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Hello Dev-heads! Welcome to the next in our series as we tour the wonderful and creative web development profession. In this series, we've looked at What Web Development is, the skills you will need to succeed in a web developer career, and how you can become a web developer. In this piece, we'll look at what a web developer's job entails and what you can expect to do daily, both at the start and later stages in your new and exciting career.

What Does A Web Developer Do?

The role of a web developer within the broader tech sector is to design, build and maintain websites and similar related web applications. Though it seems relatively easy to describe, web development is a wide field with many areas and opportunities for passion and specialization. What your functions will ultimately look like, but broadly and on a day-to-day basis, will depend on your area of specialization, your company's priorities, and what stage you are in your career.

Let's first look at the three main areas of specialization in web development.

  • Front-End Web Developer
  • Back-End Web Developer
  • Full-Stack Web Developer

What Does a Front-End Web Developer Do?

A front-end web developer is responsible for the sections of the web that a user interacts with. They use their knowledge of aesthetics, design and code to capture the back-end functionalities of a web application in an intuitive and accessible interface and to ensure an overall seamless user experience.

Some of the broader tasks that a front-end developer might find themselves involved in include:

  • User Experience: A front-end developer is responsible for the user experience when interacting with the web. Your work will be underpinned by ensuring an optimal and friendly user experience.
  • Coding: You will use code to bring a project's vision to life. You will use your knowledge of HTML, CSS, Javascript, and whatever technology stack your organization uses to achieve this.
  • Ensuring mobile-friendly development: About 60% of internet usage is mobile. Many companies have adopted a mobile-first approach to web development. One of your main tasks will be ensuring the user experience is similar across multiple devices.
  • SEO Management: As a web developer, you will ensure all code is written according to the best Search Engine Optimization(SEO) practices to ensure optimal search engine results.
  • Workflow Management: Because of the scale of the projects you will be working on and the different subtasks within your assigned tasks, you will work across teams and collaborate with software and other digital resources. You will spend some of your time managing workflows to ensure no tasks are missed.

What Does a Backend Web Developer Do?

As a backend web developer, you are responsible for building the structure underlying the web experience. So everything the user cannot see will be your primary domain. This will involve using your knowledge of database systems and backend languages like Python and PHP to build dynamic backend structures for web projects and then engaging your understanding of HTML, CSS and Javascript to ensure seamless integration with the front end.

Some of the broader tasks that a backend developer might find themselves involved in include:

  • Database Management: You will use your knowledge of SQL and similar systems to set up and maintain the database structure of the website. Databases are used to store user data as well as site assets such as images and scripts.
  • Cloud Computing: As most organizations move their systems to the cloud, you will probably spend some of your time working with cloud storage systems and ensuring these are well integrated with the private database systems and the web user interface.
  • Operating System Control and Management: the digital space uses a lot of operating systems both on the front and back end. On the user side, users might be using Apple, Windows or Linux, and database and service providers could be running Linux or Unix systems. It will be part of your duties to ensure the user experience is similar regardless of underlying or user operating systems.
  • Building and maintaining content management systems: You will build content management systems that will make maintaining and updating website content easy enough to be done by someone without any technical experience.

What Does a Full-Stack Developer Do?

A full-stack developer is someone who, through years of experience or intensive and accelerated study, has specialized in both the front and the back end of web development. In larger teams, this is particularly useful as you can pick up any section of a task or project and find it relatively easy to complete. In smaller organizations, you might be alone on a smaller project involving front- and back-end development.

Your duties are a combination of the front and the back-end developer. Depending on the project, you can expect to be doing any of the following:

  • Designing Front-End User Experience: As a full-stack developer, you will use your knowledge of wireframing software and Front-End languages like HTML, CSS and JavaScript to build intuitive and accessible websites and web applications.
  • Back-End Programming: You'll also use your knowledge of back-end languages like Ruby, Python and C# to write the logic and scripts to tie the front-end interface with back-end capabilities and functionality.
  • Database Management: And yes, you will also be using your knowledge of databases like SQL to provide safe, secure and accessible storage for all the sensitive information generated by that website.
  • Designing Internal and Integrating Third-Party API Functionality: You will ensure all cross-browser integrations with third-party API from providers, such as google maps, are well integrated into each web installation. You might also have to design a few yourself.
  • Consulting - As a sort of one-person team, you'll find a lot of your time will be spent in meetings with different project stakeholders. You will pick up designs from UI/UX teams, consult with the data administrator to understand the intent and purpose of the data architecture, and do presentations to end-users or clients about the project upon delivery.

Want to know if Web Development is a good career? We discuss it here.

Day in the Life of a Web Developer

A typical day in the life of a web developer at the beginning of your career will usually be similar regardless of your specialization. Most developers will start their day or week with a team stand-up with a brief review of completed tasks and status updates on the project. They will also have new work delegated if their workload is light.

Then they will usually spend the day writing new code - building web interfaces, new back-end functionality, creating a database and testing and debugging scripts and applications - depending on your specialization. They will either be working alone or with a partner. This situation where two developers are put on one task - with one writing the code and the other testing or debugging, or looking for errors - is known as pair programming. It is a practice used for quality assurance to ensure that there is an opportunity to catch any bugs or logical errors in the code. It also helps remove some monotony by splitting and alternating all tasks.

Then towards the evening, you will probably do some end-of-day maintenance, checking that all new and current code has been appropriately stored and backed up on Github or any other version control software. And then, depending on the procedure at your organization, you might have to fill out a task progress report sheet to provide visibility to other developers and avoid code merge or deletion errors.

Expect to have regular meetings and stand-ups as routine in your week. As a freelance or Full-Stack web developer, you will also spend more time meeting clients and third-party providers such as graphics or database administrators.

It might sound a bit overwhelming, but the good thing is that most web projects come with a little runway. With some foresight and planning, developers can enjoy a more relaxed pace of work.

Web Developer - Work Style

The working style of web developers will depend on whether they work freelance or within an organization. The pandemic has changed how we work in the tech sector and the broader economy. The tech sector was one of the first to adopt the work-from-home approach, and even now, many tech workers resist returning to the office. As a Web Developer, you will either work in an office, remotely or in some sort of hybrid arrangement. You might also work out of co-working spaces. According to our 2022 Career Trajectory Report, 52% of our Alumni work remotely, 43% work hybrid, and 5% work in the office.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What do web developers actually do? Web developers build websites and web applications. Depending on their specialization, they might either be focused on building aesthetic and user-friendly user interfaces(UI), writing some advanced functionality in code or building and managing databases and configuring cloud connections.
  • Do web developers code all day? The short answer is no. While coding will be a big part of your day, you will also spend a good chunk of your time doing other tasks like debugging, code reviews and edits, attending meetings and briefings and collaborating with third-party service providers.

It's time to begin your journey to a career as a Web Developer. Download the Web Development curriculum here, or click the button below to visit our program page and see which of our Programs is right for you!