What exactly does a web developer do?
With so much consistent growth in employment figures in the ICT sector as of late, it can be easy to confuse the very many job titles that exist today, particularly when you’re trying to explain to your less-than-tech-savvy aunt that your position as a UI Developer is an actual job, while she attempts to change the television channel with her telephone. As our last article illustrated, with so much digital commerce, and more than that- digital life, taking place within the margins of a website, the position of web developer has never been more vital. Whether it’s as an intermediary between provider and consumer, employer and employee, or the sheer fact that the vast majority of our correspondences take place through a digital medium, web developers and designers are crucial to the tech market. In this modern climate, with our eyes so often glued to web pages, who are the people providing the code integrity, and who are the creative and technical minds separating a failing site from a successful one?
What precisely does a web developer do, and why has it become such an invaluable position?
As you can imagine, the clue is in the title. It is the job of the web developer to design and maintain websites. Whether it’s laying out the underlying structure, to designing the basic layout, or implementing advanced interactive features, their fingerprints are everywhere. A web developer is essentially a programmer who has chosen to specialise their interest in the development of World Wide Web applications, or distributed network applications that are run over HTTP from a web server to a web browser.
The term web developer is often used interchangeably with the title of web designer, adding slightly to the ambiguity. Ultimately, there is often very little distinction, and arguments that might emerge are often just a case of needless semantics. Web developers and web designers alike, plan, create, and code web pages, using both technical and non-technical skills to produce websites that fit the customer’s requirements. While web designers are more often than not aligned with the more creative aspects of the project, their skills are not limited to that domain. As a web developer, you are essentially assigned the role of presenting an idea, a product, a service, or any number of things, to the website’s audience, through the creation and maintaining of an attractive, engaging, and interactive platform, with specific emphasis on the usability and functionality of the site itself.
What are the everyday duties and expectations of a web developer?
- The use of authoring or scripting languages to build websites.
- Writing, designing and editing web page content or directing others producing content.
- Identifying and correcting problems uncovered by testing or user feedback.
- Converting written, graphic, audio and video components to compatible web formats.
You can put countless hours into applying elaborate design tools, and making the website look and feel attractive, but without the framework, the underlying structure supporting the design aspects, the website is merely a mannequins head- without the supporting structure, the body collapses. This is why balance is absolutely vital between both the hard-line back-end development of writing intelligent code, and the front-end design aspects of providing an engaging interface for the user.
Here are some examples of extraordinarily engaging websites in terms of their design and layout, from the subtle and understated tones of minimalism, to the explosion of vibrant colours with others, to the community-voted websites of the year. As you can plainly see, there is no one tried and true formula for design and development success, exampled by the vast spectrum of acknowledged sites. Taste is extremely subjective, but there are some constants- all these sites are well-maintained, content-heavy, and in their own unique way, present an abundance of content in an engaging, interactive fashion.
So, just what skills does a coder need to possess in order to succeed as a web developer?
Ideally, you will need to have familiarity with technology and understand how computers and web servers operate. You also need to be familiar with many software programs, Web applications and Web programming languages.
Specific technologies you may need to know include, but are not limited to-
- Hypertext markup language (HTML)
- Structured Query Language (SQL)
In a coding environment, it’s not just about what programming languages you speak. A web developer must understand the value of team-oriented project work and communication. As is the case with any office space, if you can’t communicate your objectives and intentions successfully, you will inevitably encounter both wasted time and effort, which amounts to lessened productivity. This not only fuels office tensions, but it hints at irresponsible team management, and an inability to plan. There will always be friction, always bugs in the code, always deadlines marginally missed and projects that have to be scrapped to be started from scratch, but that is the case with any project a modern professional will encounter.
What separates a good website from a great website?
‘Easy navigation is a key element in any high-traffic website. Few things are more frustrating to visitors than sites that are laid out illogically, or products that are difficult to find. Implementing a visually appealing webscape that is user-friendly, along with an effective search engine, is one way the Web developer ensures visitors will enjoy their visit and quickly get to products of interest.’
‘Interactive pages that display items of related interest dependent on click values, helps to entice visitors to stick around while potentially boosting sales revenue.’ In the game of web development, inviting the user to the next click is paramount.
Ideally, a website should contain an abundance of content, even more than the user needs, as nobody wants to be enthralled by a book only to find the last 20 pages are missing. The content, and indeed message of the site, should be clear and concise, helped immensely by how the site is structured for the user to navigate for themselves. Poor or awkward search functions will frustrate users, and an unclear message will only compel the user to click elsewhere towards a competitor.
Both function and form are vital to a web developer.