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.

In today’s digital age, the internet has become an indispensable tool, and websites serve as the cornerstone of online presence. Web development, the process of creating and maintaining websites, has emerged as a crucial field, shaping the digital landscape we navigate daily.

Web developers, the architects of the digital realm, are the masterminds behind the websites we interact with. They possess a unique blend of technical expertise and creative flair, transforming ideas into functional and visually appealing online platforms.

The responsibilities of a web developer encompass a wide spectrum, ranging from front-end development, focusing on the user interface and experience, to back-end development, ensuring seamless data management and server-side operations.

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Web development encompasses a diverse range of tasks, including:

  1. Crafting the User Interface: Web developers create the visual elements that users interact with, utilizing HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to bring websites to life.
  2. Building the Back-end Infrastructure: They design and implement server-side technologies, such as PHP, Python, or Java, to handle data processing, user authentication, and secure communication.
  3. Integrating Databases: Web developers connect websites to databases, enabling the storage and retrieval of information. They may use SQL, MySQL, or NoSQL databases to manage data effectively.
  4. Ensuring Compatibility and Performance: They optimize websites for different browsers and devices, ensuring a consistent user experience across platforms.
  5. Testing and Debugging: Web developers meticulously test their creations to identify and fix errors, ensuring the website functions as intended.
  6. Maintaining and Updating Sites: They keep websites up-to-date with security patches, new features, and evolving technologies, maintaining optimal performance and security.

Web development is a dynamic and ever-evolving field, constantly adapting to the changing demands of the digital world. As technology advances and user expectations rise, web developers remain at the forefront, shaping the future of the internet one website at a time.

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

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What is Web Development

Web development often refers to the 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.

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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. Web developers should also stay informed about the latest technologies, considering factors such as Vue vs React performance when deciding on the most suitable framework to optimize the website’s overall functionality and user experience.

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.

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Web Development’s Building Blocks: Coding Languages and Frameworks

Web development is a symphony of coding languages and frameworks, each playing a distinct role in creating the interactive and user-friendly websites we experience today. Let’s delve into the world of these essential tools:

HTML (HyperText Markup Language)

HTML serves as the foundation of web pages, providing the structural framework and defining the content’s organization. It utilizes tags, enclosed within angle brackets, to indicate elements like headings, paragraphs, images, and links.

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)

CSS is the stylist of the web, responsible for transforming the bare-bones structure of HTML into visually appealing and engaging websites. It controls the presentation aspects, including colors, fonts, layouts, and animations.


JavaScript is the lifeblood of interactive web experiences. It breathes dynamism into websites, enabling user interactions, animations, and dynamic content updates. JavaScript’s versatility extends beyond web development, powering mobile apps, games, and server-side applications.

Popular Web Frameworks:


React is a JavaScript library for front-end development, created by Facebook. It’s known for its component-based approach, making it easier to build complex and reusable user interfaces.


Node.js is a JavaScript runtime environment that allows JavaScript to run outside of web browsers, enabling server-side development. It’s popular for building real-time applications and APIs.


Angular is a TypeScript-based open-source web framework led by Google. It provides a comprehensive set of tools and features for building large-scale, single-page applications.


Vue.js is a progressive JavaScript framework known for its simplicity and flexibility. It’s easy to learn and use, making it a popular choice for both beginners and experienced developers.

These are just a few of the many coding languages and frameworks that web developers employ to create the diverse and ever-evolving web landscape we inhabit today. With the constant emergence of new technologies and trends, the world of web development remains dynamic and exciting, offering endless opportunities for innovation and exploration.

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.

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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.

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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.

The Importance of Web Accessibility

Web accessibility is the cornerstone of an inclusive digital world, ensuring that websites are accessible to people with disabilities. It’s not just a matter of compliance with legal requirements; it’s about creating a more equitable and inclusive online experience for all users.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1)

WCAG 2.1 serves as the internationally recognized set of guidelines for making web content accessible to people with disabilities. It outlines four principles that form the foundation of accessible web design:

  1. Perceivable: Content must be perceivable to users through different senses, including sight, hearing, and touch.
  2. Operable: Users must be able to operate the user interface and navigate the content using various input methods, such as keyboards, voice commands, or assistive technologies.
  3. Understandable: Content must be clear and understandable, using plain language, providing appropriate text alternatives for non-text content, and organizing information logically.
  4. Robust: Content must be compatible with current and future technologies, including assistive technologies, without relying on specific technologies or operating systems.

Web Accessibility Testing Tools

To ensure that websites meet WCAG 2.1 guidelines, various accessibility testing tools are available, including:

  1. WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool): WAVE is a free online tool that analyzes web pages and identifies potential accessibility barriers.
  2. AXE (Accessibility Extension): AXE is a browser extension that provides real-time feedback on accessibility issues as users interact with websites.
  3. Lighthouse (Google Chrome Accessibility Audit): Lighthouse is a built-in tool in Google Chrome that audits web pages and provides accessibility insights.
  4. Color Contrast Analyzer: This tool helps assess the color contrast between text and background to ensure it meets WCAG 2.1 requirements.
  5. Screen Readers: Screen readers, such as NVDA or JAWS, provide a text-based representation of web pages for users who rely on auditory access.

Testing and Debugging: The Cornerstones of Quality Web Development

Testing and debugging are integral parts of the web development process, ensuring the quality, functionality, and stability of web applications. They play a crucial role in identifying and eliminating errors, preventing potential issues from reaching users, and maintaining a positive user experience.

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The Importance of Testing and Debugging

  1. Error Prevention: Testing helps identify and eliminate errors early in the development process, reducing the cost and complexity of fixing them later.
  2. Quality Assurance: Debugging ensures that websites meet functional requirements and user expectations, delivering a high-quality experience.
  3. Performance Optimization: Testing and debugging can reveal performance bottlenecks, enabling developers to optimize code and improve website responsiveness.
  4. Security Enhancement: Identifying and addressing security vulnerabilities helps protect websites from cyberattacks and data breaches.
  5. User Confidence: Well-tested and debugged websites foster user trust and confidence, leading to increased engagement and satisfaction.

Common Testing Methods

  1. Unit Testing: Unit testing focuses on individual units of code, ensuring that each component functions as intended in isolation.
  2. Integration Testing: Integration testing verifies how different components interact with each other to ensure seamless operation as a whole.
  3. Functional Testing: Functional testing validates that the website’s features and functionality meet user requirements and specifications.
  4. Performance Testing: Performance testing evaluates the website’s response time, load capacity, and resource utilization under various conditions.
  5. Usability Testing: Usability testing assesses the ease of use, user interface, and overall user experience of the website.
  6. Browser Compatibility Testing: Browser compatibility testing ensures that the website functions correctly across different browsers and devices.

Debugging Techniques

  1. Using Browser DevTools: Browser devtools provide a set of tools for debugging JavaScript code, inspecting HTML and CSS, and analyzing network requests.
  2. Error Logs: Error logs capture and display error messages, providing clues about the source and nature of the problem.
  3. Console Logging: Developers can insert console logs to output messages during code execution, aiding in troubleshooting and identifying potential issues.
  4. Debugging Tools: Dedicated debugging tools offer advanced features for stepping through code, setting breakpoints, and examining variable values.
  5. Repro Steps: Repro steps, a detailed description of how to consistently reproduce an error, help developers isolate and fix the issue effectively.

Testing and debugging are continuous processes throughout the web development lifecycle. By adopting rigorous testing methodologies and employing effective debugging techniques, web developers can deliver high-quality, reliable, and user-friendly websites that meet the demands of today’s digital landscape.

Content Management Systems (CMS)

Content Management Systems (CMS) are software applications that enable users to create, manage, and publish content on a website without the need for extensive technical knowledge. They provide a user-friendly interface for editing text, adding images, and customizing website layouts. CMS platforms have become increasingly popular due to their ease of use and versatility, making them accessible to both individuals and businesses.

Here are some of the most popular CMS options:



WordPress is a free and open-source CMS known for its user-friendliness, flexibility, and vast community support. It powers over 60% of all websites worldwide, making it the most popular CMS in existence. WordPress offers a wide range of themes and plugins that extend its functionality and enable users to create custom websites without coding knowledge.


Digital basics: what is web development?

Drupal is another popular open-source CMS known for its robust security features and scalability. It is widely used for building large and complex websites, including government, enterprise, and media websites. Drupal offers a powerful content management system, allowing users to create and manage a wide variety of content types.


Digital basics: what is web development?

Joomla is a user-friendly open-source CMS known for its ease of installation and setup. It is a popular choice for small businesses and individuals who want to create a website without extensive technical knowledge. Joomla offers a variety of extensions that extend its functionality and enable users to customize their websites.

Other Popular CMS Options

  • Magento: A leading eCommerce CMS for building online stores.
  • Shopify: A popular cloud-based eCommerce CMS for creating and managing online stores.
  • Squarespace: A user-friendly CMS with a focus on design and aesthetics.
  • Wix: A cloud-based CMS known for its drag-and-drop interface and ease of use.

These are just a few examples of the many CMS options available. The choice of CMS depends on the specific needs and requirements of the website.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. What is web development?

Web development encompasses the creation, maintenance, and improvement of websites and web applications. It involves a range of tasks, including designing the user interface, writing code, and ensuring that the website functions correctly across different browsers and devices.

Q2. What skills do I need to become a web developer?

Essential skills for web development include:

  • Programming languages: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are the foundation for web development. Other languages like Python, Java, and PHP are also commonly used for server-side development.
  • Database management: Understanding how to store and retrieve data from databases is crucial for building dynamic websites and web applications.
  • Problem-solving and debugging: Web development often involves identifying and fixing errors, so strong problem-solving and debugging skills are essential.
  • Creativity and design: Web developers should have a keen eye for design and be able to create visually appealing and user-friendly interfaces.

Q3. What are the different types of web development?

There are three main types of web development:

  • Front-end development: Focuses on the user interface and experience, ensuring that the website is visually appealing and easy to use.
  • Back-end development: Deals with the server-side logic, databases, and data management behind the website.
  • Full-stack development: Combines front-end and back-end development, enabling developers to work on both the user interface and server-side logic.

Q4. What are the career opportunities for web developers?

Web development is a rapidly growing field with high demand for skilled professionals. Career opportunities include:

  • Web developer: Develops and maintains websites and web applications.
  • Front-end developer: Specializes in the user interface and experience of websites.
  • Back-end developer: Specializes in the server-side logic and data management of websites.
  • Full-stack developer: Possesses expertise in both front-end and back-end development.
  • Web designer: Creates the visual elements and layout of websites.

Q5. What are the salary expectations for web developers?

Web developers typically earn competitive salaries, with median annual earnings ranging from $75,000 to $110,000. Experienced web developers with specialized skills can earn even higher salaries.

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.

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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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