WEB DEVELOPER (2024 Guide)

What Does a Web Developer Do?

BrainStation’s Web Developer career guide is intended to help you take the first steps toward a lucrative career in web development. Find out more about what a Web Developer does.

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A Web Developer is responsible for programming code that tells websites and web applications how to operate. Web Developers typically specialize in either “front-end” (“client-side”) development or “back-end” (“server-side”) development. Some versatile and highly-sought-after professionals do both, and they’re called “Full-Stack Developers.”

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 your exact job, if you want to become a Web Developer you would be expected to understand how to write code in some widely used web programming languages including JavaScript, HTML (HyperText Markup Language), CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), and more.

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, Web Designers, Project Managers, and other stakeholders.

What Is a Web Developer?

A Web Developer creates, designs, builds, and maintains websites, software, and web applications. 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, product, or mobile application.

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.

What Does a Front-End Developer Do?

Front-End Web Developers typically focus on the visual and design elements of websites and can anticipate and fully appreciate user needs and behavior. As the name suggests, front-end (or client-side) development involves the programming of what will be visible to the user. Languages like JavaScript, CSS, and HTML are widely used by Front-End Developers.

Because front-end development is responsible for what you can see on a website, it’s often confused with web design. Although Front-End Developers don’t design websites, they are the link between design and technology that can turn an idea into an interactive web page.

Front-End Developer Responsibilities

Here are some of the basic tasks that a Front-End Developer may be responsible for:

  • Working with Graphic Designers, UX Designers, or Web Designers to help ensure design ideas can be made into a website that is easy to use
  • Transforming design (sketches or wireframes for a website) into code that a web browser can read and display on your screen
  • Structuring a website so that it is easy to find through a search engine (this is part of Search Engine Optimization or SEO)
  • Developing websites that work and look good on any screen, from 24-inch computer monitors to five-inch smartphone screens (this is called responsive design)
  • Testing websites and fixing bugs or other issues

What Does a Back-End Developer Do?

Back-End Developers work on behind-the-scenes systems and structures that are not visible for users but which allow the application to perform what’s needed. Specialists in back-end development tend to be skilled at problem-solving and logic and work with a variety of computer programming languages such as Python, Ruby, and SQL.

Back-End Web Developers can also choose to specialize in mobile application development and work primarily on Android and iOS apps. Using languages like HTML5, C++, and Java, a Back-End Web Developer who focuses on app development would need to take a few different approaches into consideration such as swiping functionality, scrolling dimensions, and other standardized app design elements.

A Day in the Life of a Web Developer

Daily tasks for Web Developers can vary widely, depending on a number of different factors. Given the diversity of clients and their web-based products, as well as the range of specializations in front-end and back-end web development, a Web Developer can play many roles. This, in fact, is a selling point for the profession — no two days are quite the same!

Here are a few examples of what a Web Developer is responsible for on a daily basis:

  • Translating wireframe designs into working code
  • Creating the architecture and content of a site
  • Building in functionality and responsiveness
  • Making a site go live
  • Updating and renovating sites
  • Troubleshooting, fixing bugs, and glitches

Collaboration is also a major part of a Web Developer’s day-to-day routine, as Developers often participate in team meetings with Content Creators, Graphic Designers, UI Specialists, Marketers, Client Services Managers, and more. Web Developers also spend time working with each other to troubleshoot, review, and fix code that’s not quite right. Senior Web Developers may also spend quite a bit of time mentoring Junior Web Developers and managing team projects and scheduling.

So, depending on the size of the company, a Web Developer may be focusing on a highly specialized role or a wider variety of smaller tasks. Freelance Web Developers, on the other hand, may take client projects from start to finish.

What Makes a Good Web Developer?

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


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