What Does a Web Developer Do? The Builders of the Virtual World
By Gordon Hanson on 02/28/2018
Did you know there are over one billion websites in the world today? There is a new site created practically every second, as shown by a counter on the site Internet Live Stats. That amazing stat means one thing: Web developers are in demand to create, update and maintain the exploding number of sites in the virtual world. If you’re looking for a career in a cutting-edge field, this may sound great, but it also could leave you wondering, “What does a web developer do?”
Of course, before you take the plunge into a new career, you want to know what it would be like on a daily basis. Is it something that would fit your life goals, provide job satisfaction and offer a bright future?
To help you decide if web development is right for you, we asked some experts in the field to provide their insights. Keep reading to find out if you could be a future builder of the virtual world.
5 Questions about the basics of being a web developer
1. What does a web developer do?
Let’s start with the basics. In a broad sense, a web developer is someone who designs and maintains websites. But when you dig deeper into the question, you’ll discover that there’s a little more to it.
You’ll hear two commonly used terms: back-end and front-end web development. Neel Somani of the University of California, Berkley helps explain the difference. “I’ve done a good amount of what’s called ‘back-end’ work, which involves working with databases, distributed computing, low-level computing and architectural solutions. On the other hand, a ‘front-end’ developer might work directly with what users see. Front-end development is great for people with an eye for design.” Web developers who handle both front-end and back-end work are called full-stack developers.
The bottom line is that web developers oversee both technical and creative aspects of websites. Whether you’ll specialize in one area or cover both depends on the situation. Large organizations with extensive staff often employ specialists, while smaller organizations rely on generalists to cover all the bases.
2. Who do web developers work with?
The answer to this question often depends on whether you are working with a large or small organization. Within a large business, you can expect to work with many people, but a small organization generally means fewer people are involved in the process. “In a large company, you have to work with enterprise database managers, SEO managers, social media managers, graphic designers, content writers and heads of marketing. In a small company, you might only work with your boss or the marketing manager,” says Stanley Tan, web developer and founder of OwlGuru.
3. Where do web developers work?
Web developers commonly work as part of an in-house corporate team, as freelancers or as part of an agency for hire. Each employment relationship has its pros and cons.
Corporations offer a structured work lifestyle, with the comfort of being on the payroll with benefits. But with the greater security, it also comes with corporate policies to live by. Some people like the structure, while others feel restrained by it.
On the other hand, web development is a profession in which many people work as independent freelancers, without a set schedule or the formalities of an office job to follow. Yet that doesn’t mean that you’re without constraints on your time. You must still meet client deadlines and expectations, and you must continually market your services to build and maintain your client list. Agency jobs are a blend of the two—you’ll have the fast-paced variety of clients but also more of the formal office life you’d find in an in-house position.
4. What are the personal traits of a successful web developer?
While many different types of people become web developers, there are some common traits shared among successful ones. “For developers, flexibility, agility and patience are crucial,” says Jason Wayne, director of creative technologies at Martin Williams Advertising. “Projects can change on a dime, sometimes requiring you to go back and adjust what’s already been done. Developers should be persistent, and not refuse something until they have proven that it cannot be done, which isn’t common. If someone can dream something up, it’s likely there’s a way out there that it can be achieved.”
5. What skills do web developers need?
Not everybody is cut out to be a web developer. It takes people who are willing to invest in themselves to acquire special skills. What do the experts say?
Programming is an intricate job, so the most important quality a developer can have is attention to detail,” Wayne says. “Developers should also be curious about why things work the way they do, and be eager to learn, because coding languages and specifications are always in flux. There is never a finish line where we can sit back and say that we’ve learned it all.”
“Front-end developers are commonly going to be working with designers,” says Connor LaCombe of Be Seismic. “They should be familiar with applications like Adobe Creative Suite.” There is also a need for staying current with technical coding skills. “With methodologies like responsive web design and standards like HTML5 and CSS3 becoming hugely popular in the last four to five years, developers that didn’t adapt got left behind,” adds LaCombe.
While web development requires a mastery of technical skills, well-honed communications skills are essential, too. “After five years in this industry, I would say what separates the good web developers from the top one percent is their ability to communicate their ideas clearly,” mentions Tan. “It sounds simple, but it is not because most people don’t understand HTML/CSS coding or user experience design.”
Want to know more?
What does a web developer do? The answer in summary is that they build the virtual structures nearly every business or organization on the internet “lives” in. It’s a fast-paced, cutting-edge and exciting career. If you’re curious about whether a web development career might be in your future, check out our article, “6 Signs You Should Consider Working in Web Development.”