What does a web developer do?

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Web developers play a crucial role in our society. Responsible for developing and maintaining web pages, they’re behind all of our favorite websites, from Wikipedia to YouTube.

Today, practically every organization needs web developers to keep up with competitors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, web developers have a rapidly expanding job market, expected to continue rising by up to 8% by 2029. But why are web developers so essential? What exactly do they do? Below, we’ll walk you through a web developer’s responsibilities and skills, with tips on where you can get started.

Web developer job description

Web developers build websites that meet their company’s or client’s needs. To do so, they need two things:

  1. The ability to create websites
  2. The ability to discern how to satisfy a client’s needs using a web page

Think of a web developer as a “solutions architect.” First, they determine the best way to address the challenges faced by their client. Then, they design a website that meets their objectives.

This is one of the key differences between web development and web design. While web designers focus on a page’s layout and aesthetic, web developers are more concerned with structure, functionality, and efficiency and ensuring everything stays within budget.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics explains how web developers “develop, create, and test website or interface layout, functions, and navigation for usability.” To achieve this, web developers need to:

  • Meet with clients and IT teams.
  • Understand the company’s web hosting and security architecture.
  • Work with decision-makers to attain more resources if needed.

What skills do you need to be a web developer?

To be a web developer, you’ll need a mix of technical and soft skills. Technical skills, like proficiency with different programming languages, are those you’ll use to actually build websites. Soft skills, like good communication, are those you’ll use to work effectively with others and drive yourself forward as a professional. Below, we’ll look at the different skills web developers need and explain how they play a role in their daily responsibilities.

Technical skills

Three programming languages lie at the heart of every web developer’s tech stack: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. HTML creates a web page’s structure, CSS adds stylistic elements like colors and typography, and JavaScript enables interactivity. Together, these three languages form the foundation of web development.

Along with the languages listed above, web developers also use libraries and frameworks like jQuery and AngularJS to expedite development and add greater functionality to their web pages.

Strong communication skills

Web developers need to be good listeners. To truly understand a client’s core objectives and come up with an effective solution, you’ll need a patient, empathetic ear. You’ll also need to be able to communicate your own ideas in a way that compels your clients to take action. This may require proficiency with presentation tools like Excel and PowerPoint.

Web developers also need to know how to express complex ideas in simple terms without being condescending. Just like how you may not know the best way to route an exhaust pipe for a septic system, your clients may not understand the basics of web development. But with good communication skills, you can explain anything, including how it helps boost their bottom line.

A passion for learning

Like all technologies, the programming languages, libraries, and frameworks web developers use are constantly evolving. Having a passion for learning makes it easier to stay on top of the latest developments in the industry. Plus, it helps improve your capacity as a professional and ensures your skills are always in demand. When a new language pops up and gains popularity among potential clients and other developers, you won’t have to waste time playing catch up.

What kind of jobs do web developers have?

Web development encapsulates several different roles, and all of them involve coding, using predesigned development tools, or a combination of both. Let’s take a look at some of the most common jobs in web development.

User experience (UX) developers

UX designers are primarily concerned with a website or application’s end-users, whether they’re members of the general public or employees using a product designed specifically for their company. UX designers fine-tune the design, functionality, and even the marketing of a product to ensure the target users get what they need.

Front-end developers

Web pages consist of a front end that people interact with and a back end with resources the front end depends on to function. Front-end developers create an attractive, functional, efficient interface for the user. While discussing his responsibilities as a front-end engineer, John Pham explains that the role is great for “someone who enjoys being at the intersection of art and logic.”

Back-end developers

Back-end developers structure the back end of a website to adequately support the front-end experiences of users. This involves structuring the core logic of an application, implementing APIs (application programming interfaces), and building and integrating databases that support the front end. For more information, check out our article on the role and responsibilities of a back-end developer.

User interface (UI) designers

UI designers set out to create websites that look good from the user’s perspective. They need to understand how colors interact with each other and trigger emotions and how fonts communicate brand-central messages. UI designers make their clients’ wishes come true by providing an effective and attractive site that meets their users’ needs.

How do I become a web developer?

The first step in becoming a web developer is learning how to use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. But knowing is only half the battle — you’ll also need practical experience. Once you get these tools under your belt, use them to build a website. Having a portfolio of websites you’ve created will help impress potential clients and employers when you’re looking for a job.

If you want to build all the skills you’ll need as a web developer, check out our Career Paths. Our Career Paths are designed to teach you everything you’ll need to know to land an entry-level position in your desired field. They also include projects that you can use to create a portfolio and certificates upon completion for you to add to your resume. Ready to get started? Click any of the links below.