A website has the power to make or break a business. A site that’s appealing and easy to use will reel in new customers and boost profits. If it takes forever to load or looks dated, that company will lose sales to their competition - and their brand image could suffer lasting damage.

Needless to say, the art of web development has become incredibly important. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, developer jobs are projected to increase by 13% over the next 8 years, exceeding the average growth rate of most other jobs.

If you’re hoping to enter a stable industry with skills that literally every organization needs, then you’re starting in the right place. This is our complete guide to computer programming: we’ll explore what it means to become a developer, and delve into the most common terms and definitions.

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Definition of Web Development

Web development is the process of building a website, app or software. It involves determining the needs of the client and creating an appealing interface, as well as building in functionality for the end-user - whether they’re looking for information, ordering products, or scheduling appointments.

What Is A Web Developer?

Developers rely on a variety of programming languages to build websites that meet their client’s needs. Some specialize in one or two languages and choose their projects accordingly. Depending on the scope of the project, multiple programmers focusing on different aspects of web development may need to work together to get the job done.

But web development encompasses more than tapping out hundreds of lines of HTML; programmers also have to meet with clients and designers to understand their goals, test features of the site as they go, track the site’s performance once it goes live and even perform ongoing maintenance.

Web development has become a highly coveted career track since developers are in high demand and earn impressive salaries. But in order to excel, you’ll have to put in the time: even if you have a programming language or two under your belt, you’ll also need to get acquainted with two of the most popular web development processes: waterfall and agile.

The Web Development Process: Waterfall Vs. Agile

Whether working with multiple clients on a freelance basis or as part of an in-house team, the work a web developer does requires them to get accustomed to managing different projects simultaneously. Every new site feature or app comes with an extensive to-do list, as developers take the project from the research and planning phase, through development, all the way to testing and delivery.

To keep all of these projects on track, two popular methodologies have been developed. The traditional approach to managing a web development project is the waterfall method: a linear process that guides developers step by step from planning the site, to implementation and maintenance. If they choose to follow this method, developers may spend weeks on planning and production, ultimately presenting the complete project to the client in one go.

By contrast, the agile methodology promotes tackling a project in smaller chunks, presenting different features to the client as they’re developed. In this case, a developer can gather feedback as the site progresses, rather than waiting until they’ve fully completed the assignment. The agile methodology has become increasingly popular since it often leads to higher client satisfaction and more efficient use of time for the development team.

What Are the Most Common Web Development Languages?

If you want to go up the ranks from junior developer to senior software engineer, you’ll have to be fluent in multiple languages. Coding languages can be used in different ways; some are favored in certain industries, or are specific to frontend or backend development. They each have their strengths and weaknesses.

Many new developers start by learning a frontend language, like HTML, CSS or JavaScript.

HTML is a frontend language: it tells the browser where text, headings and links should be on the page. Most programmers will start off by learning HTML first, since it’s a fairly easy language to learn, and it’s still one of the most widely used.

CSS is another frontend language used in conjunction with HTML. CSS allows programmers to change the style of their text, the size of their images, and where content should be placed.

JavaScript is used to make sites interactive. It’s also one of the more versatile languages, as it can be used both front frontend and backend coding.

But it’s not all about the frontend. If you want to be a full stack developer, you’ll have to learn at least one backend language as well.

PHP is very common, and is also user-friendly for new developers to learn. It’s a favorite for modifying websites built in Wix and WordPress.

Java is another common backend language. Websites built with Java are relatively easy to maintain, and it’s a language that’s employed even on very large websites with lots of data.

Common Web Development Terms

If you’re committed to learning to code, then you’ll soon be introduced to the world of software bugs, core libraries and APIs. We’re going to ease you in with five of the most common terms web developers use on a daily basis.

Bug - An error that prevents a site or app from functioning correctly. Some common bugs include issues with browser compatibility, broken links and long load times.

Deployment - When a website goes live for the first time, or a new version with updates is pushed out.

Libraries - Collections of pre-written code or routines that are frequently used for a specific program. These snippets of code are intended for developers to share and use freely.

Information Architecture - A way of organizing content on a site so that it makes sense for the end-user.

Application Programming Interface (API) - A set of tools that allows two programs to communicate.

Content Management System (CMS) - A software that’s used to build websites, such as Wix, Squarespace or WordPress. Some of these platforms require no coding knowledge and are designed to be “out-of-the-box” solutions for small businesses; others require advanced programming skills.

Web Design Vs. Web Development

If you’re new to the tech space, it may not be immediately clear how these two specialties are different. Both designers and developers are in the business of building websites. But what is web development, and how exactly does it differ from web design?

Web development refers to the process of building a website from the ground up. Aesthetic appearance is certainly a concern, but developers are equally focused on the functionality of the site.

Web design, also called user experience (UX) or user interface (UI) design, is more specific. It refers only to the aspects of the site that the user sees and interacts with. Web designers often have some coding knowledge, but they invest much more time into planning the layout of the site, and thoughtfully deciding on the colors, shapes, fonts and images on the page.

Web development and design go hand-in-hand. Developers often work closely with the design team as they plan out the site and bring it to life. By unifying both teams, the company can create a site that’s not only efficient, but also intuitive and enjoyable to use.

Skills Needed for Web Development

Anyone can learn to code, but not everyone will stick with it. If you have these three core skills, you’ll enjoy your web development journey, even after decades in the industry.

Attention to detail: Even the smallest typo could cause drastic problems once a site goes live. Web developers are patient and take the time to double (or triple) check their work.

Logical thinking: Developers take their time thinking through problems step by step to come up with an efficient solution. This is why computer science programs often require deductive reasoning classes.

Communication: When there’s a particularly tricky issue with coding a new feature, web developers have to communicate that in plain language to stakeholders. Engineering teams also work closely together, reviewing and editing each other’s work; so strong communication skills will work in your favor as you debate different approaches to a problem.

Web Developer Careers

There are a lot of people out there who specialize in building tech solutions with code. And they’re not all called web developers. Here are some of the most common job titles related to programming.

Web Developer vs. Software Engineer - These positions have different levels of experience and responsibility. A web developer focuses on building websites. A software engineer usually has more work experience, and is tasked with creating custom software and apps.

Frontend Engineer - Builds all of the consumer-facing aspects of a website, including buttons, fonts, images and text blocks.

Backend Engineer - Programs the functionality behind the site, making sure it can communicate with servers and store user data.

Full Stack Engineer - Experienced working with both the front and back ends, these experts know multiple programming languages. Full stack engineers tend to be more experienced and earn higher salaries.

How Much Do Web Developers Make?

A career in web development will offer up plenty of growth opportunities so you can keep challenging yourself and improving your web development skills. And the paycheck doesn’t hurt.

Entry-level web developers make around $65,000 a year according to Glassdoor. Senior web developers with several years of experience can expect an income of $88,000.

Whether you decide to take your skills to a large company or mom-and-pop shop, you can look forward to a challenging and rewarding job as well as a great salary and benefits. But if your end goal is a high paycheck, your best bet is to start building websites in the healthcare industry or working for a tech giant like Facebook or Amazon.

How to Learn Web Development

Inspired to get in on this exciting career path? Follow these basic steps to embark on your web development career.

Start learning. If you’re up for a challenge, you can start teaching yourself to code. Thanks to tools like YouTube, Eventbrite, and (of course) Google, you can quickly find thousands of lessons and web development certificates on any programming language under the sun.

Stay informed. As a professional web developer, the tech you rely on will always be changing. So you need to set yourself up for success and stay relevant. Sign up for some trusted engineering blogs, and choose a book about software engineering to add to your library. Check out podcasts from fellow engineers and create a Twitter list so you can catch all the latest #WebDev content in one place.

Build a community. Join local meetups devoted to software engineering, so you can mingle with others in your hometown who share your career aspirations. Join tech-oriented LinkedIn and Facebook groups so you can keep up with trends, and maybe even hear about job openings before they’re posted for the masses.

And if you want to do all three? We offer a software engineering course that’s completely online, and designed to fit your schedule - even if you need to hold down a job while you learn. As a Thinkful student, you’ll learn alongside industry pros, and even work with your own personal web development mentor. Start learning web development today and enjoy 15 days of free access. No commitments, no payment necessary.

It’s an ideal time to join the world’s next workforce as a web developer.

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