Demystifying Web Development: Part One (of Three)

Up until a couple months ago, I thought a career in technology meant sitting behind a computer screen for the majority of your day, speaking to no one (unless it was through the internet) and making a ton of money but not having the time to spend it. Half of you are laughing that I could be so naive to think that, and the other half of you are thinking, “Wait that’s not the case?” — and it is certainly not the case! 

The truth is, as I learn more about coding and technology it is one of the most interesting career options out there. Why? Because technology is a place to create and in many cases imaginations are grounded within lines of code. Whether you prefer working alone or in teams, in an office or by the beach, conducting research or designing layouts, are passionate about video games or human rights...there is a place in technology for YOU

Let’s begin by unpacking one of my favorite career paths in technology: Web Development!

What is Web Development?

Let’s start by clarifying that Web Development is different from Web Design. Sometimes you might see the two terms are used interchangeably, and while there is some overlap in responsibility, they are two separate roles. Web Design is all about the aesthetics and usability of the user-facing website and is considered an umbrella category for roles like UX Design, UI Design and Information Architecture. Web Development is concerned with the technical functionality of a website and its formatting through code. If we imagined a website to be like a house, the Web Designer could be seen as the interior designer and the architect while the Developer would be the construction engineer. 

Nowadays, the distinctions between both get more and more blended as many designers know at least some code and many developers know how to design. There is even a hybrid role of a designer/developer who can do it all, often referred to as “Unicorns” in the industry. While the idea of a one-woman-show might seem appealing from whatever angle you look at it, it’s really only fully utilized if you are going to be working alone on small projects. Any larger projects involving a team require defined roles in order to maximize productivity. The primary benefit to being a “Unicorn” is the ability to understand all aspects of the process while working together with your team.

Roles within Web Development

A Web Developer’s abilities can be grouped into two overarching concepts. The first is being able to read and understand code (especially code written by someone else). The second is being able to identify and fix malfunctions in code. You could say problem-solving is an essential part of a Coder’s skillset.

There are basically three different kinds of Web Developers —  Frontend, Backend, or Full-Stack. A Frontend Developer has everything to do with the user-facing pieces of the webpage. They use HTML, CSS and JavaScript to make it look pretty, make sure it works across multiple devices, and that the forms and buttons work. They are the ones responsible for bringing to life the Web Designer’s mockups. A Backend Developer works on the framework of the webpage and all the technical aspects that make it functional. They code the instructions for what happens behind-the-scenes of the website and how it manages the flow of data by using languages like Python and Ruby. A Full-Stack Developer is well-versed in both Frontend and Backend development and is able to wear either hat interchangeably. 

There are many other specializations that fall under the umbrella of these roles. Often, the person who keeps a website updated and maintained is not the same person who built it. This emphasizes the need for a Developer to be able to read and understand code that isn’t written by them. 

Some Developers choose to specialize as WordPress developers which requires basic knowledge of HTML, CSS, JavaScript and WordPress’ language, PHP. An experienced Developer with people skills could become a Project Manager and oversee teams of Designers and Developers. The evolution of roles within development depend largely on the scope of the project. Small projects need a versatile Developer capable in multiple areas of development. Large projects require a team of developers divided into highly specified roles.


Next: Languages in Web Development

Each role in web development requires the skillful application of specific coding languages to do different things. We’ll be looking at some of the primary languages used in Frontend Development. Check out part two of our Demystifying Web Development series. 


Check out one of the free resources in our online store: A Checklist for New Web Developers