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Web Developer

BrainStation’s Web Developer career guide is intended to help you take the first steps toward a lucrative career in web development. The guide provides an in-depth overview of the development skills you should learn, the best web development training options, career paths in web development, how to become a Web Developer, and more.

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What Is a Web Developer?

A Web Developer is a tech professional responsible for programming code that dictates how websites function. Web Developers build websites by using programming languages like HTML, CSS, and Javascript to write code and convert a web design – created by the programmer or a design team – into a professional website.

Different web developers tend to specialize in various parts of the web development process, some focusing on the front end – or user-facing elements of web applications, websites, and other projects – and others specializing in back-end or server-side development.

If a Web Developer performs their job correctly, the website should not be so simple that it does not appeal to advanced users, but it also shouldn’t be so complex that a beginner user gets lost or frustrated using the site.

Web Development vs. Web Design

Though there is overlap, there are also key differences between web development and web design. Let’s take a closer look:

Web Designers:

  • are responsible for everything a user sees on a website, software product or other type of Internet project, including all visual, color, typography, and usability elements
  • work directly with a client to create designs or work as part of a team to develop client vision
  • may need knowledge of a programming language or some coding skills, or at least some level of familiarity with widely used languages such as HTML, CSS, PHP, and JavaScript
  • are closely involved with design logos and branding and often develop or create company style guides
  • create wireframes and prototypes to better evaluate design ideas

Web Developers:

  • are responsible for writing the code that makes a website function, whether they work on the front end or back end (server-side)
  • create or implement designs demanded by a client or created by a design team
  • need expert-level knowledge of a variety of programming languages, including HTML (HyperText Markup Language), CSS, PHP, and JavaScript but also extending to other languages (Ruby, C/C++, Python), frameworks, and libraries
  • rarely create mockups, select typography, or pick color palettes

What Does a Web Developer Do?

A Web Developer creates, designs, builds, and maintains websites, software, and web applications.

Web Developers are responsible for a wide array of tasks relating to websites and software depending on their specific role. Web Developers work on implementing visual designs and layouts, integrating graphics and content, optimizing website performance and capacity, and testing to ensure solid performance across any type of computer, mobile or device screen.

No matter their exact job or industry, all Web Developers would be expected to understand how to write code in some widely used programming languages including JavaScript, HTML (HyperText Markup Language), PHP, or CSS.

It’s also likely that any Web Developer would spend a lot of time collaborating and communicating with others on larger development teams, including software developers, designers, project managers, and other stakeholders.

​​Find out more about what a Web Developer does.

Web Developer Responsibilities

Web Developers are responsible for everything it takes to create, build, operate, repair, and support websites and web applications. Web development is closely related to the job of designing the features and functionality of apps (web design). The term development is usually reserved for the actual construction of these things (that is to say, the programming of sites).

Web development can generally be divided into three parts: code that executes in a web browser and determines what customers or clients will see when they land on a website (client-side scripting); code that executes on a web server and powers the behind-the-scenes mechanics of how a website works (server-side scripting); and database technology, which helps to keep a website running smoothly and efficiently. If you’re working on a large-scale web project, it’s quite likely that these tasks would be divided among a team of Web Developers.

A Web Developer will use a variety of programming languages to build the front end and back end of websites, including HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), and JavaScript. It is, however, possible to build a website without writing code by using a variety of website-creation tools (like Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace) and content management systems (CMS), including WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, TYPO3, and Adobe Experience Manager.

Where Do Web Developers Come From?

Web Developer is a role that tends to attract a lot of career changers who are drawn in by the abundance of job opportunities, solid salaries, and good benefits and perks that most Web Developer jobs seem to offer. As demand for Web Developers continues to grow –and the U.S. Bureau of Labor is forecasting the job market for Web Developers will grow another 15 percent by 2026 – the web development workforce has been welcoming a lot of new talent.

In fact, BrainStation’s 2020 Digital Skills Survey found that 54 percent of web development respondents began their career in a field other than development, and 57 percent have been in the field for less than five years.

What Background Do Web Developers Have?

Since there is no specific university or college degree for a career in web development, a Web Developer can come from all sorts of different educational backgrounds. Many people who want to become a Web Developer pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science, with an associate degree standing as the most common minimum educational requirement.

But as you dig deeper, you’ll find that there are many other proven pathways to becoming a Web Developer. In fact, roughly 80 percent of all Web Developers say they are at least, to some degree, self-taught.

It’s also increasingly popular to attend a short bootcamp, certification program, or online course to pick up the skills necessary to become a Web Developer in a relatively short amount of time.

Coding bootcamps are as popular as they are because trying to learn all of the necessary programming languages through self-teaching methods, YouTube tutorials and free online resources is time-consuming and often doesn’t really work.

To be a versatile Web Developer who can handle anything that a client might throw at you, you really must master a wide variety of programming languages, including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Structured Query Language (SQL), Python, and jQuery. A good coding or web development bootcamp will teach you all that in more in a short period – around 15 weeks on average. And given the positive job environment, a talented Web Developer will likely get scooped up shortly after graduation, especially if they have a portfolio that shines.

Characteristics of a Successful Web Developer

Although different types of Web Developers do drastically different types of work, there would seem to be several characteristics that all great Web Developers share.

First, we must again address the technical side of things. And it’s not just about coding skills, although they’re very important. To put it simply, a Web Developer will spend a lot of time working on the computer, and that part can’t be a chore. To excel in web development, you have to genuinely enjoy learning new programming languages, experimenting with new web development tools, and fiddling with their code until everything is just right.

No matter which programming language you specialize in, the reality is that code can be unpredictable. As a Web Developer, you must maintain flexibility and have the ability to switch contexts or the scope of a project unexpectedly, and then go back to pick up where you left off. You need to be able to adapt and respond to issues when they arise (almost always unexpectedly and they’re often time-sensitive). Other technical skills beyond coding skills can be useful in web development, including graphic design skills and UX design skills.

Although most outsiders tend to think of Web Developer as a strictly technical role, in fact, many of the most important characteristics for a Web Developer to have would fall on the “soft” side of the skill spectrum.

For instance, Developers need to have good critical thinking skills and an analytical mind. Problem-solving should be a passion for you –it’s a crucial part of programming. You also need to be able to balance considering both the big picture and the small details.

Good Web Developers also aren’t too proud to ask for help. As a Web Developer, when your code works – or, perhaps more importantly, when it doesn’t – you must not be afraid to ask “why” and keep digging till you find the answer. When working on a project, you should be comfortable asking superiors, colleagues, or clients questions to ensure you understand expectations and requirements and that your work is on the right track.

Another key characteristic? Empathy. Even as Web Developers find themselves in the weeds programming code, they must never forget that software is ultimately about the user. Good Web Developers must understand their users and constantly keep what they want top of mind.

Communication skills are also very important to Web Developers. You must be able to relate to both your client and your team. A great Web Developer is also a great listener, adept at really understanding what everyone involved — from clients to stakeholders and finally to end-users — really wants. Also, Web Developers not only work with other Web Developers, Web Designers, and Engineers but also other teams across your company. Web Developers might find themselves working closely with a marketing, support, or sales team, or working directly with clients. So you must be a team player. Whether you’re working remotely or alongside your team, collaboration and communication with your peers and stakeholders are paramount to success.

Finally, Web Developers should be lifelong learners. There’s always something new to learn with tech, which is a huge draw for so many in the industry. Tech is also an incredibly dynamic and fluid industry. It’s constantly growing, changing, and evolving. As a member of the industry, you need to stay current and up-to-date with the industry and new technologies. BrainStation’s survey showed that 80 percent of Web Developers feel they would benefit from further digital skills training, even as 64 percent reported already pursuing more digital skills training or online courses. In other words, these are people who never stop learning.

Types of Web Development

Front-End Development

Programming everything that will be visible to the user, Front-End Web Developers focus on translating website design and visual ideas into code. A front-end software developer takes the design ideas created by others on the team and programs them into reality, acting as a bridge between design and technology.

Responsibilities of a Front End Developer would include creating responsive websites (that look and function well on any device), conducting website testing and fixing any bugs detected and ensuring site structure follows SEO best practices. The most important programming languages on the front end include CSS, HTML, and JavaScript.

Back-End Web Development

A Back-End Developer creates the basic framework of a website before maintaining it and ensuring it performs the way it should. Working behind the scenes – or server-side – Back End Developers are concerned with the systems and structures that allow computer applications to perform as desired.

Back-End Specialists also tend to establish procedures for allowing others to add new pages to the website and meet with management to discuss major changes to the site.

Important programming languages for Back-End Developers include PHP, Java, and Ruby.

Full-Stack Web Development

A Web Developer who can work on the full stack is experienced programming on the front end and the back end. Full Stack Developers usually understand a wide variety of programming languages and because of their versatility, they might be given more of a leadership role on projects than developers who specialize.

Benefits of Web Development

For a company, there are many benefits to investing in web development, including:

  • Improve your website, software, online, and app offerings. Simply put, shifting your focus toward web and software development will ultimately help improve anything that you’re putting online. Your websites will look better and function better. That will have ripple effects in many areas, likely improving your brand reputation, web traffic, ad revenue, and, ultimately, sales revenue.
  • Boost your SEO. Although many search engine optimization strategies come down to content, web development is also a key feature to lifting a company’s rankings in search engine results (an increasingly crucial measure for any company looking to boost its visibility online).
  • Strengthen relationships with customers, users, and clients. By putting out attractive, easy-to-navigate websites and software that customers actually enjoy using, companies will inspire higher levels of loyalty and engagement. Good web developers create a good user experience, which will ultimately lead to a user spending more time browsing your website and, if applicable, spending more money on your digital products and services.
  • High ROI. Ultimately, most companies will find that web development is rather cheap to invest in when you consider the massive possible gains that could come with having a world-class website or app. There are also major costs involved with having a dated, unattractive or non-functional online presence. A company’s website is typically its first point of contact with the world, and few businesses can afford to make a bad first impression there.

Web Developer Salaries

The average Web Developer makes around $75,000 per year plus bonuses, according to Indeed., while Senior Web Developers bring home more than $100,000 annually on average. Factors that can influence Web Developer job salaries include skills, education (a bachelor’s degree in computer science, for instance, correlates to an eight percent salary boost), and career experience.

Read more about how much a Web Developer makes.

Demand for Web Developers

Currently, Web Developers are in high demand across a variety of industries, and a worldwide skills gap in software and web development has most observers forecasting high demand well into the future.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment of Web Developers to grow eight percent by 2029, much faster than the average for job roles. That means that even if many career changers from other tech disciplines decide they want to become a Web Developer, the job outlook should still remain positive.

With online shopping now expected to grow faster than the overall retail industry and retail firms invest in their online offerings accordingly, web and software developers will see demand for their skills growing.

On average, the U.S. expects about 13,400 openings for Web Developers, and others pursuing a related career in digital design professionals are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

What Tools Do Web Developers Use?

Web Developers use a variety of tools and programs depending on their specific job responsibilities, but these are some of the most popular development tools and programs are broken down into types:

Content management systems

  • WordPress
  • Joomla!
  • Drupal
  • TYPO3
  • Adobe Experience Manager

Front End Development Tools

  • Chrome Developer Tools
  • Sublime Text
  • jQuery
  • GitHub
  • Twitter Bootstrap
  • Angular.js
  • Foundation

Web Design Tools

  • Sketch
  • InVision Cloud
  • Figma

Back End (Server Side) Development Tools

  • Ruby on Rails
  • Laravel
  • Apache
  • MongoDB
  • Stack Overflow

Find out more about the tools Web Developers use.

What Skills Do Web Developers Need?

Although Web Developers need a mixture of education, soft skills, and technical skills, ultimately a core job responsibility is writing code, and that means that any Web Developer must have advanced programming skills with a thorough knowledge of any number of programming languages and libraries.

Even though specific duties will of course vary by job, all Web Developers should have a complete understanding of programming languages including CSS, HTML (HyperText Markup Language), and JavaScript. If you have little experience writing code or you’ve only worked with one programming language, you might consider attending a coding bootcamp or looking into other free online courses and other resources that highlight steps you can take to become more proficient.

There are also certain back-end or front-end skills that all Web Developers should possess regardless of where they tend to work. For example, it’s helpful for someone who works only on the front-end to have database, cybersecurity or SQL experience.

Here are some more important skills for anyone looking to become a Web Developer:

  • Analytical skills. Good Web Developers are problem solvers, and being able to work backward through a project to spot areas for improvement is key. It’s also helpful to have a head for data.
  • Responsive design skills. Being a modern Web Developer means your projects have to look and function perfectly on a range of different devices and computer screen sizes.
  • Communication and interpersonal skills. Being able to communicate efficiently and effectively with clients and stakeholders is crucial for a career in web development. Many Web Developers work remotely on a freelance basis, in which case written communication skills are even more important.
  • Testing and debugging. Web Developers should be able to find and fix flaws before a user spots them.
  • SEO. With SEO looming as an increasingly important part of many companies’ overall tech strategy, it’s essential that Web Developers understand how site organization, architecture, and speed will help or hurt overall SEO efforts.

Find out more about the skills Web Developers need.

Web Developer Career Paths

Web developer career paths tend to follow two distinct routes, depending on whether you’re looking for the security of a salaried position or you prefer to have the autonomy that comes with being a freelancer.

In a full-time web development position, you’d collaborate with other developers and programmers as part of a larger development team, whether you’re working for an agency or a company. This route offers opportunities for getting into managing projects or teams and liaising with a client or stakeholders from other backgrounds outside of tech.

With programming skills in high demand, full-time jobs in web development are not scarce. A few years into this career path, you might qualify for a six-figure salary as a Senior Web Developer along with other employer perks and bonuses.

Freelancers have the benefit of setting their own schedules and being free to select projects that truly interest them. Self-employed developers build strong relationships with their clients that could translate to a full-time job down the line. Since they set their own price, a freelance professional with serious programming talent could theoretically reach a higher pay grade much faster than an entry-level development would take to become a senior employee.

Freelance is also likely the way to go for any web development professional who wants to work remotely.

Related Jobs in Web Development

Web Developers usually specialize in either front-end development – to put it quite simply, everything a user sees when they use a website or application – or back-end (server-side) development, while those versatile enough to do both are called Full-Stack Developers.

For those who don’t work in tech, the distinction between those roles and the other various roles relating to web development can be quite confusing. Here’s an overview of some of the job titles in web development:

  • Web Designer. This might sound obvious, but if “designer” is in the title, the job involves designing for the web. Web Designers literally decide and implement how websites look, feel, and work. Specific skills necessary for Web Designers would include design tools, HTML, CSS, and some JavaScript.
  • Front-End Web Developer. A Front-End Web Developer focuses on HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and light back-end work, not just design. In some cases, a Front End Developer might implement the creations of a Web Designer. In some Front End Developer roles, there will be some design included but deeper skill in the other technologies is also demanded.
  • Back-End Web Developer. The work of a Back-End Web Developer is invisible to users but crucial to the functioning of a website. Back End Developers tend to work with a variety of programming languages such as Python, Ruby, and SQL. Other Back-End Developers are focused on developing mobile apps using languages like HTML5, C++, and Java.
  • Full-Stack Web Developer. To put it simply, a Full-Stack Developer is comfortable and skilled working on both the front end and the back end. It’s important to stress that to be a good Full-Stack Developer, you can’t be mostly strong on the front end and a little weak on the back end, or vice versa. You truly have to be a master of both. If you can accomplish it, you will be handsomely rewarded – Full-Stack Developers are in high demand and tend to have high salaries to match.
  • UX Designer. UX (User Experience) Designers specifically focus on studying and researching how people use a site, then completing changes for the better through the system and testing the results. Every web development professional on this list needs to consider user experience, but UX Designers live and breathe it.

Who Do Web Developers Work With?

At a big company, a web development team might include every single one of the above roles. Both Front-End and Back-End Web Developers enjoy the diversity of the colleagues they get to interact with, collaborating with design, marketing, sales, and product teams.

They also often participate in team meetings with Content Specialists, Graphic Designers, Software Developers, UI Designers, Client Services Managers, and more. Indeed, those who enjoy working as part of a team might be a good fit for web development; according to our survey, 54 percent of Web Developers were on teams larger than 10 people, and 15 percent were on teams larger than 100.

Reasons to Become a Web Developer

Though there are obviously a number of different specializations within web development, the bottom line is most jobs in web development are considered great careers in terms of salary, benefits and perks, work-life balance, and opportunity for advancement.

As we mentioned, there’s a dire shortage of skilled tech talent and Web Developers are among the most in-demand tech specialists, especially given the increasing need for companies to improve their mobile offerings. More than 80 percent of American Web Developers are employed full-time, with 73 percent reporting that they like their jobs. The average Web Developer is well-compensated, earning in excess of $80,000 per year on average. According to Indeed, Senior Web Developers made an average salary of $95,325.

In addition, Web Developers have the choice of working for an agency, working in-house for a company, or becoming their own boss and working freelance. Virtually every company you could think of in every industry you could think of hires Web Developers.

Thriving as a Web Developer does require a commitment to continuous learning. BrainStation’s survey found that the top three resources Web Developers use to boost their skills and stay on top of the latest trends were online forums, digital skills training options, and blogs.

The top trends on the horizon that Web Developers will have the biggest impact on web development over the next five years, according to the survey? AI (86 percent of respondents) and machine learning (84 percent), so any aspiring Web Developer would be well-served looking at how these technologies could change development forever. For a good Web Developer, that’s a fun challenge to consider.


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