If you are looking for ways to diversify your portfolio and expand your skill set, you have probably already asked yourself at some point: what is Web development and how hard can it be to start a career as a Web programmer? These questions, while very straightforward, are anything but easy to answer. The industry is vast and ever-changing. Sometimes a thing that is considered a true staple of Web development can be discarded without a second thought after the emergence of a new technology. And sometimes you should instead stick to the trusted tools of the trade to wait out and transcend any hype that comes your way.
In this article we’ll try our best to answer some of the more sensitive questions regarding modern Web development practices, have an overview on what kind of industry is Web development in general, as well as give out some pointers on how to learn Web development while on your own career journey.
What exactly is Web development?
As the name implies, Web development is all about the buildout. Anything that expands any part of the Internet or private networks is done through the Web development cycles — miscellaneous programming tasks that ultimately aim to create some sort of online content. Consequently, anything you see on the Internet at some point was (and sometimes still is) a part of such a cycle.
And this means, anything. Not only a text or a video or any other valuable information that catches your eye immediately — but also, say, an arrangement of the elements on a Web page, or the color of the background, or encoding of the symbols that you see and also of those that you usually don’t.
The most basic of such standards are developed mainly by two groups of people called WHATWG (that stands for the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group) and W3C (also known as the World Wide Web Consortium). Most of those people are also employed either by Apple or Microsoft. These groups are tasked with deciding, essentially, what is website development, and how it will evolve eventually. Writing these rules that govern the Web as a whole can also be viewed as a form of Web development.
What are 3 types of Web development?
The definition of website development closely resembles the definition of a usual software development cycle. That is, it’s a process that aims to deliver some sort of a digital product, and consists of the visualization → coding → testing → deployment → maintenance phases.
Of course, things like these can be rather confusing if you just pile them on in one single heap. So, for simplicity’s sake we distinguish three very different branches of Web development:
- Front-end development;
- Back-end development;
- Full-stack development.
“Front” and “back” ends here refer to the proximity of the feature to the end user. That is, by definition the “front” Web development is closer to what a human eye sees, and generally deals with convenience features, as well as basic UI. In contrast, the “back” end deals with the internal server-based operations of the website — the very things that make it work in the first place. Full-stack development is an umbrella term that generally means combining the knowledge and methodology of both front-end and back-end development to deliver a complete product from scratch. The developers working on such a project are expected to either switch between their tasks effortlessly and on demand, or better yet, plan and realize the whole project by themselves.
What does a Web developer do?
Depending on a type of a development project, Web developers can work on a vast number of features and designs. Some of the more popular tasks for a front-end developer might include:
- Designing or redesigning parts of a user interface, or a UI as a whole
- Implementing that UI on a product.
- Creating and adding new features to a Web site, or removing the redundant and unneeded features.
- Squashing any bugs that might inadvertently appear on a site.
- Correcting the mistakes of previous developers, if applicable.
The site is neat, tidy, and you will definitely return there someday? Then its front-end team did a good job. Vice versa, if the site design is awful, unwieldy, and most would-be-features aren’t working as intended, you know who to blame here.
Tasks of a back-end developer can be a bit more academic, but nevertheless it’s a very important and interesting job:
- Optimizing the code, the data, and the server robustness.
- Recording, monitoring and analyzing the server data.
- Anticipating and addressing security issues.
If the site that you’re browsing barely works, that’s the back-end engineer's fault. And conversely, if you can always access it without any problems, it probably means that the back-end there is top-notch.
Full-stack development is a very intricate (and also the most paying out of three) job, which basically covers a full digital platform development cycle. Skills both from front-end and back-end skill sets will be mandatory. The usual array of responsibilities here goes like this:
- Developing and optimizing cross-platform solutions for mobile devices.
- Building servers and databases. Utilizing them for your projects.
- Ability to envision the project from the start, and to see it through the release.
- Creating various practical front-end solutions, APIs and UI.
No matter your actual position, ALL of these jobs require you to be a team player. You’ll have to constantly communicate with your fellow developers, thus your ability to find a group consensus will be extremely important. At the same time, you’ll have to be independent enough to voice your concerns when they are called for, and to spot the inevitable mistakes in your colleagues' work. More often than not you’ll have to keep a log with the description of website development. Middle and senior positions are also almost universally expected to oversee and educate the junior developers as necessary.
Is Web development a good career?
As a rule of thumb, all of the development jobs are paid rather generously, with full-stack developers being able to earn more than $150 000 annually. This lucrativeness comes with a caveat though, as Web development is not just a job — it’s a lifestyle. To stay relevant, you’ll have to constantly hone your skills against the ever-coming new technologies and hardware, basically learning how to start Web development from square one each time. This sort of a mental treadmill can be very discouraging if you are seeking a defined set of unchanging rules to apply routinely in your line of work.
If you are flexible and love to learn new stuff though, these jobs will allow you to express yourself profoundly and leave a lasting mark on our world. At the very bare minimum, a site that you’d make for a business becomes their primary showcase. This first impression makes or breaks the business, and when you do a good job, you will know that it was precisely you who made it so.
Moreover, the Internet is still relatively young, and its development is bound to bring many new discoveries and technologies that may become crucial tomorrow. For example, the early 2020s had opened some new and exciting ways to make money through the usage of cryptocurrencies — a technology that is fully reliant on Web development. Getting ahead of the curve here and learning about the new technological trends and meanings in Web development today will ensure your bright future in a world of your own creation.