Web developers build and maintain websites and web applications. Although their work usually focuses solely on the underlying software and databases (known as the ‘back end’), some web developers work on the interface and visual design (the ‘front end’), while others combine both (‘full-stack development’).
In an agency or as a freelancer, a web developer’s job is to create products that meet clients’ needs. The work can be particularly varied with many projects to work on simultaneously and lots of meetings with clients to discuss their requirements and update them on progress.
In all cases a web developer’s primary task is creating reliable and high performing applications and services, which can be accessed over the internet. Job titles vary according to the focus of the role.
The day-to-day work of a web developer varies depending on whether they work mainly for clients or in-house for an organisation, but most roles include:
- planning and prototyping new applications
- designing the architecture of the components of an application
- deciding on the best technologies and languages for the project
- testing sites and applications in different browsers and environments
- problem solving
- fixing bugs in existing projects
- testing new features thoroughly to ensure they perform the correct task in all cases
- running performance benchmarking tests
- reviewing colleagues’ code
- building and testing Application Program Interfaces (APIs) for applications to exchange data
- researching, incorporating and contributing to Open Source projects
- meeting designers, developers and project staff for progress updates
- gathering requirements from clients and users
- learning and testing new technologies, frameworks and languages
- staying up to date with new trends and advancements in web development
- building and maintaining databases
- refactoring and optimising existing code
- documenting code so other developers can understand and contribute to it
- attending and speaking at web development conferences and workshops
- designing information architecture within an application or website.
- Salaries for junior or entry-level web developers can range from £19,000 to £25,000.
- Mid-level and senior web developers usually earn between £25,000 and £35,000.
- Lead developers typically earn between £35,000 and £50,000.
Salary also depends on the type of company and its location. For example, salaries are usually higher if you’re working in London and are employed by a large company. However, progression to a senior or lead developer may be faster within a smaller company.
Specialising in newer or more sought after technologies can lead to higher salaries.
Freelance work is common and widely available. Contractor rates vary from around £200 to £365 per day, depending on experience and location (Tech Cities Job Watch, 2016).
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Web developers typically work normal office hours (9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday). However, those working for agencies may be expected to work longer or irregular hours to meet deadlines, or to work on projects for clients in different time zones.
What to expect
- Remote work and self-employment are common as the only equipment needed is a good quality computer and internet connection. Companies may advertise for web developers on a completely remote basis.
- Women are currently under-represented in the IT industry as a whole but the issue is being addressed by the sector. Organisations such as Code First: Girls, Women in Technology, Rails Girls and GeekGirlMeetup have been set up to provide communities, vacancies and educational tools for women wanting to work in web development and IT.
- There is currently a skills shortage for programming and development roles so opportunities are good for those with the right combination of skills. In 2016, web development accounted for around a third of all IT vacancies (Tech Cities Job Watch, 2016).
- In the UK, most office-based web development roles are in cities. London, Manchester and Leeds were the top three cities for web development vacancies in 2016 (Tech Cities Job Watch, 2016).
- Dress code is usually informal except when meeting clients where you’ll be expected to dress smartly.
- A small amount of travel is common in client-focused roles to meet clients over the course of a project. There will usually be opportunities to travel to conferences and workshops.