What Is Web Development?

So, you’re interested in becoming a developer? Congratulations, and welcome to your new career! As you’ve started looking into different developer career paths, you’ve probably come across web development.

But what is web development exactly? Why is it important, and what kinds of Web Developers are there?

In a few words, web development involves the creation and maintenance of websites. By “website,” we mean a collection of web pages that are publicly accessible on the internet, such as:

The Codecademy websiteA closed, private network, such as your company or school intranet website.

Modern web development also includes web applications. Web applications are software packages that run on a web server and are accessed through the internet. This is unlike a traditional application that runs on your computer, tablet, or phone.

In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the basics of web development, including:

Front-end vs. back-end web development
The web development process
Web development teams and roles
Web development resources and tools
Why web development is important
Ready to start your new career in web development?

Front-end vs. back-end web development

Even if you’re new to web development, you’ve probably heard the terms “front-end development” and “back-end development” before. But what do they mean?

Front-end web development has to do with the interface that you, the user, interact with when you visit a website or use a web application. Front-End Developers create everything you see on a web page, including:

ColorsLayoutNavigation

Back-end web development has to do with the parts of a website that you can’t see, particularly how website information is stored and retrieved.

When you access a webpage in your browser, you’re essentially requesting to see a file stored on a server somewhere. When you load a webpage for the first time or sign into a website with a username and password, it’s Back-End Developers who make it possible to access website information efficiently and securely.

Now that you understand the basics of web development, let’s look at how a website or web application comes to life from two perspectives: the web development process and the web development team.

The web development process

Suppose that a new client needs a new website and has asked you to develop one. Where do you start, and what do you do next?

Whether you’re creating a website or web application with a team of three or 300, web development tends to follow the same seven steps.

Information gathering

Information gathering includes addressing internal factors (like the website’s purpose) and external factors (like information about the target audience and competing websites).

Questions you’ll need to answer during this stage include:

Why is the client creating a website?Who do they want to visit the site?What will people be able to do on the website or in the web application?Why will people want to use the client’s website instead of someone else’s?

Planning

Once you understand the purpose of your website and what kind of people you want to visit, it’s time to start planning. During this stage, dev teams put together an outline of the website and its web pages. This is known as a sitemap.

Think of the sitemap as the skeleton of the website. Web Developers use sitemaps to flesh out how webpages will link to each other through menus and how website data should be structured on the webserver.

Design

In the design phase, the dev team begins to create something like an actual website. Layouts, images, logos, colors, fonts, and other aesthetic features are put together and visualized during this phase. The client may provide an existing logo and color scheme or be open to designs your team presents.

Next, you and the client will agree on a layout, information structure, and aesthetic direction to guide the rest of the web development project.

Content creation

Until now, the web development team will have put in placeholder images and text in the website design until the real content is ready to be inserted.

Typically, it’s up to the client to provide the content. And because content creation can be done throughout the rest of the web development process, the content should be ready as soon as the design phase is finished.

At this point, the web development team may work with the client to adjust word counts and character limits for menus and ensure that image and video files look full size.

Coding

Once the website design and content are finalized, it’s time to start coding. At this point, both Front-End Developers and Back-End Developers will work to turn the website design on paper into a working reality that functions within a browser.

The coding process itself depends on the size of the project and the design approach of the development team. For example, a small project for an informational website might involve just a couple of programmers working together. A large-scale web application might involve teams of developers adopting an Agile approach like Scrum.

Testing and launch

Just like with software, websites need to be tested and debugged before they’re ready to go live. That means developing test cases and ensuring that the website code follows the client’s QA/QC procedures.

Web development testing might include checking all hyperlinks, searching for typos, and ensuring that the website works well on different browsers and devices.

Finally, the website is ready to be uploaded to the webserver and accessed publicly on the internet.

Maintenance

After the website is up and running, it still needs to be maintained. Websites need to be updated for dozens of reasons — team member bios are added and removed, product and service descriptions change, and blog posts are published.

On the back end, a website or web application that stores customer data will need to ensure that databases are secure and comply with the latest data privacy regulations.

Web development teams and roles

As you might guess, the full web development process requires a lot of effort and different skill sets. That’s why web development teams include various kinds of roles. Below are some of the main roles on a web development team.

Web Designer

Before starting the first line of code, the web development team needs to understand what the website should look like. That’s where web design comes in.

Web Designers focus on the look and aesthetic of a website during the web development process. This might include working closely with the website owner or marketing team to develop a look and color scheme.

Web Designers also work with Front-End Developers to assess any practical or design constraints of the website. For example, if a project implements Bootstrap or another framework, the Web Designer must create a compatible design.

Web Designers typically work with graphic design software such as InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop. While many Web Designers know the basics of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, they’re not expected to know these languages as well as a Front-End Developer.

Front-End Developer

Once the Web Designer has put together the project’s design, the Front-End Developer turns drawings and concepts into reality.

The front end includes everything a user sees or interacts with, from drop-down menus to background colors and font text. This is also known as the client-side.

The principal coding tools of the Front-End Developer are HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Still, many Front-End Developers are familiar with several other programming languages, frameworks, and libraries, including:

GoJavaRubyjQuery and SQLReactFlask and Django

In short, Front-End Developers are responsible for ensuring that websites and web applications look great and work well, whether you’re using them on a phone, laptop, Mac, PC, or any browser.

Back-End Developer

Would you move into a beautiful house if you discovered it lacked electricity, internet, or running water? While Web Designers and Front-End Developers are responsible for the look and feel of a website or web application, Back-End Developers make sure that the website is connected correctly and that you can get the information you need from the site and its servers.

For example, when you clicked on the link to read this article, it’s because of Back-End Developers that your browser could request the article’s content, retrieve the information from our website servers, and quickly load it onto your laptop or device. This is also known as the server-side.

Back-End Developers often work with servers and databases, which means their technical skill sets include programming languages like:

PHPJavaNode.jsSQLRubyC#

Full-Stack Developer

Full-Stack Developers are, for lack of a better phrase, the full package. They combine the skills of Front-End Developers and Back-End Developers. That means they can take part in developing the client-side or server-side of a web development project.

A Full-Stack Developer may work on both sides of web development on smaller projects, or they may focus on one side or another on a larger project. They may also be assigned to do other tasks that take advantage of their full skill set, such as:

Testing and debuggingOptimizing compatibility across multiple browsers and devices (a.k.a. cross-platform compatibility)Developing APIsConsidering security and scalability during the web development process

Content Developer

Imagine clicking on a link to an article that promises to teach you all about web development. The website looks great on both your laptop and phone, it loads quickly, but when you open the article, it just says “Lorem ipsum…”

This is why we need Content Developers. While most of the web dev team focuses on making the website beautiful and functional, Content Developers create text (or “copy”) to put on the website, from landing page text to blog posts and technical articles.

Because Content Developers don’t interact directly with the website, they don’t need the typical web development skills. Instead, they’re usually skilled in the subject matter of content, marketing, and writing clearly and effectively.

Content development teams also include Copy Editors to correct formatting and grammar, fact-checkers to ensure accuracy, and marketing professionals to ensure that the content message reflects the company’s values.

Webmaster

So, your amazing web development team has designed, created, and published its new website. That means you’re done, right?

Wrong.

While getting a website designed and published can take a lot of time and effort, the work doesn’t stop there. Someone needs to make sure that it stays current and gets enough visitor traffic. Enter the Webmaster.

The Webmaster updates the site, monitors site analytics, and communicates with the rest of the web development team to keep the website or web application up-to-date and engaging.

Other stars

Depending on the company and project, a web development team might include other key roles. For example, a client may want to involve their own business and technical teams to improve communication and feedback, while an Agile web development team will include a Scrum master and product owner.

Web development resources and tools

Web Developers use various resources, frameworks, tools, and software packages to make their lives easier throughout the development process. Here are a few of the most common:

Web design:

WordPressPhotoshopInDesignSketchGoogle Web Designer

Front-end web development:

BootstrapAngularJSReactSassSublime Text

Back-end web development:

MySQLApacheMongoDBLaravelDocker

Website and web application testing

SeleniumKatalonRanorex

If you’re interested in specializing in web development, we recommend that you look into some of these tools and resources to help deepen your knowledge and build up your skill set.

Why web development is important

It wasn’t too long ago that companies thought their web presence was peripheral to their day-to-day business. Today, they rely on their websites to attract new customers and communicate with existing ones.

Still, business owners want to focus on their actual products and services rather than building and managing their websites. That’s why web development is so important. Professional Web Developers provide an essential service to businesses and organizations for a few reasons.

Web Developers are specialists

Is it possible for a small business owner or marketing professional to learn about web development? Absolutely. But, building and maintaining a good website today takes a lot of time and skill. As more people realize this, Web Developers are becoming more and more in demand.

Web Developers keep up with the latest tools

Not only are Web Developers trained in today’s web development tools, but they’re always learning the newest ones because, well, that’s their job. And, with programming and development tools constantly evolving, keeping up with the latest in web development is a full-time job.

Companies can make the most of their websites

A company website can be used as a tool for inventory management, payment processing, marketing campaigns, customer service, business intelligence gathering, and much more. A website that’s built and maintained by professional Web Developers is more likely to collect relevant information to help improve customer experience and increase sales.

Ready to start your new career in web development?

The exciting world of web development is changing every day, but one thing is clear: Web Developers are in demand now. Companies all over the world want Web Developers, and they’re willing to pay for talented Web Developers — people like you.

Now that you know all about the basics of web development, it’s time to take the next step in your new career as a Web Developer. Whether you want to become a Front-End Developer, Back-End Developer, or Full-Stack Developer, now is a great time to get started.

Web Development Courses & Tutorials | Codecademy
Web Development is the practice of developing websites and web apps that live on the internet. Whether you’re interested in front-end, back-end, or going full-stack, the content in our Web Development domain will help you get there.
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