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Web development, also known as website development, refers to tasks related to creating, building, and maintaining websites and web applications that run online in a browser. It may also include web design, web programming and database management.
Web development is closely related to the task of designing app features and functionality (web design). The term development is usually reserved for the actual building of these things (ie the programming of sites).
What exactly is web development?
Web development is closely related to the work of designing the features and functionality of websites and apps (often called "web design"), but the term "web development" is usually reserved for the actual building and programming of websites and apps.
Think of all the web pages you've used over the years - web developers built those sites, making sure they functioned properly and performed in a way that allowed for a great user experience. Web developers do this by writing lines of code using a variety of programming languages, depending on the tasks they are performing and the platform they are working on.
Web Development vs Web Design
Although there is overlap, there are also key differences between web development and web design. Let's take a closer look:
Create what a user sees on a website or software product, including all visual, color, typography, and usability elements
Work directly with the client to create designs or work as part of a team to develop the client vision
Create wireframes and prototypes to test design ideas, offer input on design logos, branding, company style guides
Write the code that makes a website function, be it front-end or back-end (server-side).
Create or implement designs requested by a client or created by a design team
Rarely create mockups, select typography or pick a color palette
What are the most common programming languages?
The most common programming languages involved in web development are:
- HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)
- CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)
Types of web development
There are three main types of web development: front-end development, back-end development, and full-stack development.
What is front-end development?
Front-end development involves the "client-facing" side of web development. Generally speaking, front-end web development refers to the part of a site, app, or digital product that users will see and interact with. A front-end developer, therefore, is responsible for the way a digital product looks and "feels", which is why they are also often referred to as web designers.
Front-end web developers focus on website design and translating visual ideas into code. A front-end software developer takes design ideas created by others on the web development team and turns them into reality, acting as a bridge between design and technology.
What is back-end development?
If front-end developers are responsible for how a digital product looks, back-end developers focus on how it works. A back-end developer builds the basic structure of a website before maintaining it and ensures that it performs as it should, including database interactions, user authentication, server, network and hosting configuration, and business logic. Working behind the scenes – or server-side – back end developers are concerned with the systems and frameworks that allow computer applications to function as desired.
The primary responsibility of back-end developers is to ensure the functionality of the site including its responsiveness and speed. To do this, back-end developers need to know how to build servers with modern frameworks (while developing custom APIs and serving static websites and files), and how to manage databases and data on a web server.
Typically, back-end developers use server-side programming languages including PHP, Ruby, and Python, as well as tools including MySQL, Oracle, and Git.
What is a full-stack development?
A full-stack developer is familiar with both front-end and back-end development. Full stack developers typically understand a variety of programming languages and, because of their versatility, may be given more leadership roles in their projects than non-specialist developers. They are generalists, adept at wearing both hats and familiar with every level of development. Clearly, employers want to hire full-stack developers—in fact, according to one survey, they're the fourth-most in-demand job in tech.
If the title is disputed, it is in the general nature of the position. Developers who specialize in front-end or back-end often jump at the idea that one can be equally adept at both - the expression "jack-of-all-trades, master of none" comes to mind.
"When I hear that magic phrase ('full-stack') my defensive tendencies are usually on high alert," writes front-end developer Andy Shorea. "Stacks are much bigger than they used to be, and a refined skill at every level of web development." It's certainly no small claim to be able to claim achievements. Does that mean you have a wide range of skills or are you an expert at everything?"
While that perception persists, there are still a growing number of tech professionals who consider themselves full-stack developers. According to a recent Stack Overflow survey of developers, 48.2 percent consider themselves full-stack developers.
What is unclear is whether developers are now expected to possess greater expertise, or whether developers are taking it upon themselves to understand both front-end and back-end functions. Either way, it's becoming increasingly important for aspiring developers to have a foundation in both.
"For most people looking to develop the web, you should first focus an organization's work on both front-end and back-end development," recommends software engineer and tech writer Muhammad Ansar. "At that point, you can float to later claims to fame."
And with demand for developers expected to grow 15 percent by 2026 (for 24,400 new jobs), much faster than the average rate of job growth in the U.S., there couldn't be a better time to learn more about all levels of web development. .
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