Web development is a broad term for the work involved in developing a web site for the Internet (World Wide Web) or an intranet (a private network). This can include web design, web content development, client liaison, client-side/server-side scripting, web server and network security configuration, and e-commerce development. However, among web professionals, “web development” usually refers to the main non-design aspects of building web sites: writing markup and coding. Web development can range from developing the simplest static single page of plain text to the most complex web-based internet applications, electronic businesses, or social network services.
For larger organizations and businesses, web development teams can consist of hundreds of people (web developers). Smaller organizations may only require a single permanent or contracting webmaster, or secondary assignment to related job positions such as a graphic designer and/or information systems technician. Web development may be a collaborative effort between departments rather than the domain of a designated department.
Web development as an industry
Since the mid-1990s, web development has been one of the fastest growing industries in the world. In 1995 there were fewer than 1,000 web development companies in the United States, but by 2005 there were over 30,000 such companies in the U.S. alone.[dubious – discuss] The growth of this industry is being pushed by large businesses wishing to sell products and services to their customers and to automate business workflow.
In addition, cost of Web site development and hosting has dropped dramatically during this time. Instead of costing ten thousands of dollars, as was the case for early websites, one can now develop a simple web site for less than a thousand dollars, depending on the complexity and amount of content. Smaller Web site development companies are now able to make web design accessible to both smaller companies and individuals further fueling the growth of the web development industry. As far as web development tools and platforms are concerned, there are many systems available to the public free of charge to aid in development. A popular example is the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack, which is usually distributed free of charge. This fact alone has manifested into many people around the globe setting up new Web sites daily and thus contributing to increase in web development popularity. Another contributing factor has been the rise of easy to use WYSIWYG web development software, most prominently Adobe Dreamweaver, Netbeans, WebDev, or Microsoft Expression Studio, Adobe Flex. Using such software, virtually anyone can develop a Web page in a matter of minutes. Knowledge of HyperText Markup Language (HTML), or other programming languages is not required, but recommended for professional results.
The next generation of web development tools uses the strong growth in LAMP, Java Platform, Enterprise Edition technologies and Microsoft .NET technologies to provide the Web as a way to run applications online. Web developers now help to deliver applications as Web services which were traditionally only available as applications on a desk based computer.
Instead of running executable code on a local computer, users are interacting with online applications to create new content. This has created new methods in communication and allowed for many opportunities to decentralize information and media distribution. Users are now able to interact with applications from many locations, instead of being tied to a specific workstation for their application environment.
Examples of dramatic transformation in communication and commerce led by web development include e-commerce. Online auction sites such as eBay have changed the way consumers consume and purchase goods and services. Online resellers such as Amazon.com and Buy.com (among many, many others) have transformed the shopping and bargain hunting experience for many consumers. Another good example of transformative communication led by web development is the blog. Web applications such as WordPress and Movable Type have created easily implemented blog environments for individual Web sites. Open source content management systems such as Joomla!, Drupal, XOOPS, and TYPO3 and enterprise content management systems such as Alfresco have extended web development into new modes of interaction and communication.
In addition, web development has moved to a new phase of Internet communication. Computer web sites are no longer simply tools for work or commerce but used most for communication. Websites such as Facebook and Twitter provide users a platform to freely communicate. This new form of web communication is also changing e-commerce through the number of hits and online advertisement.
Web Development can be split into many areas and a typical and basic web development hierarchy might consist of:
Client Side Coding
Flash Adobe Flash Player is an ubiquitous browser plugin ready for RIAs. Flex 2 is also deployed to the Flash Player (version 9+).
Microsoft Silverlight Microsoft’s browser plugin that enables animation, vector graphics and high-definition video playback, programmed using XAML and .NET programming languages.
REAL Studio Web Edition is a rapid application development environment for the web. The language is object oriented and is similar to both VB and Java. Applications are uniquely compiled to binary code.
HTML5 and CSS3 Latest HTML proposed standard combined with the latest proposed standard for CSS natively supports much of the client-side functionality provided by other frameworks such as Flash and Silverlight
Server Side Coding
ASP (Microsoft proprietary)
CSP, Server-Side ANSI C
ColdFusion (Adobe proprietary, formerly Macromedia, formerly Allaire)
CGI and/or Perl (open source)
Groovy (programming language) Grails (framework)
Java, e.g. Java EE or WebObjects
PHP (open source)
Python, e.g. Django (web framework) (open source)
REAL Studio Web Edition
Ruby, e.g. Ruby on Rails (open source)
Smalltalk e.g. Seaside, AIDA/Web
Websphere (IBM proprietary)
.NET (Microsoft proprietary)
The World Wide Web has become a major delivery platform for web development a variety of complex and sophisticated enterprise applications in several domains. In addition to their inherent multifaceted functionality, these web applications exhibit complex behavior and place some unique demands on their usability, performance, security and ability to grow and evolve. However, a vast majority of these applications continue to be developed in an ad-hoc way, contributing to problems of usability, maintainability, quality and reliability.(1)(2) While web development can benefit from established practices from other related disciplines, it has certain distinguishing characteristics that demand special considerations. In recent years of web development there have been some developments towards addressing these problems and requirements. As an emerging discipline, web engineering actively promotes systematic, disciplined and quantifiable approaches towards successful development of high-quality, ubiquitously usable web-based systems and applications.(3)(4) In particular, web engineering focuses on the methodologies, techniques and tools that are the foundation of web application development and which support their design, development, evolution, and evaluation. Web application development has certain characteristics that make it different from traditional software, information system, or computer application development.
Web engineering is multidisciplinary and encompasses contributions from diverse areas: systems analysis and design, software engineering, hypermedia/hypertext engineering, requirements engineering, human-computer interaction, user interface, information engineering, information indexing and retrieval, testing, modelling and simulation, project management, and graphic design and presentation. Web engineering is neither a clone, nor a subset of software engineering, although both involve programming and software development. While web engineering uses software engineering principles, web development encompasses new approaches, methodologies, tools, techniques, and guidelines to meet the unique requirements for web-based applications.
Client Side + Server Side
Pyjamas is a tool and framework for developing Ajax applications and Rich Internet Applications in python.
Tersus is a platform for the development of rich web applications by visually defining user interface, client side behavior and server side processing. (open source)
However lesser known languages like Ruby and Python are often paired with database servers other than MySQL (the M in LAMP). Below are example of other databases currently in wide use on the web. For instance some developers prefer a LAPR(Linux/Apache/PostgreSQL/Ruby on Rails) setup for development.
DB2 (IBM proprietary)
Microsoft SQL Server
In practice, many web developers will also have interdisciplinary skills / roles, including:
Graphic design / web design
Information architecture and copywriting/copyediting with web usability, accessibility and search engine optimization in mind
Project management, QA and other aspects common to IT development in general
The above list is a simple website development hierarchy and can be extended to include all client side and server side aspects. It is still important to remember that web development is generally split up into client side coding, covering aspects such as the layout and design, and server side coding, which covers the website’s functionality and back end systems.
Looking at these items from an “umbrella approach”, client side coding such as XHTML is executed and stored on a local client (in a web browser) whereas server side code is not available to a client and is executed on a web server which generates the appropriate XHTML which is then sent to the client. The nature of client side coding allows you to alter the HTML on a local client and refresh the pages with updated content (locally), web designers must bear in mind the importance and relevance to security with their server side scripts. If a server side script accepts content from a locally modified client side script, the web development of that page is poorly sanitized with relation to security.
Web development takes into account many security considerations, such as data entry error checking through forms, filtering output, and encryption. Malicious practices such as SQL injection can be executed by users with ill intent yet with only primitive knowledge of web development as a whole. Scripts can be exploited to grant unauthorized access to malicious users trying to collect information such as email addresses, passwords and protected content like credit card numbers.
Some of this is dependent on the server environment (most commonly Apache or Microsoft IIS) on which the scripting language, such as PHP, Ruby, Python, Perl or ASP is running, and therefore is not necessarily down to the web developer themselves to maintain. However, stringent testing of web applications before public release is encouraged to prevent such exploits from occurring.
Keeping a web server safe from intrusion is often called Server Port Hardening. Many technologies come into play when keeping information on the internet safe when it is transmitted from one location to another. For instance Secure Socket Layer Encryption (SSL) Certificates are issued by certificate authorities to help prevent internet fraud. Many developers often employ different forms of encryption when transmitting and storing sensitive information. A basic understanding of information technology security concerns is often part of a web developer’s knowledge.
Because new security holes are found in web applications even after testing and launch, security patch updates are frequent for widely used applications. It is often the job of web developers to keep applications up to date as security patches are released and new security concerns are discovered.