Web development has become an increasingly popular career path within the past 20 years or so, due largely to the technology boom during this period. Currently, 228,772 web development service businesses are registered in the United States.
It’s a lucrative business; the average web developer can expect a salary of approximately $91,000 per year. That number alone is enticing enough to encourage a new generation of web developers to pursue the path.
Still, many people wonder if the learning curve is too steep. Technology advancements have significantly improved user interfaces for most web development programs. Yet, some coding languages seem completely alien to people who are unfamiliar with them.
…Is web development hard?
Hardest Aspects Of Web Development
Nothing worth having comes easy.Theodore Roosevelt
If you opened up a text editor or IDE and sat down to write some code in hopes of building something cool, you might have a future as a web developer. But web development can get pretty heavy when you consider all the moving parts. There are a few unique characteristics that might make you wonder “is web development hard?” while pondering your coding future.
Constantly Evolving Technologies
Examples Of Changing Web Development Trends
This year, we’ve witnessed the rise of AI technology rapidly. AI technology has taken over nearly every industry, going so far as to create avatars of people who don’t exist or cover songs by real artists using clips of their voices spliced together.
This technology only gets more believable over time. A TikTok series uses AI renderings of United States Presidents as characters who stream video games. There was even a South Park episode where a main character, Stan, used the AI chatbot ChatGPT to talk to his girlfriend.
He found himself in trouble because his girlfriend thought his messages were sincere and thoughtful, but he was using AI to generate them the whole time! Naturally, her feelings were hurt, and he had to do major damage control without the assistance of AI to back him up.
The episode hit the nail on the head in more ways than one. First, relying on AI to do simple tasks is a slippery slope, and web developers should use AI responsibly. Second, the more you use the same voices to create AI characters, the more they will sound like the person it’s parodying.
Such is the case with web development.
Many industry-leading websites are integrating AI chatbots to improve their customer service experience. These chatbots mimic speech patterns in conversations to sound as humanlike as possible to deliver excellent customer service to users.
AI chatbots are more advanced than older chatbot formats because they can communicate through language beyond simple, pre-programmed phrases and commands, making them more effective in solving complex customer requests without requiring phone calls.
AI is evolving at a groundbreaking rate, and we should expect to see this even more throughout 2023.
Balancing Design And Functionality
Most web developers aren’t hand-coding every element of their websites anymore. Interfaces like WordPress and Squarespace have innovated web development to be user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing. Client expectations have risen drastically as a result.
Now, clients expect to receive expert-quality work in a shorter timeframe due to the accessibility of web development programs and languages. You cannot fall short of these expectations, or your career as a web developer will be short-lived.
Thankfully, it is not too hard to integrate aesthetics with usability. Some countless plugins and tools allow web developers to create visually pleasing, user-friendly websites for their clients. Labeling iconography, using consistent visual cues, and strategically editing your work are easy tricks to balance your design’s aesthetics and functionality.
Debugging And Cross-Browser Compatibility
The modern attention span is at an all-time low. Generally, your website has 15 seconds or less to positively impact each new visitor. If your website takes too long to load, users will click away and never return. Frequently running audits on your website’s internal workings is a great way to ensure high conversion rates.
Once you’ve got your audience’s attention, it’s critical to emphasize the importance of navigability within your site. Any confusing buttons, popups, and verbiage will send once-interested leads away instantly. Too many popups on your website can also cause a lag in its loading time.
Cross-browser compatibility should be a top concern for a web developer. Websites or browser-based applications must perform at their fullest potential across all major browsers…and there are lots of them. Performing quality-assurance tests before you publish your website allows you to mitigate cross-browser issues like appearance changes.
Some people opt for manual coding to ensure cross-browser compatibility, but you can still use software and simply edit your code thoroughly. Employing reliable testers to check the cross-browser compatibility of your website is the number one solution for any potential issues.
There are so many browsers and versions of those browsers, and you must consider them all while you develop your site.
Making Web Development Easier
I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.Bill Gates
Work smarter, not harder. There are always ways to make your path a little easier. Web development is no different. Just remember that you shouldn’t jump into learning advanced frameworks or concepts until you have the basics down.
But once you know the rules, it gets even easier.
Utilizing Frameworks And Libraries
Frameworks and libraries make web development less hard, regardless of your experience level.
Frameworks and libraries are useful tools for web developers that enhance the quality of your websites or applications. Frameworks ultimately aimed to end hand-coding entirely when they were first created, but these days, they simply ease the web development process by streamlining the software that you use to run the application or website that you’re developing.
There are both backend and frontend frameworks; what developers use will vary based on their niche–more on that later. Server-side frameworks focus on the nitty-gritty, like URL management, database control, etc. Client-side frameworks are a bit more lax. They focus primarily on your site or application’s overall functionality.
Some of the best backend frameworks include Django, Laravel, and Rails. Major web developers like Google and Meta love Django as a Model-View Template framework that uses Python. Its emphasis on reliable security and many helpful features make Django a heavy-hitter for backend frameworks.
Laravel is a newer backend framework that uses PHP, which raises its value since PHP is such a common language. Notable features include API and other packages that will vary in value from person to person.
Apps like Airbnb and GrubHub love Rails, a Model-View Controller framework. It uses Ruby; Rails is among the top contenders for beginner web developers, as it is equal parts user-friendly and reliable.
Frontend frameworks like Bootstrap, React, and Angular have become the industry standard. Bootstrap is a popular starting point for many new web developers–and for many reasons. Namely, Bootstrap is wonderful for creating pages optimized for cross-browser compatibility. React is a bit different. It’s a fronted library, not a framework, but web developers have adopted it.
Its versatile features allow it to be used for frontend and backend purposes. Angular uses React’s component-based structure; several frameworks “borrowed” React’s format. Angular uses the component-based structure to create fantastic single-page websites.
Following Best Practices
Odds are, you won’t be the only person who reads your code. You’ll need to keep your code organized and readable for yourself and others. We often joke about a doctor’s handwriting; it’s illegible to anyone other than a pharmacist, who somehow always understands what a doctor is prescribing to a patient.
Web developers can’t operate with that much risk. Our code should be legible enough to read by a junior developer, consultant, or expert. Similarly, if you ever need to refactor your code, the refactoring process is much easier if your code is already readable and organized.
Try writing code for at least 30 minutes daily to make your web development skills more efficient. Not only will this practice make you a faster coder, but it will also encourage accuracy. Plus, writing code daily keeps you updated on industry standards, so you won’t accidentally give a client outdated code. Working on open-source projects is a great way to get into daily practice.
You can collaborate with other web developers, ultimately learning new things from them and learning how to see a project through to its completion. However, efficient web developers also know when to take breaks. Let yourself take a nap every now and then, so long as you remember to press the “save” button before you crash!
Collaboration And Mentorship
However, like learning a new language, gaining experience alongside others significantly speeds up learning. More specifically, new web developers should seek the help of experienced web developers.
Finding the right mentor takes time, but it is incredibly rewarding.
Experienced developers may have worked in the industry for years. They have witnessed every technological advancement of the past several decades and are excited to help you on your journey. More often than not, experienced developers will happily take you under their wing to learn important web development skills.
You can find mentors through school, your workplace, conferences, and social media. Reach out to web developers who inspire you; you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by their response!
Comparing Web Development to Other Fields
Of course, the biggest difference between software engineering and web development is that software engineers focus on software, and web developers focus on web-based applications and programs. Software engineers use rigorous engineering principles to create complex software–usually for systems or applications.
While a web developer learns programming and coding, a software engineer typically holds a computer science degree. They both need intensive comprehension of technical skills, but a web developer sticks to building websites and/or applications while software engineers focus on the software.
Still, people often get the two career paths mixed up.
Both web development and software engineering require proficient critical thinking skills to deliver high-quality client work. Both jobs also require proficient knowledge of code writing and revising. Web developers and software engineers must have the critical thinking, creativity, and interpersonal skills for long-term success. In both cases, your top priority is delivering expert-quality work to your clients.
IT is a more logic-based career path than web development. Naturally, web development requires logic and critical thinking, but you can be more creative. The creative elements to your job in IT Support will be within problem-solving. Troubleshooting might not always be an easy fix, so you must think creatively to find solutions for your clients quickly.
Like web development, you don’t need a formal education to find success in IT. Formal education gives you an advantage, like structured learning, mentorship, and peer-to-peer collaboration. Still, neither career path requires a 4-year degree for many positions or promising opportunities. IT is not necessarily harder than web development, but certain IT specialties can be complex. IT technicians and web developers need a proficient understanding of computer technology, customer service, and attention to detail. Both careers are great options for remote work, independent learning, and steady income.
Tips For Aspiring Web Developers
Choosing A Focus (Frontend, Backend, or Full-Stack)
Choosing your focus is one of the hardest elements of web development for beginners. Many new web developers are enthusiastic about diving headfirst into the field that they have difficulty deciding. Thankfully, you don’t need to make a decision right away.
You can start with the easy stuff. No one suggests starting with the hardest coding language first.
Similarly, immersing yourself in online projects and resources will also help you pick a focus. Open-source projects allow you to communicate with peers, sharing ideas and experiences as you bring a project to life.
Finding a community online or in-person is a fantastic tool for learning and support. Sometimes, choosing a focus is as simple as having a few conversations with like-minded people who understand your goals. Working with other web developers is an enriching experience. The value of collaboration goes beyond dollars earned. The skills, knowledge, and lessons you can learn from other web developers who have your best interest in mind are priceless.
Is web development a difficult job?
Web development is a complex career field with many paths, focuses, and skill requirements. Yes, web development can be considered to be a difficult job. However, it is incredibly rewarding. You can use a combination of artistic talent and technical skills to create high-quality products for clients. Therefore, web development is worth the difficulty that comes with the job.
Is web development harder than programming?
No; web development is generally easier to start with than programming. It’s far easier to be a self-taught web developer than a programmer. The accessibility of tools, resources, and online classes makes it easy for most people to get started as a web developer.
How long does it take to learn web development?
The answer will vary from person to person. Most online web development boot camps offer a timeframe of 3-4 months to get you started. Other, more traditional educational paths may take longer to finish. You could learn web development and get your first clients within a few months to a year.