Do you wish there was a How It’s Made episode on building websites? Well unfortunately there are no big factories or assembly lines involved, so I doubt the film crew is going to be on the scene anytime soon! But if you’ve done a little digging then no doubt you have come across the term webdev.
What is Webdev? Today I’ll explain what that means and show you how all the roles work together to create wonderful and engaging websites. And if you want corny How Its Made puns, I will not disappoint you. (That show us just FULL of puns!)
Webdev is a Catch All Term For Website Building Technical Work
Officially, “webdev” is a shortened form of web development, which itself is often divided into specialities. A web team is regularly made up of multiple people, or even several people for each specialty job. Though every company has their custom blend of webdev team members that makes them unique, the general theme is that you will have Frontend Development People and Backend Development People.
Frontend and Backend What?
I want you to think of the Redbox machines that you can rent DVDs from. Have you ever seen the insides of one of those things? Here’s what they look like when open. It’s a whole different world in there, right?!
Backend Web Developers
So Redbox is such a great example because we have quite a lot of stuff going on behind the cover. The machine has to keep track of what DVD is in every slot of that carousel, and it has to spin and whir around to grab just the right product when the customer orders it. This is all “magic behind the curtain” kind of stuff, and the customer has no real idea what’s going on in there. They just know it needs to work, and their desired product should drop through the slot.
This is a lot like the Backend portion of a website build. They make sure your website does everything right behind the scenes. Where the Redbox machine has gears and actuators and wires, they have their own set of backend “server side” tools. Whether you are selecting a DVD from the kiosk or placing an order online, the backend tasks are the ones that actually deliver on it.
Frontend Web Developers
Similarly on every Redbox Kiosk there has to be a panel to interact with. We need a place to swipe our card, and select the movie we want to rent, and get a receipt. This is part of our User Interface, the thing we look at and touch and interact with. These things are all designed carefully with humans (and our nature) in mind. Regardless of how the product is delivered, we want it to be easy to use this thing. That’s the Frontend side of things, and it leads to a great User Experience.
See look, you’re learning things you didn’t even think were on the agenda. We just talked about UI/UX — user interface and user experience. They’re all related and intertwined.
Who All is Involved in Webdev?
The UI/UX Professional
If we’re looking at webdev as the entire process of creating a site, you will generally have a dedicated UI/UX person (possibly a designer) working with you to create the interface graphics first. Together you will make sure that things are pleasant and easy to navigate. This designer will be well versed in what’s possible, what works well in production situations, and what your customers will really want. They may do some A/B testing with you.
The Frontend Developer
The next person in the chain is a frontend developer, who will see your graphics and turn that into something a web browser like Chrome can understand. They’ll create HTML with all the necessary styles and interactivity, ready to bring your features to life. For almost all applications they will be looking at mobile compatible design, and they’ll test out how your website looks across several devices and make sure it works on them all.
The Backend Developer
With the website’s frontend built (remember that is like the front panel of the kiosk) the project is fleshed out by the backend developer. Is the website supposed to save the email address in a database when the user submits a form? They’ll make it happen. Does an email need to be sent out, or a document written up and returned? Any heavy lifting that the website needs to do, the backend developer will get that implemented for you. Like the innards of that DVD kiosk, getting all those little belts and gears in place. It’s got to run like clockwork.
Webdev Takes a Team, Or Maybe Not?
Though I’ve just described a scenario above where there are at least three team members, this is not always the case. Many times there are more! On the most high traffic of web properties, a team of talented devs are working to constantly polish and release new features… Both on the frontend and backend of the spectrum.
There isn’t a hard and fast rule that webdev needs a team of specialists, though. There are plenty of people (allow me to introduce myself, the Scottsdale custom website developer) who have all of these skills and build websites top to bottom. Many people specialize in both frontend and backend webdev. It takes a big committment and the maintenance of two skill sets, but it can be done. And highly rewarding, I might add.
What Tech/Languages Do These Webdev Pros Use?
Out of the roles I’ve talked about above, two are technical and require code writing skills.
Backend developers have a lot more options and can be even more specialized. Languages you’ve heard of include Node, PHP, Python, Ruby, and also C# or Java solutions for very large clients. As for additional product titles there are so many more, but a short list would include ASP.Net, Django, Drupal, Laravel, Rails, Spring, and WordPress. Backend developers also must keep a good work environment and also thoroughly document, keep track of, and test the code that they write.
Are you ready for the terrible pun? Here we go, please read this in the H.I.M. announcer’s voice:
So if you’re not sure what kind of webdev stack you’re running,
sometimes your best bet is to put down the menu and…
Ask your server.
Yeah, I totally love that show.
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