Simply put, web developers are actually a type of software developer. They specialise in using web technologies to create websites (online pages for users to view and engage with content) and web applications (embedded online components that carry out a user function, such as email, instant messaging, online banking and online shopping).
Web developers usually specialise in either “front-end” or “back-end” development. The former is about working on the public-facing part of the website that users will interact with, while the latter is about working on the server-side, or building and maintaining the unseen functions of a website or its embedded applications.
There are also “full-stack” web developers who can do both front-end and back-end development work, though they might not necessarily specialise in either to the same depth as their dedicated front-end and back-end counterparts.
There are certainly no shortages of entry-level opportunities for web developers, given how almost every business now needs to either maintain an online presence of some sort or offer online services to their customers.
As a graduate, proof of work is most important if you aspire to be a web developer. Having a diverse portfolio of projects which show off your technical skills – whether in front-end or back-end work – will be key to catching potential employers’ eyes.
Larger organisations usually start off junior developers in teams, where you will work on projects or build specific functions under the guidance of a senior developer or team lead. You will gradually be assigned larger or more complex projects as you gain experience with the company’s web products and services, and may eventually be tasked with leading a team of junior developers later on.
For smaller organisations or start-ups, progression will often be a lot less structured. You can expect to wear many hats or be required to learn on the job using your own resourcefulness and ingenuity. Be prepared to take a more hands-on approach to your own upskilling and career progression in such an environment.
Notably, web development as an area of work has one of the lowest barriers to entry compared to other technology careers. Though graduates with degrees in computer science, software development, or other tech disciplines are preferred, it is still possible to find a web developer job regardless of your degree background as long as you have some practical knowledge of web development processes and know how to code.
Trends and developments
Cross-platform apps are currently considered industry best practice when it comes to web development. As users now engage with web content across multiple devices (e.g. laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) knowing how to build progressive web applications (PWA) or single page apps (SPAs) will be key to delivering seamless user experiences while minimising redundant development work.
There is also now an increasing demand for “all-in-one” web developers, since building a site or web app alone is not enough to get users to engage with it. Web developers would benefit from being able to incorporate practical applications of digital marketing, content management, as well as user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design in their work.
Cybersecurity is also another key area of focus for web developers. Given the rise in phishing, database breaches, and hacks on professional websites and web apps, knowing how to secure your work against external threats is critically important.
Pros and cons
Fast-paced and challenging
Many in this line of work enjoy being able to explore emerging technologies in order to build new products or reiterate existing ones. There is also great satisfaction in being able to see the results of your work implemented almost instantly.
On the other hand, keeping up with the rapid and relentless changes in technology and business trends can also be incredibly tiring and demanding over time, especially given increased expectations on web developers.
- Problem-solving and time management skills
- Commercial awareness
- Staying up to date on development trends
- An eye for detail
- Ability to deal with ambiguity effectively