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Introduction to Web Development

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What is Web Development?

Web development is the process of building web applications, software that is accessible in a Web browser. Web development is often the starting point for anyone who wants to be one of the many aspiring web developers or software developers, excited to learn how to code, and wants to build anything on the web.

Web development is divided into two areas: front-end web development (or client-side development) and back-end web development (or server-side development). Using a car as an analogy: front-end web development is the steering wheel and dashboard while back-end web development encompasses all the mechanics under the car’s hood.

A web developer working in both front-end web development and back-end web development is often referred to as a full-stack developer (indicating expertise in the full ‘stack’ of web technologies needed to build a web application). Full stack developers can play both the roles of a front-end developer and a back-end developer and typically are experts in many programming languages.

What is Front-End Web Development?

Front-end development is the process of building the portion of a web application that a user visually sees: the content on the screen, design elements such as colors and style, and the ways in which you interact with these elements. Front-end developers and even many web designers usually have to learn the three major coding languages used in front-end web development: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

What is HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)?

HTML or Hypertext Markup Language is the coding language used for adding and formatting text on a page. If you visit a website and see text on the page, that text is rendered using HTML code. Web developers can build an entire website with HTML alone. If you are on a website using any of the popular web browsers, you can actually view the source code (particularly the HTML) used to create the content on that page.

What is CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)?

CSS or Cascading Style Sheets is the coding language used to style the appearance of a web application (web design). If you visit a website and see any colors, page formatting, or sleek design elements, these are probably created with CSS. CSS can be used for basic site updates like changing a background image’s opacity or scaling and cropping images to more involved design decisions such as making elements sticky or styling major components like your scrollbar. There are so many CSS tricks that can be used to improve the design of your web applications.

What is JavaScript?

JavaScript is one of the most popular coding languages and can be used to add functionality and interactivity to web pages making them much more dynamic websites. Javascript can easily be added to HTML to make your website more engaging to visitors. JavaScript is also a somewhat unique programming language in that it can not only be used for front-end web development, but also back-end web development. Thus it is a really useful skill to be able to code in JavaScript as even pretty sophisticated websites can be fully built with just HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

What is Back-End Web Development?

Back-end development is the process of building the portion of a web application that operates behind the scenes on a remote server or cloud service. Back-end web development might focus on ensuring the web application can perform correctly, accessing a database for storing and retrieving user data, exposing your functionality through an API, talking to other third-party applications, and anything else pertaining to your application’s architecture and security.

Web application back-ends can be written in a wide variety of programming languages, including but not limited to PHP, Ruby, Java, Go, JavaScript, Python, C#, and many more.

Many developers have built backend frameworks in these languages that make it easier for anyone to build web applications. Some of the popular backend web frameworks you can use to build a web application are Flask and Django for Python, and Express for Node.js.

Cloud computing companies, like DigitalOcean, make it easier to build a website without being an expert in back-end web development which typically takes longer to learn than front-end web development. Picking the best tech stack for your application or business is a very important decision.

How to get started with Web Development

The best way to start learning web development is to get hands-on and build your first web application. Typically, it’s easiest to start with front-end web development to create a very simple, static website.

To get started, make sure you have a code editor (such as Visual Studio Code) downloaded and you’ve set up your project within that code editor. Next you’ll want to use HTML elements to build out the content of the page, including any text you want shown and other key elements like a favicon for your website. You can build a very basic website with just HTML or you can build a more stylized website with CSS enriching your HTML. Once the site content and styling is complete, you might also want to consider what it will take to make your web application production-ready, in other words ready to run successfully on the web.

After you’ve built your static website in your local environment (most commonly your own computer), the next step is to publish this site to the web. One way to deploy a static website is via DigitalOcean’s App Platform which offers free hosting for three static sites. App Platform can also help with scaling your application to larger audiences.

Once you’ve learned how to build a static site with HTML and CSS, you can build on these skills by adding more sophisticated functionality, user databases, shopping experiences, 3rd-party integrations, and much much more. Our breadth of tutorials can help you explore all these different possibilities.

Should you learn Web Development?

Think of all the companies in the world that have a website and thus need the help of a web developer or team of web developers and web professionals to build their web application. Working as a web developer (front-developer, back-end developer, or full stack developer) can be a very lucrative and rewarding career. Demand for web development skills is only growing.

While the web development process and web design can feel overwhelming at first, with dedication anyone can become a web developer. Whether you are learning web development for fun to create websites or to work on a hobby web development project or exploring the career path of a web developer, having web development skills is incredibly useful and web development will only become more important as technology advances. We are excited to help you become a web developer.

For other online resources related to web development and web development tutorials, web design, programming languages, learning how to become a web developer or general software developer, and much much more, check out our community articles or ask and answer questions in our Q&A forum.

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