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Digital Basics: What Is Web Development?

What is web development featured image
Web development isn't well understood by large numbers of business owners. Image credit: Alexandru Acea

These days, having a killer business website is essential. But not every business owner is a tech-whizz. You may have even found yourself asking ‘what is web development?’ This may sound like a silly question, but it’s important to have a strong grasp of the basics.

For one thing, web development is expensive. If you’re investing in a new site, it’s only sensible to gain enough of an understanding to know what you’re actually paying for.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled this guide to web development for business owners.

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How To Define Website Development

Web development often refers to development of websites that are hosted over the internet and involves building and maintaining these pages.

The entire process includes many aspects such as web design, content development and network security. Depending on the size of the site and company, the process can involve anywhere from one person to hundreds of people who work on the project of developing a site.

The process of web development can be broken down into even smaller components. These include hand-coding pages often with the help of a text editor, using different programs to build a web page, or maintaining a blog or webpage.

Even the common layman can make a fully viable site for free using common programs such as WordPress or Joomla. These are known as WYSIWYG editors, which stands for what you see is what you get. You basically just have to drag elements into place.

While knowing the basics of web development are important, there are other functions of the process that are just as vital.

For one thing, a lot of different skillsets are required to create a fully optimised website. Beyond the technical side of things, a good website also needs killer graphic design, search engine optimisation and project management.

However, these are all topics for another day. For now, let’s explore the job of a web development specialist.

Web development example
Web development includes a broad range of disciplines. Image credit: Pankaj Patel

What Do Web Developers Do?

This can be a tricky thing for business owners to get their heads round. For one thing, we just said that you can make a totally viable website for free using WordPress. What’s the benefit of paying someone with a fancy computer science degree to do this for you?

The truth is, unless you know what you’re doing, a self-build site will only get you so far. There’s a reason that top companies spend big on web development. A professionally developed site is pretty much guaranteed to offer ROI.

Essentially, while it’s perfectly plausible that you could make a site that looks okay with a WYSIWYG editor, chances are it will fail to do the things which actually generate revenue. This means:

  • Attracting web traffic,
  • Converting traffic into sales.

These are both tricky processes. As a non-specialist, you probably don’t have the time to get up to speed on how to optimise your site for these goals.

To gain a deeper insight, let’s look at the two broad categories of web development – front end and back end.

First up, front end development.

What Does a Front End Web Developer Do?

It’s the job of front end developers to create and implement the familiar layouts of our favourite publications and sites. In other words, they work on all the parts of the site that users view and interact with.

While this is the simple definition, the reality is a bit more complicated. At least, front end development is a lot more involved than simply making the site look pretty.

Front end development is concerned with how the web page looks and how it is formatted. Think of a web site as layers and you get the picture. It also involves how the site is structured, its design and how one maneuvers through the site.

This involves coding HTML, Java Script, CSS code and formatting pictures through GIF or JPEG format, Their job involves almost every aspect of what it takes to make a web page and site functional for users including the layout, navigation and internal links within the site.

Most front end developers are also proficient in graphic design. Check out our guide to web design for more details on what their job entails.

What Does a Back End Web Developer Do?

These employees go beyond the front end developer and handle all of the under the hood aspects of a web site. Their job is to design and maintain the entire website, including the design and development.

They create these web pages by considering their client’s targeted goal and audience. They then investigate different designs and figure out which works best for their client’s needs.

In addition, they maintain the technical aspects of web sites and monitor site traffic. They also track the site’s traffic and keep track of the site’s page load speed, as well as security and more advanced functionality.

Another important aspect of a web developer’s job is helping to create and maintain e-commerce websites. This involves ensuring that customers have a smooth and pain-free user experience during the checkout process.

What Does a Web Development Company Do?

Web development companies deal with all aspects of developing and maintaining a web site.

Although most companies offer a broad and full range of services, many specialize in one specific type of design or serve a particular industry.

Some companies offer their services only to large corporations while others choose one niche such as medical companies, charities or local SMEs.

Web development planning
Since web development requires a number of different skill sets, it’s often best to engage an agency to create your new site. Image credit: Hal Gatewoord

Many companies specialize in one particular language or coding while others offer use of multiple website content management programs and design methodologies.

At this point, it’s worth thinking about some of the reasons you might want to hire a digital agency, as opposed to running with a freelance web developer.

The answer is that agencies often offer more services, at lower costs.

Different tasks taken on by a web development company includes the following:

  • Initial client consultation to garner the needs of clients.
  • Web engineering and the development of web pages.
  • Web design.
  • Developing content for clients.
  • Providing web server services and overseeing network security configuration.
  • Ongoing maintenance and support.

What is Full Stack Web Development?

So some developers work on the front end, and others work on the back. But surely some developers can do both.

Full stack web development covers almost all aspects of web development and the web developer’s job. Full stack development involves the broader aspects of web development including software development.

Often they have a more in depth expertise in the role of software and web development. A full-stack developer would also be proficient in multiple areas at once such as:

  • Hosting environment, server, and network capabilities.
  • Databases referred to as relational and correlational.
  • How to interact with Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and the external world.
  • Correlation between user interface and user experience
  • All aspects of quality assurance
  • Web site and program security.
  • In depth understanding of customer and business needs.

Full stack development is also offered as an agency service. That is, a client can pay for full stack development from an agency, but the actual front end and back end parts of the process may be handled by different members of staff, or even different internal teams.

Summary: Our Online World and Web Development

Web developers and the companies they work for have helped create the online world we have all become accustomed to.

As the internet continues to grow and change, web development continues to be vital to make best use of the latest capabilities (including the latest features for your own business website).

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