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What Is Web Development?

Jennifer Betts
Website designers

At its core, web development is the term used for creating applications and websites that work on web browsers and via mobile devices. Not only do these individuals create single web pages and small sites, but they also create massive websites like Facebook or Twitter. Working as a web developer requires a strong grasp of programming and coding languages.

Web Development Compared to Design

While web development might be easy to confuse with web design, these two terms are not interchangeable. Web design deals with the look of a page, including fonts, layout, contrast and graphics, while web development is focused on the functionality of the different applications, games, buttons, etc.

  • Key similarity: Given the extensive knowledge of website creation and user preferences required to do web development work, developers often design sites in addition to developing (programming) them.
  • Key difference: Developers and designers differ in the way they approach creating websites. A designer would use a graphics programs, like Adobe Dreamweaver, to create a site. However, a web developer would take a programming approach, instead using coding languages like HTML and PHP.

Web developers ensure that everything runs properly, including functionality of the sites themselves, as well as web-based applications or social media applications. They do this through an array of complex coding languages.

Web Development Skills

Web development requires mastery of several programs, management systems and programming languages. Developers must think about how a website interacts with the client and the server and understand how to store and retrieve data from databases.

Client-Side Programming

When developing a website, client-side programming (also referred to as front-end web development) is important. You can think of client-side programming as dealing with how site users interact with a web page or site via their browser. Typically, the layout and look of the website are built using client-side languages. If you hit that little show source button on your web browser, this is the code you will see. These languages also link a user to the server or send requests and retrieve information from the server.

Examples of client-side languages in web development are:

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • jQuery
  • JavaScript
  • Flash
  • Microsoft Silverlight

Server-Side Programming

Just like you need a language for the browser, you also need a language to communicate back and forth with the server. This is where server-side programming languages for back-end web development come into play. You can think of this type of programming as the framework or backbone of a website. Server-side programming allows the web page(s) to communicate with the server to display pages, interact with storage or databases and structure web applications. The user doesn't have access to the server-side language like they do the client-side language, making this aspect of web development more secure.

Server-side languages include:

  • C++
  • PHP
  • JSP
  • Python
  • Ruby
  • ASP.NET

Don't Forget the Database

Web development also deals with the creation and management of databases. Not only do web developers need to store code and files, they must also produce reports, sort data and check for inconsistencies. Therefore, it's important to have a keen understanding of database management systems like:

  • Oracle
  • Apache
  • MySQL

Developing Your Website

While the appearance of a website is important are important, development is also critical. The field of web development deals with the functionality of websites and the languages that are used to sort and retrieve information for the user when he or she clicks a button. This area deals with several different aspects of website creation, including client-side programming, server-side programming and database management systems. With all of this in mind, it's easy to get a sense of the complexity that takes place behind the scenes with the so-called "simple" push of a "like" button.

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What Is Web Development?