What is a web developer?
A web developer is a professional who designs and builds websites or web applications. They use coding and programming languages to turn web design layouts into fully functioning websites or digital tools. While web design primarily focuses on the aesthetic and usability aspects of a website, web development ensures that the design is technically implemented and functions smoothly.
These developers play a crucial role in the digital age as they create the online platforms businesses, organizations, and individuals use to interact with their audience. Their work forms the backbone of the internet, shaping the way we engage with digital content. The value they bring to an organization lies in their ability to construct, manage, and optimize these platforms for a seamless and engaging user experience.
Duties and responsibilities
These professionals also build functionalities like navigation elements and ensure the website operates efficiently across different browsers and devices. They are often responsible for implementing security measures, optimizing load times, and troubleshooting any technical issues.
Moreover, they frequently work with databases and may be involved in developing and integrating APIs. Depending on their specific role or the project’s requirements, they may work closely with web designers, back-end developers, UX designers, or content creators.
Web developers work in various settings, including digital agencies, tech companies, and freelance capacities. They can work remotely or in traditional office environments, often collaborating with a larger team that may include designers, content creators, and other developers.
Their computer-centric work requires a strong understanding of various programming languages and development tools. It’s a role that demands problem-solving skills, attention to detail, and a continual learning mindset due to the fast-paced nature of technological advancements.
Typical work hours
The work hours for web developers can vary depending on their work setting. In a traditional office environment, they typically work a standard 9-to-5 schedule. However, due to the project-based nature of their work, there may be times when they need to put in additional hours to meet project deadlines or resolve technical issues.
Freelance or remote developers often have more flexibility in their work schedules, but they must also accommodate client needs and project timelines. Given the constant evolution of technology and best practices, these professionals often spend time learning and updating their skills outside traditional working hours.
How to become a web developer
To become a web developer, you must learn the essential programming languages, understand web design principles, and gain practical experience in the field. In this career guide section, we cover the steps you’ll need to take to achieve your goal:
Step 1: Learn the fundamentals of web development
Numerous online tutorials, courses, and resources are available to help you learn these languages. The popular courses listed below are completely online with flexible deadlines:
- Introduction to HTML5 offered by the University of Michigan, also through Coursera
- The Complete CSS Course via Udemy
- Understanding Web Development: A Beginners Guide to the Web via Skillshare
Step 2: Gain proficiency in front-end and back-end technologies
Web development can be broadly divided into two areas: front-end (client-side) and back-end (server-side). As a developer, you may choose to specialize in one area or become a full-stack developer with expertise in both.
For back-end development, learn server-side programming languages such as PHP, Python, Ruby, or Node.js. Additionally, understand the basics of database management systems like MySQL or PostgreSQL and learn how to integrate them with your back-end code.
Step 3: Master version control systems
Version control systems, like Git, are crucial for managing code, collaborating with other developers, and maintaining a project’s history. Learn how to use Git to track changes, create branches, and merge updates. Familiarize yourself with platforms like GitHub and Bitbucket for managing repositories and collaborating with others.
Step 4: Build a portfolio and gain practical experience
Create a portfolio showcasing your projects and skills. Include examples of websites or applications you’ve built and any client work or open-source contributions. Your portfolio will serve as a testament to your expertise and experience, helping you stand out to potential employers or clients.
Gain practical experience by working on personal projects, freelancing, or collaborating on open-source projects. This hands-on experience will help you improve your skills, build your network, and provide valuable material for your portfolio.
Step 5: Stay updated with industry trends and best practices
Web development is a rapidly evolving field, so staying informed about the latest technologies, trends, and best practices is essential. Follow industry blogs, attend webinars and conferences, and participate in online developer communities. Continuously expand your skills and knowledge to stay competitive and grow in your career.
How much do web developers make?
Several variables influence salaries. One of the most significant is the level of experience. More seasoned developers, particularly those with a wide range of skills, including multiple programming languages and a strong understanding of UI/UX principles, generally earn more than those just starting their careers.
The industry in which they work also affects their compensation. Industries that depend heavily on their online presence or e-commerce platforms, such as retail, marketing, or technology, typically offer higher salaries for skilled developers.
Geography is another crucial factor. Those in tech hubs or metropolitan areas with a higher cost of living, like San Francisco or New York, often command higher salaries than those in smaller cities or more rural areas.
Education can also play a role, with those holding a degree in a related field like computer science potentially earning more. However, many successful developers are self-taught or have gained skills through coding bootcamps.
Lastly, the size of the company and the complexity of its web development needs can impact salary. Larger companies or those with more complex web infrastructure often pay their web developers more.
Highest paying industries
- Software publishers – $110,140
- Finance – $106,750
- Management of companies and enterprises – $99,790
- Computer manufacturing – $98,510
- Other information services – $95,680
Highest paying states
- Washington – $116,080
- California – $105,200
- New York – $95,960
- Virginia – $93,110
- New Jersey – $92,040
Types of web developers
In this career guide section, we explore the various types and specializations associated with the web developer profession. Their specializations can vary greatly depending on the projects’ complexity, the clients’ requirements, and the specific technologies used.
Front-end web developer
Back-end web developer
These developers work on server-side development. They create, maintain, and test the server, application, and database that enable the user-facing side of the website to operate. Back-end developers typically work with server-side languages like PHP, Ruby, Python, Java, or .NET, ensuring that data or services requested by the front-end system or software are delivered appropriately.
Full-stack web developer
Professionals in this role are proficient in both front-end and back-end development. They have the comprehensive skills needed to work on all aspects of web development, from user interface design to server infrastructure. These developers can handle a wide range of tasks, making them particularly valuable in small teams or projects with a broad scope.
These developers specialize in building online stores. They might work with specific e-commerce platforms like Shopify or Magento or use a more general content management system like WordPress with WooCommerce. E-commerce developers must understand how to implement product listings, shopping carts, and secure payment systems.
Top skills for web developers
Understanding back-end languages is another crucial skill for web developers, especially those working on full-stack or back-end development. Languages such as PHP, Ruby, Python, or Java are commonly used to create server-side logic, interact with databases, and manage user authentication. This knowledge allows web developers to build robust and secure web applications.
Knowledge of responsive design is essential in the current digital landscape, where users access websites with different screen sizes from various devices. These professionals must ensure their websites are visually appealing and functional across all devices. This involves understanding the principles of responsive design and implementing them effectively.
Familiarity with version control systems, such as Git, is also vital. These systems allow developers to keep track of changes made in the codebase, revert to previous versions if necessary, and collaborate with other developers without overwriting each other’s changes. This not only aids in managing the codebase but also reduces the risk of errors.
For web developers, problem-solving abilities are a must. They frequently encounter challenging tasks, from debugging code to optimizing website performance. A strong problem-solving mindset enables them to troubleshoot these issues efficiently and continually improve the quality of their work. Combined with technical skills, this ensures a successful career in web development.
After gaining some years of experience and expanding your technical skills, you could advance to a web developer role. At this level, you’ll be expected to handle more complex tasks, develop complete websites or web applications, and potentially collaborate directly with clients or stakeholders.
With further experience, professionals can progress to a senior web developer role. As a senior developer, you’ll have more responsibilities such as designing the architecture of web applications, making critical technical decisions, and mentoring junior developers.
From there, many specialize in front-end, back-end, or full-stack development, depending on their interests and the specific skills they’ve developed. Others might move into roles that involve more strategic oversight, like a tech lead or a project manager.
Beyond that, you could even aim for roles such as a CTO (chief technology officer) or IT director, overseeing the technological direction of an entire company. Alternatively, many developers choose to work as freelancers or start their own web development businesses.
Similar job titles
Position trends and outlook
The field of web development is continually evolving, driven by technological advancements and changing user expectations.
One of the significant trends impacting these professionals is the rise of progressive web apps (PWAs). These web applications have the functionality and design of mobile apps but are delivered through the web. PWAs represent a shift in web development towards creating more immersive and user-friendly web experiences.
Another major trend is the growing focus on responsive and mobile-first design. As mobile device usage continues to grow, these developers need to create websites that look and function seamlessly on a variety of screen sizes.
Moreover, there’s an increasing emphasis on web accessibility, making websites usable for all people, including those with disabilities. This trend is driven by both ethical considerations and regulatory requirements, making accessibility knowledge a crucial skill for professionals in this role.
Employment projections for web developers
Web developers fall under the category of “Web Developers and Digital Designers,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment in this category is projected to grow 23 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Demand for these professionals is driven by the growing popularity of mobile devices and e-commerce and businesses’ increasing need for robust and attractive websites. Those with diverse programming skills, knowledge of multiple frameworks and libraries, and an understanding of accessibility standards will likely have the best job prospects.
Web developer career tips
Master essential programming languages
Understand responsive design
In today’s world, websites need to perform well on a variety of devices, from desktop computers to mobile phones. Understanding responsive design principles will allow you to create websites that provide a seamless experience across different screen sizes and devices.
Stay updated with technology trends
The field of web development is continually evolving, with new technologies and tools emerging regularly. Staying updated with these trends will ensure you remain competitive and can meet the changing needs of clients.
Build a professional network
Networking can provide valuable insights, learning opportunities, and potential collaborations. Consider joining professional associations and communities such as:
- Association of Software Professionals (ASP)
- International Web Association (IWA)
- World Organization of Webmasters (WOW)
Familiarize yourself with SEO principles
While primarily a marketing concern, a basic understanding of SEO principles benefits these professionals. This knowledge will allow you to create websites that are not only functional and visually appealing but also optimized for search engines.
Implement continuous learning
Continuous learning is key in a field that changes as rapidly as web development. Stay updated on new technologies, programming languages, and best practices. Areas of focus could include:
- Web accessibility standards
- Back-end development languages
- Web security practices
Prioritize website performance
Maintain an updated portfolio
A portfolio is a powerful way to showcase your skills and capabilities in this role. Regularly update your portfolio with your most recent projects, demonstrating a range of skills and solutions. Ensure your portfolio website is a testament to your best work.
Where the jobs are
- New York
- Information technology
- Computer software
- Financial services
- StackOverflow jobs
What programming languages and technologies should a web developer be proficient in?
Knowledge of server-side languages such as PHP, Python, Ruby, or Node.js, and database management systems like MySQL, MongoDB, or PostgreSQL is essential for back-end development.
What is the role of a web developer in website accessibility?
They should be knowledgeable about web accessibility guidelines, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and ensure that the websites they create are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. This involves using proper semantic markup and ARIA attributes, implementing keyboard navigation, and selecting accessible plugins and libraries.
What tools and software do web developers typically use?
These developers use a variety of tools and software, such as code editors (e.g., Visual Studio Code, Sublime Text, or Atom), version control systems (e.g., Git), task runners (e.g., Grunt or Gulp), and build tools (e.g., Webpack).
They may also use browser developer tools for debugging, and performance analysis and design tools like Adobe XD, Sketch, or Figma for prototyping and collaboration with designers.
How do web developers stay up-to-date with industry trends and best practices?
To stay current with industry trends and best practices, they should follow reputable industry blogs, subscribe to newsletters, participate in online forums and communities, and attend conferences, webinars, and meetups. Engaging in continuous learning and professional development is essential to staying competitive in the rapidly evolving web development landscape.
How important is SEO for a web developer?
SEO is an essential aspect of web development, as it ensures that websites are easily discoverable by search engines and rank higher in search results. They should be familiar with basic SEO concepts, such as optimizing website content, meta tags, and site structure, as well as understanding the importance of website speed and mobile-friendliness for SEO.
What are the typical career paths for a web developer?
Their career path may include starting as a junior developer and progressing to more senior roles, such as senior web developer or team lead. Some may specialize in a specific area, such as front-end or back-end development, or focus on a particular technology or framework.
Others may transition into related roles, such as web designer, UX/UI designer, project manager, or software developer. Web developers can also choose to become freelancers or run their own web development agencies, providing services to a diverse range of clients.
What are the key traits and qualities of a successful web developer?
A successful developer should possess strong problem-solving skills, attention to detail, and the ability to work well under pressure. They should be adaptable, able to learn new technologies quickly and stay current with industry trends.
Excellent communication skills are vital, as they often work with diverse teams and clients. Additionally, a commitment to best practices in coding, design, and user experience is crucial for professional success.
What is the difference between front-end, back-end, and full-stack web development?
Back-end web development involves coding the server-side logic that powers the website’s functionality, such as handling user input, managing databases, and ensuring data security. This typically involves server-side languages like Python, Ruby, or PHP and database languages like SQL.
Full-stack web development involves both front-end and back-end development. A full-stack developer can handle all aspects of web development, from the user interface to the server logic.
What is the role of a web developer in website performance and security?
These professionals play a crucial role in website performance and security. They write efficient code to ensure the website loads quickly and runs smoothly. They may also implement performance optimization techniques such as minifying code, optimizing images, and setting up caching.
Regarding security, developers implement measures to protect the website from threats. This can include sanitizing user input to prevent SQL injection attacks, setting up secure user authentication, configuring HTTPS, and regularly updating software to patch security vulnerabilities.
How does a web developer work with a web designer?
They often work closely with web designers in building a website. The designer creates the visual layout and design of the website, while the developer turns those designs into a functioning website.
This requires a good deal of collaboration and communication, as the developer may need to give feedback on the feasibility of certain designs, and the designer may have specific visions for how interactive elements should work.