Are you interested in a career as a web developer but not sure where to start? Do you want to gain an understanding of the basics of web development so you can better communicate with web developers?

You’ve come to the right place.

Web development is an area of programming that entails building and maintaining dynamic web applications such as websites. And this post will teach you the basics of both front end and back end web development including the top web programming languages and frameworks web developers use.

It’s one of the largest and most exciting fields in the programming world. What’s more? The BLS predicts that web development jobs will go up by 8% through 2029 🙂

To help you get started, we will explore the different types of web development and the tools web developers use to create websites and other applications for the internet.

Here is a summary of what you will learn: 

  • What is web development?
  • Top front end web development languages and frameworks 
  • Top back end web development languages and frameworks
  • The most popular tech stacks for web programming 
  • The best web development courses, books, and websites

Introduction to Web Development

What is Web Development?

Web development is all about the building and maintenance of websites and other dynamic web applications.

Web applications can range from simple static websites and blogs that contain plain text and images to complex social networking and ecommerce applications like Facebook and Amazon.

Today, the web encompasses more than just websites. It also includes real time gaming, Internet of Things, and Virtual Reality. The development of these types of applications can also be referred to as web development. 

There are two types of web development: front end web development and back end web development. Here is what each type of web development entails. 

What is Front End Web Development?

Front end or client side web development is the creation and styling of the content users see and interact with when they visit a website. The front end refers to the presentation layer of the website.

Front end developers are responsible for structuring and laying out the content (text, images, videos etc.) of a website and adding interactive elements such as pop up alerts. 

A common misconception is that web development is synonymous with web design.

While a person can be both a web designer and web developer, the work of a designer is to design a website while that of a developer is to build the website based on the plan outlined by the web designer.  

What is Back End Web Development? 

Back end or server side development is the coding of what goes on behind the scene of a website.

This back end is also referred to as the data access layer. It’s made up of the server, a server-side programming language, and a database.  

Back end developers code up the logic and functionality of a website. For example, they set up the server and database storage.

To help you understand how these two types of web development work together, let’s take a look at how web applications work.

How Websites Work

A website is essentially a collection of files hosted/stored on an internet connected computer, which is referred to as a server.

When a user types the address of a website directly or is referred to a website after a search on Google, web files written by a front end web developer are downloaded from the server and displayed on the screen via a web browser like Google Chrome or Safari.

Who Is A Full Stack Web Developer?

Most web developers specialize in either front end or back end web development.

However, there are web developers who possess knowledge of both front end and back end web programming. Such developers are referred to as full stack web developers. 

A full stack developer can build a small website on his or her own. When it comes to large web applications, full tech developers are usually assigned managerial roles. 

Their understanding of both sides of web development helps ensure the two teams of developers work together seamlessly and the project progresses in a timely manner. 

The Tools of Web Development

Text editors or integrated development environments (IDEs) and web programming languages and frameworks are the tools web developers use to build web applications.

  • A text editor or IDE is the text based interface where the developer types their code. 
  • The web programming languages are the sets of instructions that build up websites. The languages can be web specific or general purpose.
  • Frameworks are libraries of resources and tools that are customized by developers in order to make the process of developing certain applications easier and faster than when using a programming language.

The set of tools to use depends on whether the developer is working on the client side or server side of the application, as well as on what type of web application is being built.

The choice of framework is determined by the choice of language. If Python is the best language to develop a certain web application, for example, the best framework to use is a Python framework. 

Here are the most popular web programming languages and frameworks.

Top Front End Web Development Languages and Frameworks

The languages and frameworks that web developers use to create the content and features you see and interact with when you visit websites include: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. 

HTML

HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) is the basic foundation of web pages. It’s a markup language that uses tags to define various elements such as headlines, paragraphs, hyperlinks, and images.

HTML 5, especially is a top favorite with developers as it offers an intuitive way to organize web pages. It doesn’t just run on all browsers, but it’s lightweight and optimizes pages for different devices.

CSS

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is the styling language for the web. It’s the language web developers use to spice up HTML pages by defining fonts, colors, backgrounds, and more.

It also describes how a website will look by laying out the different elements making up the web page. CSS makes HTML web pages look functional and aesthetically pleasing. 

JavaScript

JavaScript Is the programming language of the web. It makes HTML web pages come to life. 

With JavaScript code, HTML web pages can become interactive and deliver personalized content for each user. JavaScript content responds to user actions such as clicking, hovering, or typing and submitting information.  

You’ve probably come across content that changes when you hover your mouse on it. This is thanks to JavaScript.

The greatest thing about JavaScript is its versatility. It can be used on both the front and back end of a website as well as a database technology.

The top frameworks that simplify building web applications using JavaScript include: 

React

React.js makes it easy to develop dynamic user interfaces. It cuts down development time significantly while enhancing the user experience.

With React, you can develop content that continuously displays new data, even without refreshing the page.

An example of React in action is Facebook Feed updates where new items continuously show up without reloading the page. 

That it’s easy to use, flexible, and compatible with other JavaScript frameworks has made it the most popular front end web development framework.

Besides Facebook, other top sites that use React include WhatsApp, Netflix and Yahoo.

Angular

Like it’s creator Google, Angular.js is the biggest client side development framework and incredibly popular.

It speeds up the development of single-page applications (SPAs). These are websites or web apps that rewrite themselves based on user interaction. 

Written in TypeScript, Angular delivers high quality code and promotes high performance which is a very significant competitive advantage on the internet.  

The framework is very efficient at organizing large scale work and ideal for large enterprise projects. Examples of companies using it include Google, HBO, and PayPal. 

Vue

Vue.js is a minimalist framework that focuses on ease of use and fast performance. 

It provides a seamless user interface development experience thanks to it’s two-way data binding. 

Although it’s a newer framework and not as widely used as React and Angular, its use is growing pretty fast thanks to all these advantages.

Top Backend Web Development Languages and Frameworks

PHP

As the server side language behind the top content management systems like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla, PHP (hypertext preprocessor) is easily the most popular server-side scripting language in the world.

It’s easy to use, flexible, and has great debugging features. It’s also a very dynamic language that keeps growing and getting better. The latest version is PHP 8 and it’s the best version yet. 

The most popular PHP frameworks include: 

Laravel

Laravel is the most popular PHP framework. It allows for rapid development of PHP web apps.

Elegance, simplicity, and readability are it’s core values and it comes with many handy features including an integrated testing functionality.

Symfony

High performance and stable, Symfony speeds up the creation, deployment, and maintenance of enterprise scale PHP websites and web apps by making use of reusable components.

The learning curve is quite steep but the framework enjoys great support and documentation. 

CodeIgniter

True to its name, CodeIgniter is ideal for rapid development of dynamic web applications.

The framework itself is incredibly lightweight, easy to use, and backed by a vibrant community of users and numerous libraries. 

Python

Python is currently the most popular and fastest growing programming language not only in back-end web development but also in artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science, and Internet of Things.

The best thing about Python is how easy it is to use. It’s syntax is English like and thus easy to read and write.

Websites like Pinterest and Instagram are built on Python. The top frameworks for the Python language include: 

Django

Django is marketed as the ‘web framework for perfectionists with deadlines’. True to this, it uses reusable components to speed up the development of complex data-driven websites without compromising the quality of such websites.

On top of this, it’s free to use yet an all-inclusive package with great administrative features. It’s no surprise that it’s one of the most popular Python web frameworks. 

Flask

The best thing about Flask is it’s ease of use and flexibility. It’s a micro web framework that does not tie developers to specific tools or libraries.

You can add features as you see fit and decide how you want different parts of your application to behave. 

NODE.JS

Node is not a language on it’s own. Rather, it’s a run-time environment that enables the use of JavaScript as a back end scripting language.

The advantage it offers is that it’s incredibly fast and highly scalable. Its asynchronous, single-threaded nature makes it perfect for games, chats or conferencing applications that require a rapid update stream.

Netflix, LinkedIn, Trello, Uber, eBay, PayPal, and NASA all use it for back end development.

Express

Express is the most popular Node framework and the best JavaScript framework for backend development.

Minimal and flexible, it provides a robust set of features for developing single page, multi page, and hybrid web applications fast.

Java 

Java boasts an excellent toolset for web development, which has made it a popular server side language for developing web applications. 

Flexible, modular, and extensible, it’s the go to language for many enterprise projects and big data applications. Another advantage of Java is that it’s platform independent. 

Spring

Thanks to its emphasis on speed, productivity, and simplicity, Spring has become the most popular application development framework for Java.

It streamlines the creation of high performance and robust web apps. It doesn’t require you to follow any particular paradigm or programming model.

It also makes it easy for developers to work together in a collaborative environment. 

Ruby

Designed to make programmers happy, Ruby focuses on simplicity and productivity. It’s easy and fun to use language with elegant syntax. 

It’s popularity as a server side language is thanks to the Ruby on Rails web development framework.

Ruby on Rails

Ruby on Rails is an extremely productive framework – it’s ten times as speedy as a typical Java framework. 

This makes it one of the best frameworks for rapid web  development and prototyping. It builds robust web applications fast and can handle pretty much anything you throw at it. 

One of its best features is the data migration functionality.

Projects built on this framework share the same structure and style of coding. It’s also an all inclusive package with a robust ecosystem and a vibrant community. 

Companies that use Ruby on Rails include Shopify, SoundCloud, Airbnb, and Twitter.

C#

Microsoft created C# to compete with Java as a web development language for enterprises.

It’s a general purpose language with uses in web development, game development, and mobile app development. 

The biggest strength C# has to offer is top-notch speed. It creates websites and web services that are fast, secure, and highly scalable.

ASP.NET/ASP.NET Core

ASP.NET is a server-side framework for building dynamic web applications and services for both PC and mobile devices. 

With a focus on power and productivity, it’s one of the best performing web frameworks. It allows developers to build robust applications at top speed.

Getty Images and Stack Overflow are examples of websites using the ASP.NET framework.

Database Technologies Used in Web Development

Collecting and managing data is part and parcel of most websites. 

When working on any data driven website such as a social networking platform or e-commerce site, it’s vital to determine the choice of database technology from the get go.

You have two options here. You can stick with the classic SQL based relational database or go for a document oriented non relational NoSQL database.

The choice of database comes down to the kind of data you will be handling. 

Relational Database

A relational database is the most optimal choice for relational data where various data types are related and the data can easily fit into tables.

SQL (Structured Query Language) is the standard language for querying relational data. 

Non Relational Database

If you’re working with non relational data that can’t easily fit into a table, a document oriented NoSQL database is ideal. 

You can learn more about the pros and cons of the two database technologies here.

Top Tech Stacks for Web Development

As you can see, developing and deploying a web application entails the use of a front end language, a backend language, an optimal web application framework, and a database technology.

This combination of tools and technologies is referred to as a tech stack. In large projects, tech stacks function as a bridge between the frontend and backend web development teams.

What tech stack to use is one of the biggest considerations to make when building a website or web application as it determines the features and functionalities the website will have and how easy it will be to maintain.

Here are the most popular tech stacks for web development: 

LAMP

The LAMP stack is made up of: Linux (the environment’s OS), Apache (the HTTP server), MySQL (the database), and PHP (the server-side language). 

Stable, well supported, customizable, and featuring an easy to scale non-blocking structure, LAMP is the go to tech stack for enterprise-scale applications where uptime and availability are the top priorities. 

The only downside is that it doesn’t support modern features such as cloud hosting

MEAN

MEAN is a JavaScript stack for building dynamic websites and web applications. It’s composed of MongoDB, Express.js, Angular.js, and Node.js.

All these layers use JavaScript and this makes MEAN ideal for modern small-scale projects such as single-page and cloud-based applications.

MERN and MEVN

MERN and MEVN are both variations of MEAN whereby the framework layer is replaced with React or Vue. This results in modern, high performance applications. 

Recommended Web Development Learning Resources for Beginners

Now that you understand what web development is all about, here is a selection of the best Web development courses and books to start your learning journey:

Best Web Development Courses

The Complete 2021 Web Development Bootcamp

The Complete Web Development Bootcamp will take you from zero to full-stack web developer. With over 120k students giving it a 4.8 star average rating, it’s one of the best rated web developer courses.

Master both frontend and backend web  development. Learn the three core web development skills (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) plus Node, React and MongoDB. 

HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for Web Developers

HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for Web Developers is a very well structured and  explained course for beginner web developers.

Start from the ground up by learning how to develop modern web pages using the core web development tools: CSS and HTML.

Make the web page mobile responsive and build a fully functional web application using JavaScript.

Best Web Development Books

HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites

HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites teaches the basics of HTML5 and CSS3 in a fun and engaging way. 

Magazine-like pages featuring easy to digest infographics, a clean layout, and attractive code examples in full color make the book fun to flip and the content non-intimidating.

With a book this delightful to go through, you will be designing functional and attractive websites in no time. A quick and effective way to learn to build websites!

Web Design with HTML, CSS, JavaScript and jQuery Set

Web Design with HTML, CSS, JavaScript and jQuery Set is a set of two books: HTML & CSS: Designing and Building Web Sites and JavaScript & jQuery: Interactive Front-End Development.

These two books will get you on track to becoming a front end developer. Start by mastering HTML and CSS then move up to JavaScript and jQuery.

Clear explanations and a highly visual format keeps the content easy to understand, quick to read, and will get you on track to becoming a front end developer.

Best Web Development Learning Websites 

FreeCodeCamp is a free online coding boot camp. It has a great curriculum with a built-in coding environment. 

Team Treehouse is an online video based learning platform with a focus on web development. Although it’s a subscription based service, you can take advantage of the free 7-day trial to see if the platform is for you. 

To Wrap Up 

Web development is a quite wide programming field that’s divided into front end and back end web development. Each type of web development requires a unique set of skills.

On the bright side, web development is one of the most beginner-friendly programming fields.

When starting your journey as a web developer, I recommend learning the basics of both front end and back end web development. This will make it easier to figure out which type of web developer to become.

You can then pick one web development language to start with. Once you’re proficient in one language, you will find it so much easier to pick up other languages and become a multi-skilled web developer.

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