How to Become a Web Developer – The Ultimate Guide for 2023
As you’re reading this article, you probably aren’t aware of the fact that a person had to sit down and code every single element of this website. Unfortunately, we sometimes take for granted the work that web developers do to make our experiences as seamless as possible. But what is a Web Developer, exactly? Chances are, if you’re reading this article, or considering enrolling in online courses available, then you’re definitely looking to become one.
What Is Web Development?
Web Development in itself is the art of creating the user’s experience on the web. Every button, menu, textbox, and behind-the-scenes element that processes and connects all the elements is meticulously coded into a web developer’s website.
There are different types of web developers, and they rarely work alone unless they’re freelancers and specialize in one area.
It may seem like a terrifying job, and coding typically is like that for most people with zero IT experience. We’re going to try to achieve in this article to bring the terms closer to home and see Web Development through a more fun and less intimidating lens.
A Brief History of The Web
We can’t talk about Web Development without talking about the World Wide Web. It all started in 1989, which in tech years is like a million years ago, with a guy named Tim Berners-Lee, who had a problem with how computers worked back then. He said that he didn’t like going to different computers in order to retrieve various types of information and that you often had to learn additional programs on each of them.
To solve the problem Tim had with the computers, he worked on a document called “Information Management: A Proposal,” which, at first, his boss at CERN considered vague but gave him enough time to work on it using a NeXT computer.
By late 1990, Tim had written the three crucial pieces of technology that we still use to this day–HTML (used for formatting and displaying the content), URI (the address that is unique to every resource on the web, most often called a URL) and HTTP (the transfer protocol used for exchanging data between linked resources across the web). After creating the first basic browser and web server, he had already started inviting others outside of CERN to join his newly created web community by the end of the year.
He then became the founder of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in 1994. The W3C was devoted to developing the standards we still use for today’s modern web.
Some of the standards were decentralization, non-discrimination, a universal consensus among all parties, the universality of the technologies, and a bottom-up design.
Three Types of Web Developers
Before looking into anything development-related, you’ll need to know how it separates into three main categories. Even though you are going to go over each one, let’s take a look at them so you can get a better feel of the whole Web Dev world.
The three main types of web developers are:
- Front End Web Developers
- Back End Web Developers
- Full Stack Web Developers
Front End Web Developer
Front End web developers work with the client side of the platform, where they take care of the look, feel, and interaction of a web app. They design and code the visuals and how they interact with each other and the user.
Back End Web Developer
Back End web developers work with, you guessed it, the server side of web apps. They serve a very important purpose, making all the things the front end developers made actually work with real input and information. They implement frameworks, APIs, network protocols, security, and manage databases.
Back End Developers use programming languages like PHP, Python, Ruby, etc., to build the app. Then, they use tools like SQL and Oracle to ensure that all the parts of a web app (the server, the app, and the database) communicate correctly.
Full Stack Web Developers
Full Stack Developers are pretty straightforward. They deal with the front end and back end of the web app, meaning they develop both the client and the server side.
If you’re planning on developing web apps alone, you’ll have to be a Full Stack Developer to do everything by yourself. But, to achieve this, you’ll first have to have thorough hands-on experience with development on both ends.
Learn With Web Development Courses and Resources
While you can certainly learn much from documentation, completing a good online course can be a significant way to pace yourself on the right path and learn much faster.
You don’t necessarily need to overpay for a course to become a web developer. There are many excellent online courses offered at a big discount and financial aid. Instructors on these courses often provide you with materials, group discussions, and massive projects that you can work on at your own preferred pace. The most suitable online learning platforms for web development are Codecademy, Coursera, Treehouse, Udemy, Pluralsight, Udacity, and edX.
There are also a lot of free resources that will help you learn Web Development better. You can check out Stackoverflow, W3Schools, Mongoose, GeeksForGeeks, freeCodeCamp, and other related sites. All of them offer an abundance of information that will definitely come in handy if you know how to use it right.
Consider a Web Development Bootcamp
Suppose you have the resources and don’t want to learn on your own. In that case, you can enroll in a Web Development Bootcamp that’s designed as a fast-forwarded learning environment where an instructor (or multiple instructors) teaches you the basics and most important aspects of web development. It’s very similar to a college course, and they typically last up to a year. They have various end-year projects (and smaller ones in between) where you can really put your knowledge to the test.
The biggest appeal of a web development Bootcamp is that they could offer you an “easier” way of getting hired, but it’s not 100% guaranteed, of course. However, boot camps could potentially make it easier for you to get internships and contact companies looking to hire new people.
The Basics of Web Development
Then, after you’re well acquainted with the basics, you’ll need to learn the fundamentals of database languages. Databases store vast amounts of data; Facebook, for example, uses its databases to keep users’ profile information. SQL – a structured query language is one of the most popular database languages for manipulating data. Then server-side programming languages like PHP and Python allow developers to fetch information from the database and apply logic to create dynamic websites.
Throwing names of languages at you isn’t going to help you in any way, so let’s see exactly what each of these does.
HTML (HyperText Markup Language)
HTML isn’t a programming language, but it’s the first thing you learn on the path. What you need to remember is that HTML is a markup language that you use to create the bare-bones necessities of a website. It uses tags to dictate what the browser needs to render, like buttons, forms, margins, text, photos, videos, and everything else you can think of. By itself, HTML makes up the skeleton of your website, meaning you don’t get to adjust the functionality or appearance just yet.
Here’s an example of an HTML tag in action:
What you write: <p> This is the paragraph tag! </p>
What the browser shows: This is the paragraph tag!
As you can see, you need to close the tags at the end of the line, so the browser knows precisely when to stop using the tag.
CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)
CSS is where your already-written HTML code starts developing its own personality. Without using CSS, your code would look dull, colorless, and one-dimensional. When using it in combination with HTML, you can control every aspect of the website skeleton through special indicators that affect a specific element.
Students can learn to work with many of the languages and libraries to give the adequate functionality to your site, so don’t worry if you don’t get it just yet. It can be confusing, but you’ll get the hang of it in no-time as long as you put in the effort!
MySQL is an open-source database system that uses Structured Query Language. It’s used for implementing a database on the backside of your website, where you can pull, manipulate and define data from it.
You can access the database from the site’s graphical user interface, which initiates a connection between the client and server. This allows the client to make requests and receive the server’s responses.
PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) is a server-side scripting language that’s written alongside HTML. Its uses include mainly content management and database implementation, and in extreme cases, you can use it to develop whole e-commerce applications.
You can use PHP to control system functions, gather and save data, manage databases, add restrictions, encrypt data, and much more. Its biggest advantage is its simplicity. To add on top of that, PHP easily integrates with SQL-based systems, such as MySQL.
Get Familiar with UI and UX
User Interface, or UI design, determines the aesthetics of the whole website, its layout, colors, background, etc. On the other hand, User Experience, called UX design, is the process of determining what’s best for the user and how they’ll be using your website or app.
Now, let’s get one thing clear, you won’t be in charge of creating the aesthetics and functionalities of a website–that’s a Web Designer’s job. You’ll have to put into practice whatever the Web Designer comes up with, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be familiar with what they do. It’s still equally important to learn the fundamentals of User Interface and User Experience design.
Learning basic design principles and playing around in Sketch or Figma (popular UI/UX programs) will put you miles ahead of the curve in your road to becoming a successful Web Developer.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, refers to improving your site’s ranking on search engines, such as Google. This is done mainly by coming up with strategies for the content on the website, but Google has rules for the developers.
It isn’t required for you to be an expert in the SEO field, but knowing the basic principles of how Google and other search engines categorize and analyze websites will help you create a much more successful product in the end.
Meta tags are one of the main things that you, as a developer, can improve to improve the website’s overall quality. These special tags tell your users what the site is about, and the better they are, the better chances they’ll visit it.
Titles and headings are also another essential part of optimizing the website you’re developing. Headings (such as H1, H2, H3, etc.) need to have a specific order. They should be well-organized with quality content so that the site is highly favored by search engines.
Create Your Own Web Developer Portfolio
To put it simply, a portfolio makes everyone’s life easier. Having a portfolio site as a web developer puts your work in front of clients, and having a good portfolio gives the client solid reasoning to hire you for their project.
A portfolio domain is where you’ll put your latest projects and clients, as well as old ones, that you’re really proud of. It would help if you looked at implementing as much of your personality as you can because that’s the only way you’re going to set yourself apart from the competition. The portfolio should scream whatever your style is, have your signature colors, and fonts, and be concise. Don’t bore the client; make them hire you!
Tips to Build a Web Developer Portfolio
The portfolio should be diverse and include all kinds of projects you’ve worked on. Ideally, it would be best if you showed that you have a specific style that sets you apart from the rest, but at the same time that you’re versatile enough that you can realize any of your client’s needs. So sit down and look at all the things you’ve worked on–school projects, side projects, apps you did in your free time, anything really, and evaluate what you want to show to your clients and what you don’t. Remember, it’s always quality over quantity!
Next, you’ll want to create different case studies and show your clients all the critical steps and decisions you need to make to realize a certain project. These case studies are crucial because it gives the clients a sneak preview of what your workflow looks like.
Add other things, like contact, a few of your hobbies and interests, and what languages and libraries you work with. All of this will make for a portfolio that no client would want to look past in combination with the other stuff. Of course, having a GitHub account where you constantly update a few public projects you’re working on connected to your portfolio and social media is a bonus, too.
At the end of the day, you’re going to want to make your client need a website like yours. So, pulling out the very best tricks you have from your sleeve and implementing them in your portfolio is a surefire way to set a name for yourself as a professional web developer.
Full-Time V.S. Freelance Web Developer
Whether you choose to work full-time at a firm or freelance, you’ll see that each type has different pros and cons. However, what you’ll choose should be in line with your ideal way of working, so take a look at how you work best and decide what kind of job you’re going to hunt for.
Full-Time web developers work in a more traditional, nine-to-five type of setting, usually in an office that has multiple teams.
On the other hand, freelance web developers work more freely when compared to full-time. The pros of freelancing aren’t endless; however, it often comes with irregular paychecks, and when starting, you’ll usually have to work on many different projects just to get by.
Starting at job boards that offer work for freelancers is your best bet at building a reputation and name as a web developer in the field. But, this type of work, such as working on Upwork, can be messy and tiresome. You could have excellent and reliable clients that rate you five stars, but you could also have horrible experiences that could indefinitely put you in a no-work mood.
Deciding what’s best for you and going with it is best. If you value steady paychecks and working with teams, try out a full-time internship or job. But if you want your freedom and aren’t afraid of risking it until you make it big, then freelancing is your way to go.
Junior, Mid, Senior: What Do They Mean?
You’ve probably seen them everywhere on job listings: “Looking for a senior front-end developer,” and have scratched your head at those words. Well, the most straightforward answer out there that makes all the difference is knowledge. Don’t worry too much about these now, but it should help knowing how the real Web Development world works for when you get a real job. You’ll cover these titles briefly as you learn, but let’s take a look at them now, too.
Junior Web Developer
A junior developer is the least knowledgeable out of the three. Juniors are often fresh-baked graduates or newbies that have small work experience in the industry.
Juniors often take more time to adapt to new projects and seek help from more experienced programmers. They’re often very ambitious and eager to learn. They ask many questions and want to understand, even when it’s at the expense of making mistakes.
Mid Web Developer
The mid-level developer is somewhere between the junior and senior levels. They don’t come with their definitive quirks and traits because they’re not inexperienced enough to be juniors but lack the skills and are on the road to becoming seniors.
Senior Web Developer
And, the best for last, we have senior developers. The seniors have more than just neat coding skills. These developers know how to execute the tasks, and how to avoid mistakes they’ve made countless times in the past.
Becoming a senior takes time and great experience. Some people stay mid-level developers in the whole lifespan of their careers. Seniors, aside from coding, have a “mentor” type of role to fulfill, where they need to pass down their knowledge to the less experienced developers.
A Typical Web Developer Salary
The tech industry is no stranger to creating vast amounts of opportunities for aspiring developers to make a living out of programming. The importance of the job grows as the need for more platforms grows every day, like online shopping, cloud computing, banking, reservations, etc. So, it comes as no surprise that web developers, according to glassdoor.com, have an average yearly salary of about $70,000 without bonuses. Well, as you can conclude, web developers, no matter the kind, are in high demand and with a more than a decent salary.