So You Want To Become A Web Developer?

October 27th, 2015 by

The web development field is booming with the growth of the internet. Is it the right path for you?

There are almost 1 billion websites currently on the internet, each of which was designed and developed in one way or another. This figure will only increase with the continued growth of the internet, and the demand for developers will increase with it.

Careers in IT are consistently featured in the top 100 lists of jobs to acquire. For example, here are some of the computer-related careers in 2015 ranked from U.S. News:

  • #3. Software Developer
  • #7. Computer Systems Analyst
  • #8. Information Security Analyst
  • #11. Web Developer
  • #21. IT Manager

These rankings are based off of salaries, a positive work environment and how much the job challenges you without adding stress. In the top 21, five of these jobs are IT-related.

In this post we’re focusing mainly on #11, Web Development. This is an exciting career field that captures many people’s attention thanks to a vibrant environment that requires both logical and creative thinking. It’s an industry that pays well and has a huge job market. Most developers who are willing to put in the time and effort required to learn the skills end up with a good job that is both financially and emotionally rewarding.

What do web developers do?

As a broad and general description, web developers write code and engineer how websites will function. They’re responsible for turning a design on paper into a functional website that meets the site’s demands.

A web developer’s responsibilities will vary greatly depending on the company they’re working for. For example, some developers focus on frontend development, which deals with building the part of a website that the user interacts with. This is generally made up of HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Most frontend developers write code using these three languages to create the structure and appearance of a website.

Backend development is what goes on behind the scenes of the website you’re interacting with. For example, say you book an online plane ticket through an airline website. All you see is the frontend design that was created by a frontend developer, but that information you entered is all handled by the backend.

The backend development is often referred to as “server-side” because the information taken from the site is all stored in a database on a web server. The backend design is crucial for sites that store and process visitor information (e.g. a shopping cart).

A backend developer generally works with programming languages such as PHP, Ruby and Python.

What are the requirements for becoming a web developer?

Many web developers have a degree in either Computer Science or another IT-related field such as Information Systems, but it’s not essential in order to land a good job. These degrees teach students the basics of programming, algorithms and how to think logically through problems, but you can learn these techniques outside of the classroom as well.

For the most part, employers will require that candidates are comfortable with writing and reading code. Different employers will ask that you know different languages. For example, one job may require HTML, CSS and JavaScript, while another will require a mastery of PHP and MySQL.

All of these programming languages can be self-taught through websites such as Codeacademy and Udemy. Many large cities even offer coding “bootcamps”, where participants learn to code over a period of two to three months. These courses are often intensive, but they also teach students important coding methods.

Generally an employer is looking for someone who is good at solving problems and is a fast learner. You can learn the syntax of different programming languages with time. An employer wants to know if you can think in a way that will benefit their company.

Where do I begin?

Before doing anything else, you should explore the career path a little more to make sure that web development is actually something you’re interested in. Buy a couple of books on HTML/CSS and JavaScript to decide if frontend development is something you’re interested in (this is often where developers start).

You should also ask an experienced web developer some questions you might have. Ask them what they do on a day-to-day basis and what kinds of skills they use throughout their projects. Ask them if they’d recommend web development as a career path (they’ll most likely say yes), and ask how they got started! This will help you enormously with deciding how to dive in.

Alright let’s do this: how do I really begin?

If you can see yourself pursuing a career in web development, start learning right away. Developers never stop learning and oftentimes are forced to teach themselves new programming languages and techniques as web development progresses and evolves.

Like we mentioned before, start by learning HTML and CSS. These languages are the basis of almost every web page out there, and they are actually fairly simple to learn. You can learn through books like we mentioned before, or you can enroll in an online course like Codeacademy.

Note: HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites by Jon Duckett is a great book for aspiring designers and developers.

Once you have some basics, start creating some static, basic web pages using HTML and CSS. You can do this in any text editor. We suggest Notepad ++ for Windows, and Textwrangler for Mac. Sublime Text is also a great option for either system, and is also available for Linux.

From there you can start adding to your repertoire of skills. Learning WordPress is a good skill to learn once you’ve learned some CSS. WordPress is a widely-used Content Management System (CMS). WordPress powers millions of sites around the world and uses languages like CSS and PHP.

As you build skills in various languages and platforms you can work on more complex projects to build your portfolio. Create a personal portfolio website to highlight your work and strive to make improvements every week. When you apply for a job in web development, your employer will most likely ask to see some of your work.

Anything else I should know before diving in?

Before you quit your day job thinking you can snatch up a job in web development and double your salary in a month, make sure your consider a few important factors:

  • There is a steep learning curve involved with web development. Computer Science degrees at a university level are considered to be some of the most difficult to obtain due to the high intensity courses based in math and logical thinking principles. Remember that you’ll be testing every ounce of brain power you have, and we mean every ounce. If you love to think logically and are looking for a challenge, web development might just be perfect for you.
  • Start small and don’t get discouraged if everything doesn’t make sense right at the start. As we mentioned, there are many aspects to web development. You can’t learn everything in a day – or 5 years for that matter.
  • When you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Most developers at times need someone at their side to walk them through challenging problems or writing complex algorithms. If you don’t know anyone proficient at coding, look to an online forum like There are millions of people eager to help beginners understand how to read and write code.
  • Be prepared to never stop learning. With technology, you’ll always be learning something new. There are programming languages to be learned, new software to be mastered, more efficient techniques to be implemented, and modern design principles to be created/understood. Working as a developer opens up the door to a lifetime of learning.

If web development sounds like something that would interest you, don’t hesitate to get started. And remember, it’s never too late to start coding. Your new career can start today if you want it to.

WestHost loves working with aspiring developers. We host your site, take care of your domain name needs and offer 24/7 support along the way. Connect with us today!


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