Photos of a woman talking and laughing with various web dev symbols behind her representing various coding languages like Ruby on Rails and JavaScript. There is a blue section at the bottom cutting the photo diagonally with lines that look like a computer hard drive

Becoming a developer leads to an open-ended, growth-oriented career. Randstad lists developers as number 12 on its top 15 jobs in Canada in 2024. On LinkedIn alone, there are nearly 8,342 job postings for software developers, one of the many career paths someone with the proper knowledge and training can take. Whether it's designing stunning web pages or developing the newest app, those looking to break into the development game might be wondering what skillsets they need to possess.

What skills are required for web development?

While it's true that knowing how to code, understanding UX design, and knowing what makes a genuinely interactive app is essential, there is more to it. What are known as "soft skills," such as good technical communication and sharpened problem-solving abilities are indispensable to the web developer. Without further ado, let's jump in.

Technical skills web developers need

At Lighthouse Labs, our Web Development Bootcamp and Flex programs tech stacks are broken down into three main pillars, application development, computer science, and software engineering. This ensures we cover the necessary groundwork for those looking to enter the web development field. It's also a good way to determine which skills you need if web development is something you're interested in or which skills you may need to brush up on (we'll cover that too).

Application Development

  • Accessible, clean code: Building code is one thing; building code that works is another entirely. Developers know there's nothing worse than writing 1,200 lines of code just to have to hunt down the error that ends up being a missing ">" or space in line 1,199. That's why automating testing is key. Capable developers include automated tests along with the code they write, so getting familiar with practices like test-driven development (TDD) and how to leverage tools like Mocha, Chai, Selenium, and RSpec will help you here.
  • Deployment and hosting: Building relational and document databases are two of the prevailing paradigms used today. To master this skill, you'll need to know SQL, object-stores, and how to leverage ORMs like ActiveRecord for data persistence.
  • UX/UI: A website needs more than just good looks; it must be easy to navigate and interact with. Adding HTML5, CSS3, and modern front-end tools like Babel and Webpack to your arsenal is the first step to creating responsive UIs. Software architecture is another component of UX/UI design, so practise good database modelling, abstraction, well-encapsulated code, and modular design.
  • Modern languages, frameworks, and libraries: Perhaps the most obvious step to acquiring the necessary web development skills is mastering the right programming languages. JavaScript & Node.js is an excellent place to start since JavaScript is essentially the universal programming language of the web. If you'd like to dip your toes in the JavaScript waters, Lighthouse Labs runs a part-time intro course. Another quintessential programming language is Ruby on Rails. A duo of language and framework, it's a widely used technology for web development.

Computer Science

Computer science concepts like data transformation and algorithms help developers understand the theory of how computers and programs work. Some aspects of computer science basics you'll want to know are:

  • Algorithm design
  • Data structures and trees
  • Recursion and automation
  • Object-oriented programming

Software Engineering

Understanding how software components should be organized is an essential skill for career growth as a developer. Reinforce or learn the following concepts:

  • Test-driven development
  • Critical analysis and software evaluation
  • Source code version control and organization
  • Modularity and testability

Soft skills web developers need

  • Pair programming and collaboration: Pair programming is used in software development where two programmers work together on the same project. One, known as the driver, writes the code, while the second, the observer or navigator, reviews the code as it is developed, frequently switching roles. Pair programming can be done by a more novice programmer and one more experienced or by two programmers of equal standing. Either way, pair programming (which can also be considered a hard skill) is a great way to practise collaboration and technical communication, and interpersonal skills, three essential on-the-job soft skills.
  • Attention to detail: Code gets finicky, and errors can easily sneak in. Programmers must be detail fanatics, ensuring the code is clean, and each line instructs the targeted element.
  • Adaptability, problem-solving, and open-mindedness: Code will throw everything it has at you - errors, design bugs, undesirable UI mess-ups, and so on. Adaptability is key here. It goes without saying that patience is also a trait that you should learn and keep practising. Being open-minded when it comes to failure can also help you stay positive when the coding gets tough and help combat imposter syndrome.
  • Creativity: Not only do web pages have to be functional, but they need to be pretty too. When building their web page or app, a company's branding (colour, font, logos, etc.) needs to be coded in.
  • Organization and excellent time management skills: You'll have a lot of projects on your digital plate at once, so establishing solid time management practices will help you stay on top of things.
  • Curiosity and enough passion to last a lifetime: Knowing what makes things tick, finding different ways to accomplish the same end goal, acquiring new programming languages, working on side projects, and continually looking into improving your coding skills are the marks of a great programmer.

How to improve your programming skills

  • Practise, practise, practise: As Curly from The Three Stooges once said, "If at first, you don't succeed, keep on sucking 'til you DO succeed." No programmer is perfect; even the most experienced need practice to keep their coding fresh. Try adding a side project or two to build something from scratch or hop on board some open source projects (psst! Check out this list from GitHub). You can also try programming something in a new way by using a different language or trying pair programming.
  • Read up: There are loads of resources out there for amateur to expert coders, and many popular programming languages have tons of books written about them. There are also websites like GitHub and Codeacademy that publish tips and tricks.
  • Find a mentor: Finding someone to pass on valuable knowledge, help you when you get stuck, offer guidance for your next career move, or just have someone there when you need mental support is an understated yet integral part of career advancement.
  • Nab the necessary certifications: If you're just starting out, Lighthouse Labs' Intro to Web Development course is the perfect primer to start getting familiar with the lay of the land. Taught by expert developers and on a flexible schedule, this course is perfect for first-timers and those looking to expand their skill set. Google offers quite a few certifications. Developers' Training, IT Support, UX Design, or even Project Management could help you progress in your career. Graph QL, AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Red Hat certifications are like gold in your developer portfolio. Plus, Zend Certified PHP Engineer is ideal for web developers who want to keep up with the latest web development tools.

What are 5 essential skills every web developer should have?

1. Good knowledge of the right programming languages, databases, and tech stacks

This one encompasses all the technical skills we covered earlier in this article. You can't call yourself a programmer without knowing foundational programming languages like JavaScript, Python, and Ruby on Rails. The same goes for navigating databases and UX/UI design.

2. Good technical communication

As a programmer, you'll not only need to know how to communicate with your team but also with those who have no coding experience. This includes clients you're building a site for who aren't going to know what you're saying when you talk about 'modular design.' Having the capacity to make a complex, technical idea simple to understand is integral to a developer. It also comes in handy when your grandma asks you what exactly you do in life.

3. Creative and detail-oriented

Beautiful websites and apps don't come to fruition without a good eye for design. A basic HTML script can create a functional interface, but it takes another level of creativity to make a site that people want to stay on. You'll need to think of things others don't and know the best path to an unforgettable user experience.

4. Ability to keep up with industry trends and upgrades

The tech industry is rapidly evolving, and it's part of your responsibility as a developer to keep up with the latest topics. Knowing what's coming down the pipeline can help your design process and keep you fresh and attractive to clients.

5. Good problem-solving skills

This one is no surprise. Good problem-solving skills come from more than being an expert debugger. Sometimes you'll need to work through issues like client dissatisfaction or poorly managed timelines. Each challenge will better your ability to avoid future problems.

If you're ready to jump right in and transform your future, apply today for Lighthouse Labs' Web Development Program and launch your career in just 12 or 30 weeks.