Web development today is a broad field. It has changed much since I first started to learn HTML in the 1990s and create websites that it is almost unrecognizable. For one thing, it is now a part of almost every industry. I can’t imagine any business – from the local pizza shop to an industry leader – not having a website (possibly multiple websites) and a strong social media presence.
Some of the biggest changes I have seen came from the rise of mobile, faster bandwidths and cloud-based software.
But I still have people ask me when they hear that one thing I do is web development is “What does web development mean?” It’s a tough question because it varies so widely. Web developers design and create websites, and applications, use cloud-based software, maintain sites and handle the technical aspects of a site’s function.
For that local pizza shop, all that may be done by one outsourced company or even one person, but for large companies, all of that entails large departments with the work being specialized and handled by different individuals.
When I started building websites in the 1990s, it was for myself. Next, came websites for the school district where I worked. When I moved to work at a university, I became part of a team and had specific parts of the very large website that I was responsible for maintaining and designing.
Today I would put developers into some general categories.
Back-end web developers handle the technical construction of a website. They create the basic framework of a website. If you’re using a platform like WordPress, they do most of the back-end.
Front-end web developers are responsible for how a website looks. They do the layout, incorporate graphics, and applications for things like e-commerce.
Full stack web developers manage both the front- and back-end of a website or application and are good choices for smaller businesses.
API (Application Programming Interface) developers allow applications to access data and interact with other external software or operating systems. This is critical to the online processes businesses use.
UI/UX developers specialize in the user interface and user experience and creating an online customer experience that is both visually appealing and functional.