The Wide Wide World of Web Careers

Rob LathamWeb Careers

Use of the web has exploded, going well beyond internet searches into sophisticated cloud apps, online entertainment and even the Internet of Things (IoT). The Internet explosion has created a staggering demand for trained content creators, web designers and web application developers. 

Not Your Father’s Internet

We use the web for everything from streaming digital content to business and productivity applications at work and at home. Where static websites once were the norm, dynamic web applications have taken their place; providing rich and dynamic experiences to users, while also capturing valuable marketing and demographic insights from their visitors. In 2017, for the first time in the history of the World Wide Web, more web pages were served to mobile devices than to personal computers1Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/241462/global-mobile-phone-website-traffic-share/.

In 2017, for the first time in the history of the World Wide Web, more web pages were served to mobile devices than to personal computers.

This dramatic diversification in how we use the Internet has created many opportunities for people with specialized skills in web and mobile development.  The rise of data stored in the cloud that is accessible across many types of devices has led to a demand in design skills that focus on the user experience rather than just a pretty application interface. The migration of businesses from on-site servers and data centers to virtualized servers and web services has created a demand for skills in cloud infrastructure, and certification on large PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) providers such as Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure. According to Forbes, the median salary of an AWS Certified Solutions Architect is $125,0912Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/louiscolumbus/2017/03/18/15-top-paying-it-certifications-in-2017/#43f467f75676.

Web Designer or Web Developer?

The titles of Web Designer and Web Developer have at times been used interchangeably, as there is some overlap in the basic skills required for each job. In today’s Web marketplace, these jobs have become more diverse and specialized, and the skills desired by potential employers can differ greatly between the two. And technical skills aren’t the only differentiator. Soft skills such as problem-solving and human interaction can play a major role in deciding which Web Career is the best fit.

There is no industry standard that defines the qualifications for Web Designer or Web Developer, but having done both in my career, and having managed both on large projects, I am sharing my thoughts in this article on what the differences are.

So You Want to Be a Web Designer…

Whether to be a Web Designer or Web Developer depends mainly on where your passions lie. If you love being visually creative, are good at understanding how people interact with technology, and have some solid technical skills, you might have what it takes to be successful as a Web Designer. A Web Designer’s primary job is shaping how we interact with information and people online. A Web Designer can perform such jobs as:

  • Designing a Web Site Built on a CMS like WordPress or Drupal
  • Designing the Layout, Navigation and Information Flow of a Web Site
  • Designing and Building the Online Experience for an Organization
  • Incorporating Graphic Elements, Typography, Color and Branding on a Web Site

A Web Designer’s primary job is shaping how we interact with information and people online.

By now you are probably seeing the emphasis on Design in the title of Web Designer. A great Web Designer understands the concepts of client-side programming (Javascript), HTML and CSS (formatting and layout), and marries those with a Creative Design Skills such as Typography, Color Science, Photo Curation and Editing, and even Writing.  A great Web Designer is someone who can put themselves in the place of the user, having an ability to empathize with their target audience.

While there is an emphasis on design skills for a Web Designer, technical skills also play a major role. Some of the technical skills employers are likely to look for in a Web Designer are:

  • Working knowledge of HTML, CSS, XML, JSON
  • Client-side Programming in Javascript, jQuery
  • Frameworks like Bootstrap, Angular
  • Server-side Programming in PHP, ASP.net, Python, PERL
  • SQL Databases like MySQL, SQL Server, PostgreSQL
  • Web Servers like Apache, Microsoft IIS

When a Full Stack Isn’t Pancakes

If you think a Full Stack is something besides pancakes, then you might be a Web Developer. The differences between a Web Designer and a Web Developer are reflected in the type of projects being built, and the depth of skills and knowledge required to build them. While a Web Designer’s skills are best suited to Web Sites and Web Content Management Systems (CMS), a Web Developer’s skills are generally used for more sophisticated Web Applications that require complex programming, infrastructure design, database design and integrations with other systems. The world of the Web Developer can be further split into two general categories; Front-end UI (User Interface) or Client development, and Back-end Infrastructure, Database and Services development.

A Web Developer’s skills are generally used for more sophisticated Web Applications that require complex programming, systems design, databases and integrations with other systems.

UX/UI Web Developer

The UX/UI Developer is a rising star in the world of Web Development. UX/UI stands for User eXperience/User Interface, and deals with the interactions between humans and software applications. According to Indeed.com, the average salary for a front-end UX/UI developer is $102,1903Source Indeed.com: https://www.indeed.com/salaries/Front-End-Developer-Salaries?from=serpsalaryblock.

The UX/UI Developer is a unique combination of graphic designer, programmer and application architect. If you take most of the qualifications of a Web Designer and add marry them with the skills of an Application Developer, you should have a pretty effective UX/UI Developer who can bring a lot to an employer or team working on major Web Applications. Some of the skills employers want in a UX/UI Developer are:

  • Working knowledge of HTML, CSS, XML, JSON
  • Client-side Programming in Javascript, jQuery
  • Mobile App Development
  • Frameworks like Bootstrap, Angular, UX/UI components
  • Server-side Programming in PHP, ASP.net, Python, PERL, CGI
  • SQL Databases like MySQL, SQL Server, PostgreSQL
  • API Communication using REST, SOAP, XML-RPC
  • Web Services Design, Construction & Architecture

Services/Systems Developer

The Services/Systems Developer is a heavy-hitter in the world of Web Development, focused heavily on programming and engineering skills. The Services/Systems Developer understands complex system-level concepts, components and architectures, and is able to create components and systems that provide the foundation (or back-end) for high-end Web Applications. According to Indeed.com, the average salary for a back-end Services/Systems Developer is $117, 9164Source Indeed.com: https://www.indeed.com/salaries/Back-End-Developer-Salaries?from=serpsalaryblock. Some of the skills employers want in a Services/System Developer are:

  • Core Programming Languages such as C++, C#, Java, F#
  • Web Server Programming Languages such as PHP, ASP.net, Python, PERL, CGI
  • SQL Databases Design and Programming for MySQL, MariaDB, SQL Server, PostgreSQL
  • API Communication using REST, SOAP, XML-RPC
  • Infrastructure Elements: Message Queue, Services Bus
  • Web Services Design, Construction & Implementation
  • Cloud Concepts: Multi-tenancy
  • Cloud Platforms: Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure
  • Virtualization: VirtualBox, VMware, Hyper-V

Making the Team

Regardless of the Web Development path you choose, you will likely spend all or most of your career working on a team.  Today’s Web Applications are made of many complex components and services that all work together; from the User Interface, through intermediate services and API’s, to back-end and mobile services, databases and connectors. It takes a dedicated and efficient team to put all the elements together to deliver a great Web Application. Any potential employer will want to know that you can be a part of a dynamic development team. Some of the team-related skills that employers are looking for are:

  • Experience with Agile Methodologies like Scrum
  • Version Control Systems: Subversion, GIT
  • Software Testing Tools and Methodologies

What is a Full Stack Developer?

No, it’s not a programmer who loves pancakes, although there’s nothing wrong with pancakes! This is the definition of a Full Stack Developer according to Coderbyte:

A Full-Stack Web Developer is someone who is able to work on both the front-end and back-end portions of an application. Front-end generally refers to the portion of an application the user will see or interact with, and the back-end is the part of the application that handles the logic, database interactions, user authentication, server configuration, etc.5Source: https://medium.com/coderbyte/a-guide-to-becoming-a-full-stack-developer-in-2017-5c3c08a1600c

A Full Stack Developer doesn’t necessarily have to be an expert in every area of front-end and back-end development, but should have a good working knowledge of every “layer” in the application stack and how they work together. According to Paysa.com, top employers pay their best Full Stack Web Developers as much as a whopping $441k plus benefits.

Full Stack Developer Pay

What You Need To Land Your First Web Development Job

In my next article on Web Careers I will take a deep dive into what employers are really looking for in a Web Designer. Stay tuned!

 

About the Author

Rob Latham

Rob Latham is an IT and Web Development veteran, having held positions in software engineering from application developer to product manager of multi-million dollar software applications, overseeing all aspects of product development and market delivery. Rob currently acts as Stemsco's Director of Innovation, advising the organization on technology direction and IT pathways.