It’s likely that almost everyone has heard the term “website development” by now, but many people probably aren’t sure exactly what it refers to. Websites have become an integral part of modern life, providing us with avenues by which we can connect with other people all over the world for any number of reasons – social connection, shopping, education, research, careers, and more. In a relatively short amount of time, the Internet has become absolutely essential and websites often act as the voice of individuals, organisations, companies, small businesses, and countless other entities.
If you view the creation of a website as giving a voice to the person (or people) who design, develop and maintain it, it becomes a little simpler to see why it is becoming increasingly important for everyone to understand at least some of the basics that are necessary to build a functional website. In this article, we’ll go over some of the fundamentals that will be helpful for someone looking to learn website development from the beginning.
SEE ALSO: Guide To E-Commerce Website Development
Web Design or Web Development?
One of the first things that usually need some clarification is the difference between “website design” and “website development”. The terms have become a little muddled and can seem interchangeable to someone with little experience, but the difference of intention is fairly simple.
This term refers specifically to the more aesthetic elements of creating a website. This includes the layout and the graphics that you choose to display. Designing a website is typically done with a program like Adobe Photoshop (for example – there are many more design related programs available and some will suit your needs better than others, so do your research). At the end of this process, the website is basically just a picture.
Website developers, or programmers, will then take the static visual website design and use a programming language (more on these below) to write the code that tells the visual elements of the site how to behave. If the web designer has designed a button intended to link to a FAQ or another page, the web developer writes the programming instructions that will add the functionality to that button.
There are two basic sides of web development:
Front End – This refers to the part of a website that visitors to that site see. It includes the ways that users can interface with the website, the content, the separate web pages that make up the site and the images.
Back End – This refers basically to the information, applications, and structure of the website, which isn’t visible to typical visitors. These elements of the website are controlled with a Content Management System (CMS).
Programming Languages Decoded (a little)
Referred to as “probably the most overwhelming aspect for a nontechnical person to sift through” by Upwork.com, in their very helpful guide to programming languages, this aspect of web development really can be obtuse to newcomers.
Programming languages are what a web developer (or programmer) uses to write the markup and code that tells the different elements of a static web design how they should perform as the design directs them.
Here’s a very simplified breakdown of five of the most commonly used programming languages.
● HTML/CSS – HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is a standard programming language used for developing web pages and applications. The majority of websites you visit are probably written in HTML. HTML provides the structure of your website, and works well in conjunction with CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), which provides the style elements.
● PHP – PHP, which initially stood for “Personal Home Page” and is now known as “PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor”, is an all-purpose programming language that can be combined with several different web frameworks, template, and content management systems. It can also be embedded into HTML code. The standard software for interpreting PHP is free to anyone, and the language is also notable for its wide compatibility with most platforms and operating systems, and is the language behind the incredibly successful Facebook and WordPress
● Python – Python is considered a multi-paradigm programming language, meaning that it can support programming that is object-oriented, structured, functional, aspect-oriented and more, with extensions. Python was created with the intention of being very legible to those working with or learning it and also with a sense of humour, setting it apart from the easily cluttered visual layout of some of the other programming languages, and is considered one of the easiest languages for beginning programmers to learn.
● Ruby – Like Python, Ruby is another multi-paradigm programming language that is more forgiving to website development beginners, but with more focus on being a true object-oriented language. The creator of Ruby, Yukihiro Matsumoto, said of the language at a Google Tech Talk in 2008, “I hope to see Ruby help every programmer in the world to be productive, and to enjoy programming, and to be happy. That is the primary purpose of Ruby language.” This is reflected in what Matsumoto has referred to as POLA – the “principle of least astonishment” that Ruby follows, which means that the language was intended to function in a way that would minimise confusion for its users.
Learning Website Development: Self Teaching or Formal Education?
At the moment, web development is a field that can be wide open to both self taught experts or formally educated degree holders – and there are plenty of stories of success on either side. The choice is really yours, but regardless, you will need to make sure you know what you’re getting into.
The Self Teaching Route
Sometimes, the idea of being self taught in any complicated subject comes with a bit of derision, but for those willing to put in the work (and it is a lot of work), website development is a field that changes and evolves rapidly, lending itself well to those who put in the time and effort to understand the basics and push themselves to keep up. The amount of very useful resources online, some of them absolutely free, for beginners looking to teach themselves is almost endless, with experienced developers doing their part to advance the field by sharing what they know in articles, tutorials and web videos.
The Formal Education Route
When you choose to attend a university for your education in website development, you’ll have the benefit of receiving what will hopefully be a tested and proven set of the basics that lie at the heart of web development. This may cover things that will be useful throughout your career, but which you might miss when you choose your own educational path. Guidance in both curriculum and by knowledgeable teachers in a group setting is something that can bring out more enthusiasm for learning each new step ahead. Another benefit to take into consideration is that by earning a college degree, you may open the door to potential job openings that might otherwise be closed to you.
Regardless of the way you choose to go about getting your education in website development, it’s an undeniable fact that this field is one that will only become more important in the near future. We hope that this guide has shed a little light on what can be considered a complicated arena for newcomers and that you’ve been inspired to learn a little more about how the websites we all use for so many things, almost every day, come to be.