What is Web Development? Your Comprehensive Guide

Website development is a pillar of online presence and business strategy. Whether you're an entrepreneur, a seasoned business owner, or a tech nut, understanding the ins and outs of web development is essential. This guide aims to shed light on the significance of web development, differentiate it from related fields, delve into its basics, explore its various types, and guide you through the development process while providing valuable resources to further your knowledge.

What is Web Development? Your Comprehensive Guide 

Right now, the majority of the global population is online. Sixty-seven percent of us use the Internet – that’s over 5 billion people – and yet, most of us use this technology without ever understanding how it works.

Web development is a pillar of the online world; it’s the process of coding websites and applications to be functional, efficient, and engaging. Without our web devs, the internet as we know it would be unrecognizable (and not particularly useful, either).

This guide aims to illuminate web development's significance. We’ll differentiate it from related fields, explore its basics, look at its various types, and even guide you through the basic development process. Budding web devs and curious individuals alike have plenty to learn in the next fifty-odd pages. 

Introducing: Web Development

If you go onto your web browser, you can navigate to the first website ever created: The World Wide Web Project, or info.cern.ch. It’s an historic site – but it is remarkably barebones, showing just how far we have come in all areas of web development. 

It was web developers who brought this archaic site to life in 1993, and it is web developers who continue to design, create, optimise, and maintain the highly sophisticated websites of today. 

Web development involves three key areas: front-end, back-end, and database management. 

Front-end development brings a website's visual and interactive elements to life through HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, with a specific focus on user experience. 

Back-end development ensures the site's functionality, processing server, application, and database interactions with languages like Python and PHP. 

Database management involves data storage and retrieval, which is an often underrated but nonetheless essential element of a site's operation.

Combined, these roles can build a sturdy, accessible, and functional website primed and ready for additional design.

Why is Web Development Important?

Web development is the process of making your website functional, user-friendly and accessible to a global audience.

Your website often serves as the first point of contact between your business and potential customers. It's your digital storefront. The first impression it leaves can either open the door to new opportunities or close it firmly. 

A well-developed website makes this first impression a positive one. After all, website design is the strongest predictor of customer loyalty for digital brands. 

Familiar with SEO (search engine optimization)? Web development plays a key role here, too. Your website will remain effectively invisible unless you can make it rank in results pages – which is exactly what SEO can achieve. 

Technical SEO, another side of web development, helps boost loading times and responsiveness for a better user experience. A web dev can also work on making the site more accessible to people of all abilities. An accessible website demonstrates social responsibility and compliance with legal standards.

So, why is web development important? Simple: it creates your first impression, which means it has the potential to give you a competitive advantage. Investing in quality web development is investing in your future success. 

Web Development vs Web Programming

You have no doubt heard 'web development' and 'web programming' thrown around, and you might have assumed they were one and the same. They fall into a similar ball park – but there are a couple of key differences to note. 

Web development is the umbrella term that covers the entire process of bringing a website to life. It includes:

  • The initial design phase, where the visual identity and user interface are conceptualized and created. 
  • Content creation, where compelling and relevant material is crafted to engage visitors. 
  • Front-end and back-end coding, which makes the website look appealing and ensures it is interactive and functional across all platforms and devices. 

Web programming zeroes in on the more technical aspect of this creation process – the writing and implementing code that powers a website's functionality. Programming includes everything from the complex algorithms that manage data transactions on e-commerce sites to the simple scripts that make a web page interactive. 

Web programming often involves languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for the frontend and languages like Python, Ruby, and C# for the back end.

Web programming focuses on the 'how' of functionality, and web development considers the 'what' and 'why' of the user experience. A web developer might plan the site's structure and design its look, feel, and flow, while a web programmer will turn these ideas into a tangible, working website.

Web Development vs Web Design

What do you notice when you first open a website? Is it the written content? No – you base your first impression on the site’s visual and experiential components. The pressure falls on web designers to make sure these elements are seamless. 

So, where does web design fit in with web development? 

As we established, web dev is split into two main categories: front-end and back-end. Web design works over the top of this front- and back-end architecture. It’s the selection of layouts, color schemes, and typography that make browsing easy and engaging. Designers focus on User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI). Their job is to make websites intuitive and pleasing to the eye.

The relationship between web design and development is symbiotic. Together, they have the ingredients for an attractive website that is also functional, efficient, and accessible to users.

Web Development Basics

The field of web development demands problem-solving skills, creativity, and an ongoing commitment to learning – because if there’s one constant we can rely on, it is that technology is always evolving.

Every great web developer starts with the basics, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do in this section. Keep reading as we break down a few key concepts. 

What is a website?

By definition, a website is a collection of webpages or a single webpage under one domain. Each website is hosted on a server, allowing it to be accessed from anywhere worldwide (provided an internet connection).

Websites can be as diverse as the people who create them. Some are quite rudimentary while others are intricate and experiential. You’ve got text-based sites like blogs and research databases; then there are businesses, with payment portals and catalogues; and of course, bustling social media sites with the infrastructure to support millions of photos, videos, and messages per day.

Websites are created and maintained by technical and creative professionals with a range of specific skills. A web developer handles the coding and functionality. A database expert manages the vast amounts of information behind the scenes. Designers manipulate user experience (UX) and user interface (UI), ensuring the site is visually appealing and easy to navigate.

As the internet evolves, so do the possibilities with websites. We have shifted from creating digital brochures to interactive communities, learning platforms, and marketplaces. This is an exciting world to learn about right now – and even more thrilling to play an active part in. 

What is an IP address?

Think of an IP address (or Internet Protocol address) as a digital device fingerprint. It makes any device on a network identifiable and allows devices to communicate with each other via the Internet or local networks. 

There are two main types of IP addresses in use today: IPv4 and IPv6. IPv4 addresses, the original format, consist of four sets of numbers ranging from 0 to 255, separated by periods (e.g. 192.168.1.1). The first IPv4 address dates back to 1983.

The internet has since exploded and we have more connected devices than ever before – so IPv4 addresses reached their limit in 2019 (in other words, we ran out of combinations). IPv6 addresses were developed in their place. They use a much longer string of hexadecimal numbers to provide a virtually unlimited number of unique addresses. 

IP addresses are assigned to devices either statically or dynamically. A static IP address remains constant. It’s ideal for servers hosting websites or providing email services, where a consistent address is necessary for reliable access. 

Dynamic IP addresses are typically assigned by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and can change over time. It’s a more efficient and cost-effective solution for ISPs – especially for home and casual users.

What does HTTP mean?

HTTP, the acronym for HyperText Transfer Protocol, is a set of rules that facilitates the transmission of hypermedia documents (for example, HTML). Hypermedia documents form the very webpages we browse – so you could say that the HTTP protocol is fairly  crucial. 

When you enter a website address in your browser, an HTTP request is sent to the server hosting that site. The server then responds by returning the requested page, allowing your browser to display it. This request-response process is fundamental to a functioning internet.

Now, have you ever wondered why some sites begin with ‘HTTP’ and others with ‘HTTPS’? The added ‘S’ means that the page data is encrypted to protect user data and transactions. An HTTP site isn’t unsafe to visit, but it is completely readable by anyone who happens to be monitoring it. 

What is coding?

The word coding conjures up a mental image of vast screens filled with green zeroes and ones – and perhaps a suspicious looking person in a hoodie whose job is to ‘break into the mainframe.’

Let’s bring coding back to its purest form, however: crafting instructions for computers. 

Coding is an art and a science. It’s the process of writing in programming languages that computers can understand and execute on. These languages range from high-level, which is more abstract and closer to human language, to low-level, which is closer to the machine's binary code. 

Developers can create software, apps, and websites and manage data through coding. As technology advances, coding has become an essential skill across various industries – not just software development. It enables the automation of routine tasks, the analysis of large data sets, and the development of new technologies. 

What does front-end mean?

You might have heard front-end development referred to as the ‘client side’ of web development, which is mostly accurate. Front-end devs create the visual and interactive elements that users engage with directly in their web browsers. 

This domain focuses on the look, feel, and, ultimately, the user experience of a website or web application. A few different languages are used: HTML for structuring content, CSS for styling and layout, and JavaScript for interactivity and dynamic content. 

Front-end developers translate the design into a responsive, accessible, and seamless user interface across various devices and screen sizes. The role demands a blend of aesthetic sensibility and technical skills, as developers need to implement design principles while they handle aspects like browser compatibility and performance optimisation. 

Front-end development is where digital experiences are brought to life.

What does back-end mean?

If front-end is the client side, back-end development is the ‘server side’ of a website. These devs work behind the scenes to manage and store data. They make sure everything on the client side works as intended. Think databases, server management, application logic, and the architecture that allows websites to function efficiently. 

Back-end developers use programming languages like Python, Java, Ruby, and PHP to build the structure that handles data processing, user authentication, and server configuration. 

It’s impossible to have a seamless user experience on the front-end if the back-end is in disarray, as it is essentially the Central Nervous System of web development. A solid back-end supports the front-end to deliver dynamic, data-driven experiences. All of the most critical processes occur here – from storing user information to processing e-commerce transactions – making it an indispensable part of web development.

What does full stack mean?

Full stack development is exactly as it sounds: the combination of both front and back-end development work. A full stack dev takes a holistic approach to creating websites, using their versatility to handle everything from user interface to server and database management. 

Small teams and startups often hire full-stack developers for their all-rounder skillset and deep understanding of user and business needs. They might not always cover both the front and back end, but having the additional knowledge and skillset to do so makes them a valuable asset.

What is a website database?

Data isn’t some obscure thing that floats around in the cloud (although that’s how many of us see it, as data storage is completely invisible to us). In reality, every single piece of data is kept in a physical location. It takes up physical space, albeit microscopic, and needs to be stored. 

A website database gives us the ability to access, manage, and manipulate this stored data. It sorts data into structured collections. Without this organisation, websites could not hope to provide dynamic content and user-specific experiences – because the amount of data behind a website is simply too vast. 

Common database management systems used in web development include MySQL, Firebase, PostgreSQL, and MongoDB. These systems make very important functions possible – like user authentication, content management systems (CMS), and e-commerce transactions.

What is a CMS?

Whether you are familiar with web development or find it completely foreign, you have likely heard of Wordpress. It’s one of the original and most popular web builders online today. 

We call Wordpress – and its many competitors, like Joomla or Drupal – content management systems (CMS). 

A CMS simplifies the process of building and managing a website. It makes web development accessible. Even with limited technical expertise or knowledge, anyone can create, manage, and modify website content. Who needs coding languages like HTML or CSS when you can simply drag-and-drop? 

CMS platforms are widely used across various websites, from blogs and news sites to e-commerce and corporate websites. They come with multiple features, including templates for web design, plugins for extended functionalities, and user management and content scheduling options. This flexibility makes a CMS ideal for users who wish to maintain an active online presence with minimal technical overhead. 

CMS platforms are incredibly popular for their ease of use. Most come complete with templates, plugins, pre-made functions, and even user management and content scheduling. A web development team for a large organisation may not be able to use an out-of-the-box solution, but they can build a custom CMS so non-tech teams can manage the content.

What is cybersecurity?

Believe it or not, computer viruses have been around since long before the internet. The first ever malware program was invented in 1971. Its name was the ‘Creeper Virus’ – and it was kept on a physical floppy disk, administered to computers as an experiment. It was incredibly effective. They developed ‘Reaper’ to destroy Creeper as the first ever anti-virus. 

It’s overwhelming to see just how far computer viruses have developed since then and how deadly they can be. Malware isn’t the only risk, either. We are exposed to cyber bullying, fraud, scams, impersonators, hackers, and the many other online threats – meaning cybersecurity is paramount.

Cybersecurity is about keeping computers, servers, mobile devices, electronic systems, networks, and data safe from malicious attacks. Web developers have a host of techniques they can use to achieve this – for instance, encryption, firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion detection systems. Devs will often layer multiple security measures and use different techniques depending on the risks. 

It’s also worth noting that cybersafety measures exist in different parts of a website’s architecture. There’s physical security, application security, network security, and operational security. As cyber threats become more sophisticated, we need to be approaching said threats from all angles. 

Types of Web Development

The work of a web developer is rarely limited – or at least, it doesn’t have to be. Developers have so many options for where to lend their skills. Let’s take a look at the main types.

  • Website development: Designers and developers collaborate to create visually appealing, user-friendly, and functional websites that meet specific objectives – like persuading visitors to fill their shopping carts. 
  • Desktop development: Someone who works in desktop development will design powerful, responsive applications that leverage the full capabilities of desktop operating systems (think Windows, macOS, and Linux). These devs use languages like C++, Java, and Python for integrated user experiences.
  • Mobile development: Involves designing and building responsive applications for smartphones and tablets. Developers will use sophisticated languages like Swift and Kotlin to address mobile-specific challenges (e.g. limited processing power and battery life).
  • Game development: Interactive web-based games are made using technologies like HTML5, JavaScript, and WebGL, as well as Phaser, Three.js, or Unity libraries. As you can imagine, game devs need to have a creative flair as well as technical ability – and the work itself is incredibly detailed. Games are made up of complex mechanics that all need to function smoothly within a web browser environment.
  • Embedded development: It’s not just phones and computers that need development work to function. What about smart fridges, for instance, or industrial machines? These embedded systems are often coded with C and C++ and can be high-risk if not programmed correctly. Devs need to understand how to optimise software for specific processor architectures and interface with peripherals and sensors.
  • Security development: While some web devs are responsible for making websites, others are in charge of making those websites secure. Security developers build defence mechanisms to ward off scams, viruses, and malicious attacks. 
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) development: We’ve seen huge advancements in AI technology over the past decade. AI developers write complex, sophisticated code for chatbots, machine learning systems, and recommendation engines – all of which can make a website more engaging and useful.
  • Database development: Devs can design and manage databases to store, retrieve, and manage data efficiently. Database developers use SQL, NoSQL, and other database management systems to support data integrity, security, and performance on the back-end.
  • Cloud development: Focuses on building and managing web applications that run on cloud platforms such as AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud. 

Some developers will choose one area of specialty, but it's not uncommon to have skills in a few different areas. 

Front-End Web Development Languages

Web development languages are the tools we use to build and shape the Internet. Much like any language, they take time and lots of practice – but mastering them gives you the ability to create beautiful, easy-to-use websites as a web developer.

HTML (HyperText Markup Language) 

HTML is the foundational language – and thankfully, it’s one of the easiest to pick up. Think of this language as the building block for creating web pages and applications. It provides the basic structure of sites, which is then enhanced and modified by other technologies like CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and JavaScript to create a visually appealing and interactive experience. 

HTML uses elements or tags that define the ‘skeleton’ of your website: structure, linking, and presentation. They dictate how text and visuals are displayed. You can use HTML to denote structural semantics like headings, paragraphs, lists, links, and quotes. 

This crucial code can do even more with the evolution of HTML5. The latest iteration supports native video and audio content with improved support for graphical content and scripting languages. With each update, HTML remains at the forefront of web technology, adaptable and powerful enough to handle modern web design and development demands.

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) 

Where HTML builds the skeleton, CSS dresses it up. It’s all about style. This language separates design from content so that HTML elements can be styled flexibly across multiple pages. 

Designers can use CSS to specify colours, fonts, layouts, and more for a consistent and responsive website. CSS3 introduces advanced features like animations and grid layouts.

Javascript (JS) 

Unlike HTML's static structure and CSS's style management, JavaScript (JS) introduces behavior to web content. It brings static pages to life. When you hover over a button and it wobbles or changes colour, that’s JavaScript. Interactive maps, responsive forms, and real-time updates all lean on JS. 

As a versatile language, JavaScript works across all web browsers. It provides a unified platform for web application development. Its ecosystem includes frameworks and libraries like React, Angular, and Vue, which streamline the development of sophisticated web applications. 

JavaScript interacts with HTML and CSS to create a seamless user experience. Without this powerful trio, it would be impossible to make websites visually appealing, functionally rich, and engaging (or indeed, to make them at all!)

JavaScript Extensible Markup Language (JSX) 

HTML tags are easy to use and remember, but JavaScript has many more capabilities. Why not get the best of both worlds? JSX is that solution. It’s a syntax extension for JavaScript, closely associated with the popular JavaScript library React. 

JSX combines the power of JavaScript with the simplicity of HTML-like syntax, allowing developers to write the structure of their UI in a way that feels intuitive and declarative. It is far easier to visualise and construct the user interface directly within JavaScript code. The more readable syntax can be compiled into standard JavaScript at build time. 

TypeScript

TypeScript builds on JavaScript to add static type definitions. In coding languages, static type definitions are like labels that you attach to variables to specify what kind of data they can hold. A variable can be labelled to hold only numbers or only text, for example. You’re more likely to catch errors before running the program because the computer can check if you have used the right type of data in the right place. 

TypeScript code ultimately compiles to plain JavaScript – so it’s compatible with any browser, host, or operating system. It’s easier to maintain high-quality code, especially in large-scale applications where managing complex data types and interfaces can be challenging. 

TypeScript supports modern JavaScript features, including ECMAScript standards. It introduces enums, interfaces, and generics and integrates with popular frameworks and libraries.

Back-End Web Development Languages

Backend development languages operate behind the scenes. In other words, they power the server side of web applications – which means managing database interactions, user authentication, and application logic. 

Python

Like HTML, Python is simple and readable. It’s an excellent choice for beginners and experts alike. Python syntax is straightforward and intuitive, encouraging the development of clean and maintainable code. It’s also named after Monty Python. What’s not to love?

Academic and professional settings embrace Python because it is easy to use and learn and offers plenty of possibilities. It offers web development frameworks like Django and Flask, as well as data science libraries like NumPy, Pandas, and Matplotlib.

Python also supports multiple programming paradigms: procedural, object-oriented, and functional. A paradigm is the particular approach or style you use while programming – and since python supports a variety, there’s more flexibility to develop various types of software. 

Python comes with a comprehensive standard library that supports web development, data analysis, artificial intelligence, and scientific computing.

PHP 

Working hard behind the scenes to create dynamic and interactive web experiences is PHP, a popular server-side scripting language. Its drawcard is flexibility; it can be embedded directly within HTML to integrate smoothly with web content. 

Like Python, PHP supports a wide range of databases, has extensive built-in functions, and is compatible with various platforms. It has strong support from online communities which has helped it stay relevant and remain useful.

Ruby

Named after the gemstone, Ruby focuses on simplicity and productivity. It is a dynamic, open-source programming language; its elegant syntax is natural to read and easy to write. 

The language was created in the mid-1990s by Yukihiro "Matz" Matsumoto in Japan. It combines parts of his favourite languages (Perl, Smalltalk, Eiffel, Ada, and Lisp) to form a new language that balances functional programming with imperative programming

Ruby allows for complex data structures – and the manipulation of those structures – with minimal code. It's widely used for the Ruby on Rails framework, which streamlines the creation of database-backed web applications. 

Ruby's vibrant community and rich set of libraries, or "gems," make it a powerful tool for wily web devs.

Java

Despite the similar names, Java isn’t at all related to JavaScript. This language has a special trait: platform independence. Java code is compiled into bytecode, which can run on any device or platform that has a Java Virtual Machine installed. 

A written and compiled Java program can run on various operating systems (such as Windows, macOS, and Linux) without any modifications. With this simplicity, it’s no great mystery why Java is a preferred choice for developers globally.

C++

Want the capabilities of low-level programming with all the power of high-level programming? Here is where C++ shines. It's an extension of the C programming language, offering object-oriented features like classes and polymorphism. Anyone looking to develop complex software systems – operating systems, game engines, and applications requiring real-time physical simulations – can find these abilities in C++.

C++ gives you direct control over hardware and memory management for optimised performance. It is widely used in video game development because it is well-suited for building large-scale, interactive experiences. If you're a gamer, chances are many of your favourite games were developed using C++.

C#

C# (pronounced C-sharp) is a modern language developed by Microsoft as part of its .NET framework. For those familiar with music notation, the sharp is purposeful; it’s a semitone above C, symbolising the ways this language improves upon regular C. C# is designed to create applications for the Windows platform – but thanks to the cross-platform .NET Core, it's also used for web, mobile, and cloud applications. 

C# is powerful and flexible like C++ but maintains the simplicity of languages like Visual Basic. It is known for its automatic memory management and extensive class library. Like C++, you will see game developers making the most of C#’s high power and performance. 

Node.js 

Node.js is not actually a language; it’s an environment. It allows you to run JavaScript code on your computer or server, regardless of the operating system. Node.js open-source – free for anyone to use and contribute to. You can write and run JavaScript code outside of your web browser, and you can share and collaborate with others in the Node.js community to make it better.

The Node.js environment represents a ‘JavaScript everywhere’ paradigm, unifying web app development around a single programming language rather than different languages for server-side and client-side scripts. It's built on Chrome's V8 JavaScript engine, which is ideal for speedy execution.

This event-driven, non-blocking I/O model is lightweight, efficient, and perfect for data-intensive apps. Its package ecosystem, npm, is the largest ecosystem of open-source libraries in the world.

.NET

Both Microsoft and the GitHub community work hard to maintain .NET – a free, open-source development platform. In turn, .NET supports multiple languages, including C#, F#, and Visual Basic. It's designed to build various application types across web, mobile, desktop, gaming, and IoT. 

.NET offers developers a vast class library known as the Framework Class Library (FCL) and provides interoperability – or communication between software – across several programming languages. 

There’s also .NET Core, a cross-platform version of .NET. It gives applications the ability to run on Windows, macOS, and Linux. Tools like Visual Studio enhance code editing, debugging, and deployment.

Julia 

Julia is named after Julia Bowman Robinson, an American mathematician renowned for her work in the field of mathematical logic. Like its namesake, Julia excels at numerical and computational science tasks. It’s designed for technical computing. 

Machine learning, data analysis, and large-scale linear algebra are prime use cases for Julia. The language supports parallel and distributed computing and handles multidimensional datasets with ease. 

Julia has an ever-growing ecosystem of packages for different computational tasks. Backing this growth is a vibrant community of users and developers: scientists, engineers, data analysts, and more.

Haskell

Haskell is a purely functional programming language known for its strong static typing, type inference, and lazy evaluation. It encourages a mathematical approach to coding with highly reliable and concise results. Haskell is ideal for complex and high-assurance applications.

Web Development Frameworks and Libraries

We know: that’s a lot of languages. You would be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed. The good news is that thanks to frameworks and libraries, no one has to memorise entire programming languages

Frameworks and libraries are as numerous as coding languages – but they serve a very different function. Where languages provide the basic syntax and rules for writing code, libraries offer pre-written code for specific tasks, and frameworks provide a structured environment and tools for building applications. 

If you know how to leverage frameworks and libraries, you have a vast world of possibilities at your fingertips. Let’s zoom in on your options. 

Node.js

React

React was born out of a need to solve specific problems faced by Facebook's engineering team. In particular, they needed to manage web applications that could update data without reloading the page. Their solution was React, a JavaScript library for building efficient and flexible user interfaces. 

The key to React's performance is its virtual DOM system, which optimises updates and rendering processes. 

Developers can easily share and reuse code with React, which speeds up development significantly. React also supports a declarative approach, making the code more predictable and easier to debug. It’s been adopted widely since its public release in 2013.

jQuery

In the mid-2000s, web development was becoming overly complicated. The behaviour of JavaScript was too inconsistent across different web browsers. jQuery was designed to simplify things. It provides an easy-to-use API that handles many of those cross-browser headaches for developers.

jQuery has concise syntax for selecting and manipulating HTML elements. For instance, you could select all paragraph elements and change their text colour to red with a single line of jQuery code.

Simplicity and ease of use led to jQuery's rapid adoption. Almost twenty years later, it’s still the most popular JavaScript library on the entire internet. Its widespread usage helped standardize many JavaScript practices and paved the way for more modern JavaScript frameworks and libraries.

Express.js

React and jQuery were both libraries – but now, moving onto a framework. Express.js is a minimalist and flexible Node.js web application framework. It simplifies the request-response cycle process to make app development quicker and easier. 

Express is popular for the utilities it offers to handle routes, requests, and middleware. Because it is so lightweight, you can build efficient and scalable applications much more quickly than you could otherwise. 

Angular

Angular was originally AngularJS. In 2010, this framework was revolutionary. It allowed developers to extend HTML's syntax to express dynamic views in web applications. 

Then in 2016, AngularJS became Angular2+ to provide a more efficient and modular framework. It adopted a component-based architecture, improved performance, and better support for mobile development. 

Angular's development is managed by a dedicated team at Google. It’s used in many of Google's own applications (e.g. Google Ads).

Next.js

Next.js is a React-based framework. Where some frameworks handle the server side, and others are used for client-side development, Next.js renders both. It provides a streamlined development experience that makes life much easier for web devs. 

Those who want to build scalable applications can benefit greatly from Next.js. It comes with built-in tools for image optimization, handling different languages (internationalization), and supporting CSS. Developers love Next.js because it helps create modern, fast web apps – and it offers quality out-of-the-box solutions.

ASP.NET CORE

ASP.NET Core is one of Microsoft’s frameworks freely available and open-source. Unlike many frameworks, this one lets developers include only the components they need. It’s simplistic and modular – both very popular framework traits.

You can run and develop ASP.NET Core applications on Windows, macOS, and Linux. Previous versions of ASP.NET were primarily tied to Windows, so this was a welcome departure to a more flexible solution.

Vue.js

Integrating a new framework usually means a complete overhaul when working on a complex development project. Not so with Vue.js. This is a progressive JavaScript framework designed to build user interfaces and single-page applications (SPAs) with incremental adoption.

Vue's core library focuses on the view layer. It offers reactive data binding and composable view components for rich and interactive web interfaces. Developers seeking simplicity and a gentle learning curve tend to use Vue.js or something similar.

WordPress

WordPress remains the most popular content management system (CMS) after over 20 years of creating and managing websites. Initially launched as a blogging platform, it has evolved into a more versatile tool. Users can build everything from personal blogs to complex corporate portals and online stores. 

WordPress is known for its ease of use, flexibility, and convenient pre-made themes and plugins. It takes the high-level technical work out of web development. 

ASP.NET

ASP.NET is another Microsoft brainchild designed for building web apps and services. It helps developers create dynamic, rich web applications and services. 

The ASP.NET framework supports various development models, including Web Forms, MVC (Model-View-Controller), and Web API. It integrates seamlessly with the .NET ecosystem and has powerful security features.

Flask

A framework’s full suite of tools and capabilities can make simple tasks feel cluttered. You won’t always need a complex framework – particularly for small to medium projects. Microweb frameworks make for a lightweight solution. 

Flask is a lightweight microweb framework for Python that provides the essentials (routing, request handling, and template rendering) without getting in the way of architecture choices. Its minimalistic design is paired with extensions like ORM (Object-Relational Mapping), form validation, and authentication mechanisms. 

Flask has become a popular choice for RESTful APIs and quick prototypes. Sometimes, simple is best.

Spring Boot

Spring Boot is a Java-based framework for no-nonsense Spring app development. It simplifies the entire process with auto-configuration. Spring Data, Spring Security, and Spring Cloud all integrate with Spring Boot to make a comprehensive toolkit.

One of Spring Boot’s standouts is its ability to create stand-alone applications that can run independently without the need for an external web server. How is this possible? Well, Spring Boot includes an embedded web server – like Tomcat or Jetty – which launches as part of your application. 

Django

Ever heard of the ‘batteries included’ philosophy? It’s an approach taken by the Django framework which means it comes with a set of built-in features and tools rather than relying on external ones. Developers can focus on building their applications rather than reinventing the wheel.

Django is a Python web framework that encourages rapid development and clean, pragmatic design. Experienced developers built it to minimise the amount of extra work; they understood the value of simple, hassle-free development tools. It’s free and open source with an unsurprisingly large community of supporters.

Some of the ‘batteries’ Django offers pre-loaded include an admin panel, ORM (Object-Relational Mapping), authentication mechanisms, and more. There’s also a strong emphasis on security that some frameworks lack.

Database Management Systems

We’re living in a world of data. Never before in history have we had to manage data on this scale – and the amount we create grows exponentially quicker than the amount we discard. Database management systems (DBMS) are the crucial middleman; they turn endless datapoints into meaningful pieces of information we can read, organise, and leverage. 

As a web dev, your DBMS determines how efficiently you work and how scalable your applications can be. There are plenty of options to choose from and key differences to note between each. 

Oracle

Large enterprises tend to reach for the same go-to DBMS solution: Oracle Database. Its comprehensive set of features and unmatched scalability have only strengthened after many years of honing and improvements. Oracle remains the popular choice for large enterprises that require complex data management, high availability, and security.

It’s easy to manipulate even the most intricate data with Oracle. Keep in mind, though – this level of sophistication comes with a steep learning curve and a premium price tag. Migrating to Oracle is an investment decision rather than a ‘try it and see’ solution. The setup is expensive and learning-intensive, but the payoff can be very high for companies with sophisticated database needs. 

MySQL

In the database world, MySQL is much less intimidating than Oracle. But it still packs a punch. It’s easy, reliable, and compatible with a lot of different platforms. Where Oracle is the DBMS of choice for large enterprises, MySQL is the go-to for countless projects both small and large. 

MySQL’s open-source nature and vibrant community support make it attractive to startups. It may not boast the same level of advanced features as Oracle, but its performance (when optimised correctly) can meet the demands of a broad array of applications.

Microsoft SQL Server

Microsoft SQL Server integrates with the Microsoft ecosystem. For that reason, it's particularly favoured by organisations entrenched in Windows-based infrastructure. 

Delivering enterprise-level data management, business intelligence, and analytics solutions is where this DBMS truly shines. While it’s clearly designed for the Windows environment, it does expand to Linux and Docker containers.

PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL is often hailed as the most advanced open-source database system. It prides itself on standards compliance and extensibility, with a strong emphasis on data integrity. Many would call this the ‘intellectual's choice’ for complex data workloads; it supports JSON, XML, geometric types, and other data types right out of the box. 

MongoDB

Diverging from the traditional relational path, MongoDB calls itself a document-oriented database. It handles large volumes of unstructured or semi-structured data with ease. The schema-less nature is a boon for projects with evolving data models.

Firebase

Firebase is the ideal DBMS when it comes to mobile and web applications. Its Firestore feature is a NoSQL cloud database that syncs data across devices in real-time, which is useful for interactive and collaborative apps. 

Firebase Authentication provides secure user authentication, and its serverless architecture allows developers to focus on application development without having to manage infrastructure. 

The Website Development Process

So, you’ve learned the basics. What comes next?

The best way to develop your skills is, of course, through practice. Web dev work involves lots of trial and error (lots being an understatement) – so let’s get to work on your first project and start those gears turning.

Step 1: Information Gathering & Planning

Every good website begins with a clear plan and purpose. Don’t get the coding languages out just yet; it’s time to do some research. 

  1. Understand your primary objective. Is the aim of your website to inform, entertain, support, or sell? The answer will guide all of your design and content decisions moving forward.
  2. Conduct persona research to identify your target audience. Create detailed consumer profiles that cater to the specific needs and preferences of different user segments – like trendy youths or seasoned professionals.
  3. Develop a Brand Identity Document. Establishing an identity is a must for startups or new projects. Your document should provide guidelines for both visual elements and copywriting to keep messaging consistent across the board.  
  4. Choose a domain name that represents you well. It should be memorable and concise while encapsulating the essence of your business’s identity online.
  5. Design user personas and customer journey maps to visualise real-life users interacting with your site. Chart their possible paths from initial contact through to conversion. 

A rushed, underresearched website cheats you of the opportunity to attract and convert more visitors. Take the time to think deeply about what you’re trying to achieve and who your target audience is. 

Step 2: Design

With an identity document and a series of abstract ideas, you’ve done the groundwork – and now it’s time to put things in motion. 

  1. Transform abstract ideas into wireframes and prototypes. They’ll serve as visual and functional blueprints for the website. Start with low-fidelity wireframes to sketch out the basic structure of web pages, focusing on space allocation and how your content will be organised.
  2. Advance to medium-fidelity wireframes. At this stage it helps to add more specific details such as text hierarchy and basic visual elements. You can use these as a jumping-off point to make high-fidelity wireframes and interactive prototypes that closely mimic the final website. Use these realistic models for user testing to gather feedback, identify usability issues, and make sure the design meets expectations.

Pay attention to your visual identity during prototyping. Which colour schemes, font styles, imagery, and other design elements will convey your brand's message effectively?

Step 3: Content Creation

In the Content phase, you’ll bring together creativity and strategic research to make engaging, optimised website material.

  1. Find or create high-quality images that support your narrative. These visuals must be optimised for fast loading times but still be of high quality. They should include descriptive alt text for improved SEO and accessibility.
  2. Generate your written content. Write in a way that illustrates your points effectively. 
  3. Carry out keyword research. Keyword research guides the creation of relevant, engaging content that appears high in search results. On-page SEO focuses on optimising individual web pages via title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, and the careful placement of keywords. 
  4. Use a variety of content forms – like case studies, FAQs, and videos – to cater to different audience preferences. 

It’s unlikely you’ll need to worry about steps one to three as an in-house developer for a larger team. If this is your solo project, however, don’t skip the planning and content creation phases. Preparation is key!

Step 4: Build the Backend

Every functional website sits in front of a well-constructed back-end. It’s the unseen powerhouse running the server, databases, and application logic.

  1. Set up your server. Choose whether you want a dedicated server, cloud-based services, or a managed hosting solution. 
  2. Choose a suitable database. Selecting a database – be it SQL (like MySQL, PostgreSQL) or NoSQL (like MongoDB, Cassandra) – depends on the structure of the content and how it's expected to scale. 
  3. Develop your application logic. Create a mechanism to process user inputs, execute business rules and facilitate server-database communication. Make sure all features lead to the appropriate results (account registration, order placement or data retrieval). 
  4. Integrate services and APIs. Bring in other functions like payment gateways and social media platforms to enrich the user experience. Make the most of third-party analytics to interpret your data. 
  5. Prioritise security. Safeguard sensitive information by putting strong security measures in place. Maintain your database integrity to protect both the website and its users from cyber threats. 

When you’re building the backend infrastructure, don’t lock yourself into anything static. Stay flexible enough to evolve with growing demands. Select technology carefully, program diligently, and test rigorously at every step of the process.

Step 5: Front-End Development

It’s time to shift to the front-end, where you’ll give your project a visual identity and create an interactive experience for users.

  1. Put your design plans into action. Use languages to make aesthetic changes: HTML for layout, CSS for styling, and JavaScript for dynamic elements. Enhance your process with frameworks and libraries. 
  2. Make your website accessible to all. Check that you’re in alignment with web standards and legal requirements, and that people of all ability levels can interact with it.
  3. Optimise responsive design. Make sure your site performs optimally across all devices – from desktops to smartphones – by adapting its layout to work on different screens. Improve loading times by optimising your images and other content.

Front-end development is an iterative process. You should aim to collect feedback continuously – not just once, but after any small or large change is made. Collect usage data and analyze it to see what changes need to be made. 

Step 6: Testing

Your website is ready to greet the world – or is it? Don’t skip one of the most crucial stages in your development process: testing. 

After weeks and months of working on a project, it’s easy to develop blind spots. Testing gives you the best chance to identify issues and make improvements before the official launch of your site.

User testing gets real, actionable feedback from your target audience. You’ll observe how users interact with your website and see firsthand the confusion or barriers they face along the way. Beta releases, user testing sessions, and tracking tools are some of the more common methods here. 

Technical SEO is less about the user experience and more about discoverability. For instance, is your website set up to rank highly in search engines? Technical SEO involves double-checking your site structure and making sure all URLs are clean and logical. You’ll need to use tags properly (like title and meta descriptions) and make sure every single piece of content is accessible to search engine crawlers. 

Usability looks at the ease and intuition of your website. Does your navigation make sense? Have you used a content hierarchy that flows in a logical way? Even tiny errors can deter visitors for good. You can use tools like heatmaps and user session recordings to see exactly where the bottlenecks are hiding. 

Speed optimization should be treated as a make-or-break factor. Why? Because humans have a limited attention span, and you don’t have a spare nanosecond to waste. Cut down your site's loading time by compressing images, minifying code, and leveraging browser caching. Tools like Google PageSpeed Insights can recommend the best course of action.

Security testing means checking for vulnerabilities and patching them up. There are so many ways for attackers to exploit your site – but thankfully, there are just as many measures you can put in place to stop them. Make sure data is transmitted securely using HTTPS. Implement measures like secure sockets layer (SSL) certificates, regular software updates, and multi-factor authentication.

Step 7: Launch

You’ve tried, tested, and made endless adjustments. It’s time for launch day!

A website launch should always involve more than hitting ‘Publish.’ If you want your site to land with a bang, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Automate Your Deployment

Technology is going to be your best friend come launch day. We now have access to automated deployment – meaning you can make the transition to live with very minimal risk of human error. Your code can be deployed to environments consistently and reliably without a hitch. Automated deployment is well worth the investment for the stability and peace of mind it gives you.

Leverage Customer Acquisition Channels

The pathways to attract users to your website or app are categorised into earned, paid, and owned channels. 

  • Earned channels are word-of-mouth and organic social media mentions; they don’t cost you anything, but you get them by providing value. 
  • Paid channels are advertising. Think Google Ads or sponsored content on social media. 
  • Owned channels are those you control, like your website and email lists. 

Build a strategy across all three channels so all your bases are covered on launch day.

Optimise Conversion Rate

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is priming your site to convert as many visitors into customers as possible. Try to clarify exactly what users are looking for when they arrive at your site. From there, you can work on providing for visitors in the most accessible way. Use A/B testing on different site elements to find out what’s working and what isn’t.

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

Every customer has a certain value they will bring to your business over the course of your relationship. If you can predict that value, you’ll have a better idea of how much money to invest in acquiring new customers and retaining existing ones. To boost CLV, the strategy is simple: keep your customers satisfied and give them plenty of reasons to stay loyal.

Referral Marketing

Did you know you can leverage your current customers to gain new ones? People tend to trust recommendations from friends and family more than any form of advertising. Referral programs reward your customers for bringing new buyers – and if done well, they’ll save you thousands on acquisition.

Step 8: Monitoring and Updates

Now, you can sit back and watch the magic happen – right?

Wrong. This is the critical post-launch phase; you’ll need to be vigilant and make active improvements to sustain your website.

Remember to:

  • Keep tabs on user behaviour. Tools like Google Analytics can help you monitor traffic patterns, user behavior, and engagement metrics. 
  • Update your security. Keep your site’s software, plugins, and themes updated to their latest versions and carry out regular scans.
  • Make functional improvements. Your website should grow and evolve with your business. You might add new features, refine existing ones, or even overhaul entire sections of your website that aren’t serving your audience anymore. 
  • Refresh your content. A consistent flow of new content is obviously better for your audience, but it also helps with search engine rankings. Make regular updates to your blog, product descriptions, and even SEO details like tags.
  • Get feedback. If anyone knows your website’s shortcomings, it’s your users. Listen to them! Whether through surveys, user testing, or feedback forms, do whatever you can to bridge the gap between yourself and your users.
  • Maintain your SEO. Your website's technical SEO health can become a make-or-break situation if neglected. Monitor your site speed and mobile responsiveness; sluggish, irrelevant sites won’t rank highly.

That’s it: the eight steps to a fully developed and maintained website. As you make progress on your site, jump back to previous sections and use the information to guide you. With enough practice, it’ll start to feel natural – and you will be one step closer to becoming a tried-and-true web developer.

Website Development Resources

Where to next? If you loved learning the basics here, don’t stop the learning journey just yet. The internet is a goldmine of resources (most of them free!), and there’s much more to explore beyond the basics.

Online Courses and Tutorials

Platforms like Coursera and edX offer courses from reputable institutions worldwide. You’ll find everything from basic HTML and CSS to advanced full-stack development techniques. 

Interactive Learning Platforms

If you learn by doing, interactive platforms like Codecademy and FreeCodeCamp might be your cup of tea. They offer hands-on coding exercises to solidify your understanding of concepts as you learn them. FreeCodeCamp, in particular, is a non-profit community that helps you learn to code for free while building projects for non-profits.

Developer Communities

Web development can be frustrating and even discouraging at times. You’ll benefit from having a knowledgeable and supportive community to fall back on. Platforms like Stack Overflow and GitHub let you share and gain knowledge, collaborate on projects, and get feedback from others. 

Documentation and Guides

Never underestimate the power of good old documentation. Official documentation for languages and frameworks, such as the Mozilla Developer Network (MDN) for web technologies, is often the most up-to-date source of information you can find online.

What’s Your Next Web Development Project?

We hope you’ve enjoyed learning the basics here. Web development is a world of its own, and in it, there’s so much to explore. These skills give you the ability to create incredibly detailed and sophisticated projects. 

Even if you walk away and never put your knowledge to practical use, you’ll know a little more about what our digital world is made up of – an intricate web of languages, frameworks, and technologies. 

Thanks for reading!

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Dive into our extensive guide on web development, covering everything from fundamental concepts to advanced techniques. Learn about different types of web development, key programming languages, and the step-by-step process of building a website. Whether you're a beginner or looking to enhance your skills, this guide provides valuable insights and resources to elevate your web development journey.

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