Today’s Internet of Things (IoT) is bringing new opportunities for web developers to program the applications businesses and consumers are clamoring for. Mobile internet access via smartphones and tablets has further accelerated the demand for creative ‘apps’ that bring new functionality to the end users.
Skills are in high demand for career web developers. They are necessary for advancing business applications, game development creativity, and even for creating specialized mobile apps. The purpose of this article is to explain how to gain the skills required to meet these needs and to continue honing your expertise. Many resources are referred to throughout each chapter or category to help you find the detailed information you need to get started or continue progressing in your chosen area of web development.
There are a number of decisions to be made as you move into web development:
- Target audience – will you be creating critical business application, apps for smartphones and tablets, interactive internet games?
- Architecture – will your applications reside on business servers, hosted servers, cloud hosting, or even reside on personal devices?
- Programming language – depending on your experience level (or lack of experience) you may choose one language over another. As in spoken languages around the world, some programming languages are more complex and challenging than others, and there are specific advantages to some over others that include portability of the applications generated (more on that later).
- Personal goal – is your intent to become a professional (and highly paid) web developer for an enterprise, write the best games ever created, or generate smartphone apps? Perhaps you’re just looking for a challenge to see if web development suits your talents.
All these considerations and more come into play in how you approach your move into web development and your ongoing efforts to develop your skills and expertise in this specialized field.
Resources and associated links are categorized into the following chapters:
- Chapter 1 Web Development for Beginners
- Chapter 2 Application Design
- Chapter 3 Coding and Languages
- Chapter 4 Mobile Development
- Chapter 5 Skills and Resources (beginner, intermediate, advanced)
- Chapter 6 Collaboration and Tools
- Chapter 7 Social Plugins – Social Sharing
- Chapter 8 Security
- Chapter 9 Testing
- Chapter 10 Optimization – Search Engine Optimization
- Chapter 11 Hosting
Chapter 1: Web Development for Beginners
As mentioned in the introduction, there are a set of questions to ask yourself before you begin. These include the audience, architecture, programming language, and your specific intent of becoming a web developer. There are many great sources of beginner information available to help guide you with your choices.
Chapter 2: Application Design
Many clients and even those new to web applications struggle to understand the difference between design and development. Designers are the creative minds behind the look and feel of websites, and understand what end users expect to see when interacting with the applications. Web developers write the actual code that brings the design to life. It is not uncommon for individuals to wear both hats in designing and developing applications, but there are certainly distinct skills that separate the two. Details of the design role and the distinguishing factors between design and development can be found in the following articles:
Chapter 3: Coding and Languages
Many web developers are happy to share experiences in solving technical problems and offering tips on coding techniques that have worked best for them. With a quick web search, forums and collaborative groups for any language can be discovered.
Developer salaries and demand by language | gooroo.io
Languages desired by business community | wantedanalytics
Where the developer jobs are | cio
Best Programming Languages to Learn Today | simplilearn
Chapter 4: Mobile Development
Mobile development is perhaps the area most attractive to new developers, and is in high demand by internal businesses, web development teams, and freelancers alike. There is much more to mobile development than writing apps for smartphones/tablets that consumers can utilize. Many companies are migrating or expanding critical business applications to these devices to provide their employees with ‘anywhere’ access and to provide customers with ‘anytime’ access for ordering products and making other contacts with their business.
Here again, there are specific requirements for mobile developers due to variations in support for devices such as iOS, Android, and Windows operating systems. Screen sizes, browsers in use, and graphic capabilities can vary widely even within the same operating system.
There are many standard functions available for mobile developers in the form of application program interfaces (APIs) such as geographic sensing, detecting screen orientation, and many others. Software development kits (SDKs) are also available that provide tools for mobile development and testing of applications.
Chapter 5: Skills and Resources (beginner, intermediate, advanced)
Developing websites and applications today can be undertaken by individuals with minimal formal training. Basic problem-solving ability, the capability to think logically and abstractly, and creativity are the key skills needed to begin. While a number of languages can become quite complex when developing more advanced applications, others are excellent for beginners to get results and confidence quickly, such as Python and Ruby. More advanced skills will be attained through experience, collaboration with other web developers, and formal training.
Chapter 6: Collaboration and Tools
Once engaged in web development, you will find countless forums available world-wide, covering nearly any topic or specific problem you encounter. Creative minds and technicians are frequently ready and willing to share not only what doesn’t work, but also the triumphs they’ve achieved.
Publically available tools are available to web developers as well, most with accompanying documentation for their use and coding examples. Many are free of charge.
Chapter 7: Social Plugins – Social Sharing
We’ve all been on websites that ask you to ‘like’ them on Twitter, Facebook, or other social websites. That is easily accomplished today through the use of ‘plugins’ created just for these purposes. Web developers only have to include the available plugins in their applications to provide these functions.
Chapter 8: Security
Security is an important consideration when developing web applications, whether it’s a business websites or a smartphone app for consumers. Encryption of login information, data validation, logging of update activity and other topics are covered in these links. Not all topics pertain to every type of web development effort, but each is worth considering.
Chapter 9: Testing
Once your website or application has been designed and coded, it’s time for testing. There are multiple phases of testing that need to be performed:
Unit testing – this is the process of the web developer putting the site/application through its paces, making sure that every portion of the code performs as designed. Each possible action that a user would be expected to take should be tested at least once during this phase, to ensure that every link works properly, data is presented as expected, validation of data entered by the user is thorough and correct, and database tables are updated correctly.
System testing – once you’re comfortable with the initial performance of the application, it’s time to get it migrated to a test server environment for a more thorough shakeout by multiple users. This is where the application is utilized as it is expected to be once released to your target audience. Websites lose credibility very quickly when users encounter functions that don’t work properly, misspellings, broken links, and poor performance. Testing procedures need to take all these topics into account, before porting applications to production/public use.
Chapter 10: Optimization – Search Engine Optimization
If no one can find your website it won’t provide a lot of value to you as a web developer, or your target audience. There are basic guidelines to be followed to improve the likelihood that browser searches will ‘discover’ your website, returning the link to your site and enticing the viewer to click on it for your content. This is known as search engine optimization (SEO). Subject matter that you want to attract users to should incorporate keywords that are more likely to be used as search criteria, resulting in a ‘hit’ to your site.
Chapter 11: Hosting
Last but certainly not least – where is your application going to run? If it will be a server that needs to store and retain data, you need security, performance, and reliability. Rather than invest in computer and server infrastructure that must be maintained and upgraded consistently, many businesses of all sizes today rely on hosted services. These may be cloud hosted servers, virtual private servers (VPS) or even a combination of servers with differing operating systems such as Windows or Linux servers.
Hosting frees the web developer or business from the day-to-day management of the infrastructure and associated upgrades, not to mention the cost of those activities.
Web development can be a challenging but rewarding activity whether pursued as a career or personal endeavor. There are many options available for web developers, and many resources exist to help all skill levels continue to expand their knowledge and expertise.
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