modern, interconnected world. Without them, there would be no websites at all. There is not much point in browsing the Internet if there's nothing to see, right?
No wonder web development is one of the hottest and most lucrative fields to be in right now. But what does a developer do, exactly? Is it the same as web design? And, how do you become one?
A web developer is a professional that creates and updates every aspect of a website. That might not sound like much, but within that statement, lies a whole slew of roles and responsibilities that can make or break any website.
Developers are in charge of every aspect of a website. On the front end, they help translate the wireframes or design plans from web and UI designers into the functional website that visitors see. On the back end, they create the functionality that enables websites to meet business objectives.
Websites can be complex projects with many modules and parts. For anything but the simplest websites, there is usually a team of developers working on a website's specific aspects to make it function.
With every company on the planet trying to create a presence in the digital sphere, having a website is crucial to achieving that goal. That means web developers will always be in demand for the foreseeable future. And the pay reflects the demand: the median annual salary of web developers in 2019 was at $73,760, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
So, what do web developers do? It can be challenging to pin down precisely the answer because there is much scope within this job description. Here are some of their responsibilities:
As you can see, a developer role can be pretty diverse, depending on the company you work with. So, it's best to ask: what does a web developer do in your organization?
There are three main categories of web developers, depending on which aspect of a website they're handling. These are the back-end, front-end, and full-stack developers.
Front-end developers are responsible for creating the website's user interface – basically anything that the visitor can interact with and see. These developers work closely with web and UI designers to take a design layout from plan to live. They are responsible for making a website responsive, gorgeous, and functional.
Back-end developers are responsible for the logic that powers a website's functionality. Compared to front-end developers, back-end roles are more technical. Their scope covers server-side web programming, which includes handling databases and data processing algorithms.
For example, when you log in to a website, a complicated series of steps happen when you click the "Submit" button. The website needs to verify your username and password against your credentials from its database. If correct, the back-end retrieves your profile information and passes it over for the front-end to display to you as the user.
The above series of steps is the responsibility of a back-end developer. To implement these functionalities, they use various server-side programming languages like PHP, Java, Python, and SQL for database operations.
Full Stack Developers deal with both front and back end development, allowing them to handle the entire web development stack.
While these developers need to learn and understand a wide variety of concepts and languages, they are better positioned to create websites from scratch. They either build websites on their own for smaller companies or oversee the entire web development process for larger organizations.
A common misconception most people make is lumping web development and design together. The truth is that these are two distinct roles. To better understand the difference, we need to know first: what is web development vs. web design?
Web design is an inherently non-technical process. The main focus is conceptualizing the look, feel, and layout of a website. A web designer decides which colors to use, what layout works best, and which fonts are best suited to their design goals.
What web design doesn’t do is build the website itself – it only tells how the website should be made. The actual creation is the job of web development, which uses code to transform the web designer's vision into a website that users can browse through.
This separation of roles is practical when working on large projects because it allows specialization. In other words, a web designer doesn't need to learn how to code, and a developer isn't required to have graphic design skills.
Even though these are two separate roles, there is much overlap in practice. For smaller companies, for example, the web designer might also be the one who will create the site.
It takes more than knowing a few programming languages to become a successful web developer. Climbing up the ranks requires a few critical soft skills and a certain attitude.
To be a successful web developer, you need a tireless passion for learning. Web development is a rapidly evolving field. New technologies, libraries, and plugins are introduced all the time, so you need to stay up-to-date with these changes.
Regularly browsing through developer forums and blogs and experimenting on side projects are great ways to sharpen your web development skills.
Contrary to the stereotypical programmer who's holed up in their cubicle all day, developers need to be team players. They are often the glue that brings together marketers, upper management, clients, and other stakeholders, so they need to be excellent communicators.
Explaining a complicated concept in simple language is also a critical web developer skill. You need to bring everyone together onto the same page, and a lot of the stakeholders may be non-technical individuals.
Web development is a perfectionist's game. That's because even a single error or bug can bring an entire website to its knees. Thus, a good web developer needs to have the patience and attention to detail to spot critical mistakes before launch.
Becoming a web developer is a challenging but rewarding career path. Part of the difficulty is that there's so much to learn – programming languages, plugins, concepts, platforms – the list goes on and on.
To set yourself up for success, you need to have a plan. Start by deciding whether you want to be a front-end or back-end developer. We don't recommend going full-stack as a beginner as it can be too overwhelming.
Don't forget that you won't learn web development through theory – you need to put what you read into practice. You can do this by setting up a hobby website where you can experiment and test concepts.
To speed up your career further, find a real-world project to work on. Maybe contact an organization and offer to work on their website for a minimal fee. You can also apprentice under a more experienced web developer to learn the ropes.
With continuous focus and effort, you can be an accomplished web developer in no time!
Of course, if you have a website project that needs to be done right now, why not outsource it to an expert web development agency like Expedition Co? You'll get fantastic results and ROI, plus you can see first-hand how proper web development should be!
Interested? Contact us today, and let's start a conversation!