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Software Development vs Web Development

You’re probably familiar with the terms ‘web developer’ and ‘software developer’, even if you don’t fully understand what they mean. Many who are new to coding even think that they’re the same thing.

But if you’re trying to pursue a career, you should know exactly what a developer does, and the differences between these two closely related professions.

The primary difference between web developers vs. software developers has to do with the programs they work with and what they’re trying to create. Web developers are mainly concerned with websites and web applications that run on internet browsers, while software developers are more focused on computer programs for desktop and mobile devices.

web developer vs software developer

Both career fields require extensive programming experience, a strong attention to detail, and a knack for problem solving, but they have different workflows, maintenance requirements, and levels of complexity. For example, web developers often work in close collaboration with business and marketing experts to ensure their company’s website is efficient, user friendly, and aesthetically pleasing. Software developers, on the other hand, tend to work with other tech-oriented co-workers on large-scale software, operating system, and mobile application projects that might not require input from other business units. Ultimately, the career path students choose should align with their professional goals and personal interests, which is why it’s crucial to explore each role in detail before committing the time and resources.

These two terms describe similar areas of expertise, but they’re not the same. We’re going in-depth to discuss the differences and similarities between both.

What’s The Difference Between Web Developers and Software Developers?

Web Developers focus on building websites and apps, while Software Developers specialize in creating more complex programs for both computers and mobile devices.

Who is a Web Developer?

Web Developers build apps and interactive websites. Web development can include everything from simple text files to complicated data processes.

Web developers are creative people who build websites from the ground up. To do this, they need to be proficient in programming languages like JavaScript or Java. They should also be clear on the goals of the business, which will dictate the design of the website. Website developers are often more involved with the non-design aspects of web development, though this isn’t always the case. Web developers use coding and writing markup to create interactive webpages. These pages can be as simple as online text files, or as complicated as e-commerce sites. No matter the end product, if users are accessing it in their web browser, then there’s a good chance that it was built—at least partially—by a web developer. 

Web development can be divided into two separate focuses, namely client side and server side. Client-side development is responsible for every element that users can directly access on the page, while server-side development supports the back-end systems that make up the digital infrastructure of the web page. The client-side systems allow the users to tell the webpage what they want it to do, and the server-side systems are responsible for fulfilling those requests. If you know back-end development and front-end development, you would be called a full-stack developer.

But whether you’re talking about client side or server side, web development, just like software development, is dependent on code. One difference, however, is that web development—while still capable of creating complex products—requires a more-limited skill set than software development. A working understanding of a few specific programming languages, such as JavaScript or Java, and a clear idea of the business end-goals of the webpages in question are often enough.

Web developers are responsible for how a website or web application looks and functions, from its user interface and page layout to back-end systems for gathering data. They work with organization leaders to design unique and engaging websites for businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, and anyone else looking to communicate more effectively online. Web developers are also in charge of maintaining the performance of the websites and applications they create, ensuring users have a consistent and positive browsing experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, common web developer job responsibilities include:

  • Coordinating with clients/business leaders to outline new web design projects
  • Creating and testing web applications and website features
  • Writing code in various programming languages, including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Integrating content into websites, such as graphics, written copy, videos, and audio
  • Establishing technical requirements to support websites’ long-term functionality
  • Developing security elements to protect user data and business assets
  • Monitoring website traffic and performance
Front end development program abuja

Diving a bit deeper, the web development field can be broken down into three specialized areas based on a candidate’s particular skill sets and professional interests: back-end developers, front-end developers, and full-stack developers. Each of these web design roles comes with different expectations and responsibilities:

  1. Back-end web developers: These professionals focus on the technical aspects of websites and web applications that support both basic and advanced functionality. They largely work on administrative components including databases, website architecture, and application logic, creating new APIs and user interfaces based on predefined specifications. Generally speaking, this type of developer is concerned with how websites and web-based applications work on a fundamental level.
  2. Front-end web developers: Sometimes called client-side developers, these design experts are in charge of how websites and applications look and function from the users’ perspective. They are responsible for making all online content easy to access, browse, and interact with, especially for users who may have limited computer skills. Front-end web developers must also ensure their websites are compatible with a wide range of operating systems, browsers, and devices to prevent display and functionality errors.
  3. Full-stack web developers: As the job title suggests, these web design professionals are proficient in both front- and back-end development tasks. Most full-stack web developers have extensive experience in application design, user experience, and programming languages like HTML, JavaScript, MySQL, and others. As such, they are able to fill advisory roles and technical positions that require both computer science and business savvy.

Regardless of which web design positions you’re interested in, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in information systems or computer science can help you assemble the knowledge, skills, and experience you need to launch your career. However, it’s also important to understand which specific skill sets are in high demand, as this will inform your graduate studies and make you more competitive once you join the labor market.

How to Become a Front End Developer in 2022 Skills, Roles, and Salary

Key Web Developer Skills To Know

The core qualifications for most web developer jobs are a strong command of HTML/CSS coding, experience with programming languages like JavaScript and PHP, and an understanding of web application workflows. Depending on the specific role you’re pursuing, you may also need graphic design experience (front-end development) or database management expertise (back-end development). Since web developers handle everything from creating wireframe mockups for new web apps to managing existing websites, it’s important to understand how online platforms are hosted, how users interact with different navigation frameworks, and how engaging content can improve users’ overall experience. Other key skills and traits for web developers include:

  • Attention to detail: Every new feature on a website or web application goes through several rounds of testing to help eliminate errors and streamline the user experience. As such, web developers must be able to identify and resolve problems related to the code, layout, functionality, and overall design of online resources.
  • Creativity: Web developers strive to find creative solutions to specific design challenges. To meet their clients’ expectations, professionals in this field must balance functionality and aesthetics while remaining true to a company’s core brand identity. This includes choosing colors, fonts, and graphics that align with corporate guidelines and existing marketing collateral.
  • Content management: Websites and web-based applications are only as useful as the content users actively engage with. Publishing blog posts, videos, and other online materials is also essential for ranking competitively in search engines, which is why web developers should have at least some experience with content management systems like WordPress, Drupal, and HubSpot.

What is a Software Developer?

Software Developers, on the other hand, are responsible for creating more complex applications and programs for computers and mobile devices. They create, conceptualize, program, document, test, and upgrade software and their components. Software developers generally create programs and applications for stand-alone desktop and mobile platforms. The software they create allows average users to interact with computer tools for a range of activities and tasks.

To accomplish this, software developers work with many interrelated programming languages. Additionally, they need to have a clear understanding of not only development best practices, but also the theory behind the programming. As such, software development demands a broad range of learned skills. Software developers often work in an agile environment, also known as scrum. DevOps is also a culture, or practice, known to software developers. DevOps is a way to unify software development and software operation.

Software developers invent, manage, and optimize computer programs that run on desktops, laptops, smartphones, and other mobile devices. Using different programming languages ― such as Java, Python, C#, and SQL ― these computer science professionals write complex code that governs how desktop applications function. Many software developers work for large technology companies, like Microsoft and Oracle, designing new products or fine-tuning existing applications. This includes troubleshooting code bugs, updating user interfaces, creating new in-app tools, and much more. Software developers have some combination of the following responsibilities:

  • Analyzing users’ needs and designing software-based solutions
  • Recommending software upgrades to existing computer programs and systems
  • Designing new applications for specific audiences (consumers, enterprises, etc.)
  • Creating detailed models and diagrams that outline which software code is needed
  • Documenting all aspects of application and system design for future reference
  • Testing code for new applications to ensure consistency and efficiency
  • Ensuring software is compatible with present data management systems

Software developers are heavily involved in every stage of the application design process, from the initial planning to the final rollout of new computer programs. However, just like web developers, professionals in this field are often categorized into specific roles based on their specializations: software applications developers and software systems developers.

  • Software applications developers: These professionals tend to focus on designing specific desktop and mobile applications, tools, and games for consumer audiences. They often work on the same project for many years and are responsible for ensuring their software is functional, engaging, and efficient.
  • Software systems developers: Developers in this role are largely concerned with designing systems-level software for enterprise customers, rather than the public. They use their extensive programming knowledge to create computing applications for a range of industries, from manufacturing to aerospace and beyond. The software they develop is used to manage corporate networking apps, database management systems, and other critical infrastructure.

Every software development position has its own unique responsibilities ― some companies rely on developers to actually write code, while others assign this routine work to dedicated programmers. Ultimately, the job openings students apply for should mirror their personal interests and the hard skills they’ve developed during their undergraduate studies. If you’re looking for a more hands-on role, try to prioritize openings that list coding as a core requirement.

Key Software Developer Skills

Many of the skills and traits essential to web developers are equally important for software developers, especially those related to coding, programming languages, and user interface design. This is because professionals in this field must be able to create software solutions that solve very specific problems. For example, if a company was having difficulty managing and organizing its data, a software developer could create an application that collates large data sets in real time. The projects developers would be involved with largely depend on the company they work for, the clients they’re assigned to, and the business challenges they’re trying to overcome. That said, software developers often have particular characteristics that make them well-suited to the demands of their job, such as:

  • Analytical skills: User behaviors and preferences are constantly changing, which can make it difficult to create desktop and mobile applications that will hold up over time. Software developers must be able to analyze user trends and make recommendations that will support the shifting design, content, and management needs of their users.
  • Critical thinking: Every piece of software should solve a particular problem or need, which forces developers to think through the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions. Finding the best approach to a given problem is at the core of the software development profession, requiring a strong attention to detail and willingness to offer creative recommendations.
  • Interpersonal competencies: While software developers don’t collaborate with as many stakeholders as web developers, they still rely on their communication and interpersonal skills when engaged on large projects. Pursuing this career will require you to work closely with other software developers, computer science experts, and IT professionals who may have very different ideas about the applications you’re creating.

How to Become A Web Developer or Software Developer

Once you have a firm grasp of coding basics, you’ll need to hone in some of your technical prowess and soft skills in order to ultimately become a Web Developer.

Both web and software developers are dependent on writing code. With that being said, excelling as a Web Developer or a Software Developer requires a different set of skills.

A Web Developer needs to have a strong knowledge of advanced JavaScript. They should also learn Bootstrap, HTML and CSS in order to design the fundamentals of a website.

If their job requires them to design and customize websites, it’s important that they also understand the basics of user experience.

Like a Web Developer, a Software Developer should also be able to write code that’s clean and can be reused, tested, and read clearly. They should have a firm grasp of the business operations of the organization so they can deliver the exact type of software for their customer needs.

Moreover, a Software Developer is expected to create solutions that are scalable and, at the same time, increase profits for the company. As opposed to web development, software development involves a broader range of skills including DevOps, which is used to unify software operation and development.