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How to Become a Web Developer – a Professional Guide

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Emily Williamson 29 November, 2019
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The demand for websites is going up with each passing day. Businesses of all sizes now feel the need to create a website via which they can build their brand, lead it towards further success, or do both. Personal blogs have also matured to a great extent. For both purposes, people often look for the best professionals who can help get a website set up for themselves. Due to this continuous increase in demand, every company providing quality web application development services is always on the lookout for skilled web developers. Many developers also like to work alone or on a smaller scale. Whether you belong to the former category or the latter, it is crucial to know how to get good at this job. To become a web developer, you must know the ins and out of professional web development. And we are here to help you with it!

how to become a web developer

Today, we will talk about what web development is and what the necessary skills required for this job are. Furthermore, we’ll discuss some other essentials that you need to know before you can start your career as a web developer. So let’s dive right into it!

What Is Web Development?

Web development is not one isolated task or job but a complete process based on multiple steps or sub-tasks. It involves developing efficient, cost-effective web solutions, and delivering them to clients in the form of websites, also known as web applications.

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What Tasks Will You Perform if You Become a Web Developer?

For those who are not aware of precisely what this job entails, let’s break it down.

A single web development project may contain one or more web pages linked to each other. Web development includes the creation of both static and dynamic web pages. Static pages are those that are HTML-based, with content that stays the same or doesn’t change frequently or automatically. You may have to update it manually, as and when needed. The content that is a part of dynamic web pages is displayed depending on various other factors. Your work as a web developer will involve building both types of web pages.

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We can divide web development into two broad categories: a) front end development and b) backend development. What does that mean in terms of the work that you are supposed to do? Let’s go over the essentials of the job responsibilities for each category.

Frontend Development

The part of the website that a visitor can see on their screen is called the frontend. How will content be arranged on the website? Which color scheme will work best? How will the site appear on different types of devices? The frontend development phase answers all of these questions. The functions and features that will be visible to the visitor are the responsibility of the frontend developer.

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If you want to become a web developer who deals mainly with the frontend, you will have to come up with a suitable design for the website. (Often, the client, i.e. your customer, will tell you what kind of design they want.) Then, you will have to implement that design in the form of code using the best possible, most suitable coding technologies. The code should reflect the pre-decided design as accurately as possible. So, learning to code is a must for developers.

Backend Development

Here’s a situation: You visit the website of a very fancy restaurant. You go through the beautiful and delicious food pictures and choose the Grilled Lemon Pepper Fish. You click on the button that says ‘Add to Bucket’. Nothing happens.

That is what would happen if a website did not have a proper backend. The backend is what makes a website fully functional.

Everything that you cannot show the website visitor on the screen makes up the backend. To launch a website on the Internet, you need to host it somewhere. So, you should be able to choose perfect hosting, too. If the site has a form that asks the visitor to enter some information, that information needs to be taken somewhere so it can be stored safely. There should also exist a mechanism to fetch and display already-stored data on the screen if a user asks for it. Setting up all of this (and much more!) is what a backend developer does.

The “Full-stack” Experience

The frontend and backend technologies combinedly form the full-stack.

When a person has gained expertise in both frontend and backend technologies, they are capable of creating an entire proper website on their own. We call them “full-stack developers”. Most web developers aim to be that good.

To achieve this prestigious status, you would have to learn the various kinds of development stacks that are common in the industry. A stack consists of all types of development technologies such as programming languages, frameworks, servers, and databases.

html and css for developers

Some common frontend programming languages are HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. JavaScript-based languages such as Node.js (on the Express framework) are widely-used ones for backend development. Ruby (on the Rails framework) is also a viable solution. However, PHP is perhaps one of the most popular and highly-reliable backend programming languages. PHP works in collaboration with the Apache HTTP server, which is one of the most famous backend solutions for web applications. Other web servers such as IIS and Nginx are also gradually gaining popularity.

A classic database solution that is still widely implemented in all kinds of websites is MySQL. Recently, however, rapid progress has been made from relational databases, such as MS Access and PostgreSQL, towards non-relational databases, such as MongoDB and Redis.

What Skills Must You Possess to Become a Web Developer?

The job of a professional web developer revolves around coding and programming. Therefore, these are the most critical skills you need to become a web developer. Apart from that, the art of web design and aesthetic sense is also necessary, particularly for frontend development. For backend development, you must have some understanding of database, server, and networking (especially security) concepts.

Next comes the question of how and where you can learn all these skills.

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For some skills, such as coding and design principles, you need access to good-quality resources. Other skills, such as logical, analytical, and critical thinking, don’t require formal learning but come to you with time and experience.

For formal education and training on the topics of coding, there are many free tutorials available online, including some great content on YouTube. There are also some free and paid online courses you can enroll in. W3Schools is an excellent resource for those who are completely new to the world of web development.

If you have just finished high school, or have just started your undergraduate degree, then choosing web development as a major or minor subject would also help you tremendously. A college education centered around web development would provide you with a holistic learning experience not only for the basics but also some advanced concepts.

Thus, to become a web developer who possesses all the necessary knowledge and skills, you may have to explore multiple channels of learning.

FAQs

Here, we have compiled a list of questions that you might want answers to before you decide to become a web developer and formally step into this industry.

Where Do I Start?

If you are completely unfamiliar with all things web development related, then a good place to start would be a lesson on the very basics. An overview of all the different aspects of web development – both front- and backend – is necessary to figure out what parts are interesting for you. Once you identify those, you can start with properly structured, detailed lessons so you can specialize in the areas of your choice.

Is There a Difference Between Web Design and Web Development?

The essence of both web design and development is the same. They are both concerned with the face of the website. However, web design is limited to the website’s layout “on paper”, while the development process realizes that design. Thus, the actual code for that particular design is written to visualize the design on-screen.

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What Is the Right Age to Become a Web Developer? Am I Too Old?

There is nothing in the world that you cannot perfect by practicing regularly and rigorously. Renowned author and poet Charles Bukowski launched his literary career at the age of almost 50. Similarly, the founder of KFC, Colonel Sanders, came up with the now world-famous fried chicken fast-food chain when he was in his sixties!

So age is just a number when it comes to learning new things in life.

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How Long Does It Take to Become a Web Developer? Is the Learning Process Difficult?

Just like any other skill, you need to practice before you can excel at it. It takes years to gain complete command over any area of work. The same goes for web development. Furthermore, development technology keeps evolving continually. You need to stay updated with the latest web design and technology trends to remain relevant in the industry. Be ready to design for the future.

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How Much Money Will I Make if I Become a Web Developer?

According to Skillcrush, the average annual salary of a frontend developer with no prior experience is $61,000 in the US. CareerExplorer and the BLS also quote a similar amount, almost $69,000, as the median salary for a web developer in the US.

If you want to take on some projects of your own as a freelancer, then there are even more opportunities that may open up for you to make money in this profession.

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How Long Does it Take to Develop a Website?

Depending on the requirements of the customer, the size of the project, and your skill and expertise, a web app development project could take a variable amount of time, from days to months. Sometimes, the project never ends. The customer wants the developer(s) to continue to update and maintain the site even after its launch.

At the beginning of your work experience, to get a rough idea, you can work on a few projects and see how long each phase of the project takes you to finish. You can then start developing more accurate estimates and tentative timelines for your future projects.

I Want to Work as a Freelancer and Launch My Web Development Startup. Where do I Get Clients from?

When you start out in this field, you should work on a few small-scale projects which you can use to your advantage to build an initial portfolio. Using them, you can move towards securing more complex projects from bigger clients, and so on. You can also build a fresh freelancer’s website for yourself. On it, you can introduce yourself to the visitor and show off your skills at the same time by incorporating some out-of-the-box elements into your site. If you are good at something, tell everyone about it. Better yet, show them!

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If that does not work, there are plenty of opportunities available for web developers on freelancing platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr. You will have to sign up, set up your profile, and list your skills and experience. The clients will automatically come to you. Readying some sample projects beforehand would help win their trust and confidence in such cases too.

How to Become a Web Developer – Wrapping Up

Now that you know all the tasks that the title ‘web development’ covers, you can take some time to think about the parts of it you want to expert. You can choose to go into frontend or backend development depending on your interest.

Also, an important note: Remember to start with one particular technology and perfect it with dedicated practice. Then, you can gradually broaden your horizons by expanding into other technologies! Don’t start everything at once or you will be left a confused mess and lose interest in this field of work entirely without having learned much.

Thus ends our guide on how to become a web developer. We hope that we have answered all of your questions. If there is anything else you need to know or if you want to ask a question, don’t be afraid to leave a comment below!

Tags: developer's guide web development
Author: Emily Williamson
Emily Williamson is a Technical Writer at Goodcore Software. It is a bespoke software development company in the UK. We focused on helping entrepreneurs, small, and medium businesses create competitive and winning software. I’m passionate about exploring and writing about technology innovation, mobile apps, and software solutions.