How to Become a Web Developer

The simplest way to describe the internet is that it is a series of pages. Each page was written by someone. That someone is called a web developer.

Web developers have their fingerprints in all aspects of a website. They work with form, by designing layouts, choosing colors, and the overall look. They also work with function. Web developers oversee the technical aspects such as security features and handling traffic.

Web developers enjoy being on the frontline of the internet. With connectivity showing no signs of slowing down, it is an exciting career prospect. There is plenty of room for development, especially with the new innovations frequently introduced. Web development is also a great career prospect because there are plenty of job opportunities. 

Here, we look at the steps you can take if you are interested in becoming a web developer.

First, what is a web developer?

A mobile application or a website undergoes a different design process. It is not enough to be able to do the layouts or pick out the colors. You need to be able to design its backbone: the thing that makes it work.

A web developer is someone who creates applications, software, or websites. They are the ones who use the language of coding to create these outputs. Although these are usually associated with on the internet, it is not always the case. Web developers also build products that are found in a private network.

Step One: Choose a specialization.

The different applications of web design also have different qualities. For example, think of a simple blog. It does not need much — just the ability to write entries and store information for the pages. On the other hand, think of a website like PayPal. It is much more complex. The security features alone make it a monster of a website. 

The varied nature of the internet is what makes it necessary for web developers to have a specialization. Sure, it is possible to build a website by yourself. In fact, there are instances where web developers run a one-man operation. However, this would mean being knowledgeable in many aspects of web development. It can also be time-consuming. You would also be limited to simple websites. 

The large scope of work in web development leads to specializations. Web developers often focus on certain software programs to save time and effort.

There are many ways that web development is categorized. However, the simplest is by the output the developer does. The common classifications of web developers are front-end, business logic, data access, and code separation.

These classifications are important because they define the roles of the developer when working in a team. Also, they point to the direction of what kind of coding language should be used. Later on, you will see that narrowing down why being able to narrow down the programming language is essential.

Front-end developers are the ones that are involved in the interface of the product. The interface is how you interact with an app or website. They usually use CSS and HTML. They are also proficient in design programs like Java or Flash. 

Front-end developers are not just concerned with how the page looks on a screen. They are also in charge of how people use it, by instructing how buttons and menus behave. Front-end developers essentially ensure that users have an easy time navigating the website or app and that everything works the way it should.

It is in this area that some people get confused between a web developer and a web designer. If someone designs how a website looks like, then he or she must be a designer, right?

This definition is only partially correct. Web designers design websites to make sure they are aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly. But, web developers are the ones that bring these designs to fruition using coding. If the web designer draws the blueprints, then the web designer also makes sure the construction is done. 

The other specialization in web development is called business logic. It can make use of Java or .NET codes. The business logic is a bit like a bridge between the user and the data of the website. Web developers specialize in creating processes that allow information from the users to be processed.

In connection with this, web developers that are concerned with the data of the web product are those that specialize in data technology. The web developer designs in so that when the business logic provides the request of the user, the right data is provided. The usual programs used by these types of web developers are Java or PHP.

As for the database itself, the language used is usually SQL. SQL stands for Structured Query Language. It is the standard way to connect with a database system and is used to update and retrieve data.

Step 2: Get an education.

Web development is unique from professions like medicine or law in that no formal education is required. In fact, there are so many resources that it is possible to learn on your own. However, there are some companies that prefer to hire someone with a background in formal education. According to the US Bureau of US Statistics, web developers often earn an associate’s degree. 

The popularity of web development means that schools have responded to the demand for developers. Top universities like the University of California and Purdue University offer curriculums in web development.

For those who are looking for training, there are also plenty of entities offering certifications like Coursera and edX. There are even free online resources. For example, Microsoft has Microsoft Virtual Academy that has free courses in web development.

Step 3: Master the technical skills

A good education can be the first step to becoming a web developer. But, the foundation of this industry is built on technical skills. It is the technical skills that will allow you to do the work. 

There is a large amount of study involved in web development, because of the different programs that are used. You would also need to have an eye for detail. One mistake in the code can alter the whole application or website. 

When it comes to technical skills, the first thing you need to know is what is coding. Coding is essentially the language used to develop the apps, software, and websites that people use. It is like the DNA that web developers use to come up with their creations.

The code that web developers write tells the computer how to act. But unlike a human or even a pet, computers do not understand commands in the way we ordinarily use language. Computers are more basic; they understand “on” and they understand “off”.

Transistors are switches that turn on and off signals in the computer. These are called binary code and are represented by the numbers 1 and 0. The combinations of these 1s and 0s form the instructions for the computer in such a way that it understands them. For example, a coder can write 11111000010 to mean something. 

The problem arises in the complexity of the binary code. You would have to write a long sequence of 1s and 0s to make an effective command. In fact, it can take billions to do it. It is not very efficient, is it? For one thing, it can be time-consuming. It can also be very tedious. Imagine searching through the different 1s and 0s to find a single mistake. 

Fortunately, web development does involve doing that. Programming languages solve this dilemma.

These programming languages simplify the binary code by providing a set of rules for writing and formatting. It provides the syntax. They are like shortcuts to represent the 1s and 0s.

There are many different languages that a web developer can use. Each language is used for a specific purpose or specialization in web development.

For example, you can use the programming language HTML. You can type “

Hello

”in Notepad, a basic computer program. The computer will not understand what “hello” means; but, it will understand what you are saying if it is translated into binary code.</p>

A programming language will translate what you wrote by processing it into something called an assembly language. The words and letters take the place of the binary patterns. Then, the assembly code is further translated into machine language or a series of binary instructions that the machine can interpret. Since the computer can understand the instructions, it can execute the command as binary code.

Step 4: Know the programming languages.

Everything found on the internet was made using programming languages. It is important to note that web development is a fast-evolving industry. There are new languages created all the time. Thus, programming languages age or become obsolete quickly. If you are serious about becoming a web developer, you must keep yourself updated with industry trends.

One way to keep up with the news is by joining communities like GitHub. It is a forum for web developers where people can get feedback on their work. Stack Overflow is another example. It has discussion boards where people can interact with each other. 

Although there is no shortage of programming languages available, there are some that are consistently used. Here are some of the more commonly used ones:

  • JavaScript

JavaScript has been used for a relatively long time. It has been around since 1995; yet, its use is still widespread until today. It is mainly used for web pages and is often built on web browsers. However, it can also be used on web servers through the Node.js function.

JavaScript makes a page responsive to the user. For example, it can be used to make clickable buttons and pop-up menus.

It works by creating a Document Object Model or DOM. You can make updates to the DOM using your coding skills and the changes will happen in real-time. The browser also has the feature of registering the code on the movements of the user, like a mouse click, so you can customize the user experience.

  • Python

Python is a high-level programming language. High-level programming languages are simply programs that are simpler to use. In contrast, low-level programming languages resemble binary code more closely.

In 1991, Guido van Rossum developed Python to make code easier to read and write. Its simplicity makes it a popular choice among web developers, especially those who are beginners. It is used primarily for software that deals with numbers.

  • SQL

SQL or Structured Query Language is the language of databases. It is often written as a series of queries. Each query performs a specific task, like creating, updating, or deleting data.

In a website, the SQL can be used to create, update, or delete content. For example, WordPress uses SQL as a programming language. The commands people use to make and delete their blog entries are all because of SQL.

  • PHP

PHP is another programming language used to create user-friendly pages on the internet. It works with both SQL and HTML. The SQL has all the content, while the HTML lets you see them.

The PHP is similar with JavaScript in that both create a friendlier browsing experience. But, the PHP is built on a web server, while JavaScript is built on a browser. The PHP’s focus is to bridge the gap between SQL queries and HTML.

  • Ruby

Ruby is a high-level programming language that was developed by Yukihiro Matsumoto in 1995. It is seen as a successor of the PHP. They are similar in that both are built on a web server and produces HTML output. However, Ruby is simpler to write.

  • C

Do not let the one-letter name fool you. C is perhaps the most significant among the modern coding languages. It is not the easiest to master, because it is a low-level programming language. But, it is extremely flexible and can be used in practically all platforms, like Microsoft Windows.

  • C++

A more developed version of C is the C++. It can also run on different platforms and is often used to create computer games.

  • C Sharp

Another offshoot of C is the C Sharp. It was made by Microsoft in 2000 and primarily used in its .NET network. It only runs on Windows. C Sharp is used to develop software for Windows desktop computers.

  • Objective-C

The Objective-C also comes from the C programming language. It was made by Apple in the early 80s. It is a high-level programming language that only works with Apple operating systems.

  • Visual Basic

Another Microsoft-developed programming language, Visual Basic was designed to react to the commands of users, such as clicking the mouse or pressing of the keyboard. It only works on Windows.

  • Java

Java is used across multiple platforms. It was first developed in 1995 by the Oracle Corporation. It is a high-level programming language that can work on almost all operating systems. It is particularly popular in creating applications for Android like Opera and mobile games. 

  • Perl

The Perl was primarily used for text processing. It is a high-level programming language and was once used frequently on the web. However, newer languages like the Ruby have relegated it back to its original purpose, which is text processing.

These programming languages are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more programming languages available. As someone who is interested in joining the web development profession, you might ask yourself, “how can you possibly learn about all the available languages?”

Fortunately, that is not necessary. As mentioned earlier, certain programming languages work best for specific jobs. If you know what area of web programming you want to engage it, it narrows down the kind of programming language you should know.

In the case of web developers, it is rare to find someone who is an expert at all languages. Much like how they specialize in their branch of web development, they also tend to focus on a certain set of programming languages. 

Step 5: Build your presence   

Knowing what to do is one thing. Getting it done is another. Once you have the technical skills of a web developer, you need to do what a web developer does. You will need to have a solid portfolio to showcase your body of work to potential employers or clients.

The first thing a web developer needs is to have a website. Invest in your own address so it looks professional. A web developer without an online presence is like a photographer without a camera: it would not make sense.

Your website should be well-designed without any errors. It is your first opportunity to showcase your skill. You can also include projects you have made, whether paid or personal.

Beginners can consider taking test projects, such as small projects for friends and family or doing volunteer work. The goal is to practice the technical skills in preparation for more complex jobs.

An often-repeated tip among the web developer communities is to create websites for fictional clients. It can be good practice for your skills and showcase your work to potential clients or employers. However, make sure to clarify that the works are made only as samples.

Step 6: Know the landscape of the industry

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the web development industry is expected to increase by 15% from 2016 until 2026. This figure represents a much higher growth rate than other industries.

Web developers also work in a variety of fields such as publishing and entertainment. Most web developers are expected to find opportunities in the mobile industry as demands for apps increase. E-commerce is also an area that shows potential for web developers.

The web development industry is obviously robust. However, it is not perfect. You still need to put in the effort to make sure you land your ideal job – as well as gain financial rewards for your efforts.

First, think about whether freelancing is for you. You can also opt to become an employee of a company.

The career direction you take as a web developer depends on many factors. First, consider what level of job security are you comfortable with?

Regular employment means that you know what to expect each month. You can also expect a paycheck at a certain time. However, this advantage can also be a disadvantage. Your income does not grow depending on how many more clients you can add.

On the other hand, freelancers must make sure that they have clients each month. It is a more unstable situation. Of course, it is also possible for established web developers to have a steady flow of clients. In cases like these, compensation is commensurate with the effort put it. However, there is no guarantee.

Another factor to consider is that freelancing requires marketing and sales capability. You will have to be the one to look for clients or create opportunities for clients to find you.

Think of it as going for a job interview every time you meet a new client. You would have to showcase your best work and demonstrate that you are a good partner for the project.

Not everyone has the sales skills. It is something to consider when deciding between freelancing and employment.

In either case, web developers who are just starting out in their careers should know where to look for jobs. Sites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and Indeed have web developer opportunities posted on their job board sections.

Web development is a relatively new career choice compared to other industries. In many ways, its newness is its advantage. It is more receptive to people entering the profession. There is also greater flexibility when it comes to educational attainment. 

If you are thinking of joining the web development industry either as a fresh student or as someone looking for a second career, you should be ready to learn all the technical skills.  It is both an investment and the foundation of a web developer. Once you have the skills, it can be the start of a whole new career path. 

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