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What does a Web Developer Do?

By: Jacob Mathison

Twitter: @TheLatestByte

Post Date: 2024-01-06


Web developers are the people who know how to create a website, and are the architects behind the websites and applications we use daily. They range from freelancers creating customized solutions to enterprise teams building complex systems. Freelance web developers often focus on niche markets or technologies, providing flexible and innovative services. Web masters maintain and optimize sites to ensure they run smoothly, while agencies offer comprehensive design, development, and strategy services. At the enterprise level, developers manage large-scale projects, emphasizing scalability and security. In every setting, web developers are essential in crafting functional, efficient, and engaging digital experiences.



Being a freelancer in web development offers independence, flexibility, and the opportunity to work on a diverse range of projects. Freelancers tailor their services to meet specific client needs, often working from home or personal offices. They must market themselves effectively, showcasing their skills and portfolio to attract business. This path requires not just technical prowess in coding and design but also skills in communication, time management, and self-discipline.

Freelancers often specialize in certain areas, such as front-end development, e-commerce, or specific content management systems, to differentiate themselves in the market. They set their schedules, choose their clients, and have the freedom to negotiate contracts that suit their working style and financial needs.

However, freelancing also involves challenges like fluctuating workloads, income instability, and the responsibility of handling all business aspects, from client acquisition to billing. Successful freelancers continuously learn and adapt to new technologies, network with other professionals, and manage their time efficiently to deliver projects on time and maintain a steady stream of work. Despite these challenges, for many, the autonomy and varied nature of freelance work make it a highly rewarding career in web development.


Web Master

Web masters are the custodians of websites, ensuring that they function properly, remain secure, and are continuously updated. Their role is critical in managing the day-to-day operations of a website, which includes a variety of tasks from technical troubleshooting to content management.

A web master's responsibilities might include updating website content, ensuring that the site's architecture is accessible and efficient, and monitoring its performance. They work to optimize load times, implement security measures, and respond to user feedback. Additionally, they are often involved in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to increase the site's visibility and traffic.

Web masters need a broad skill set, including knowledge of web programming languages, SEO strategies, database management, and graphic design. They must also be adept at problem-solving and possess a keen eye for detail to maintain the quality and consistency of the website.

In larger organizations, a web master may work with a team, including content creators, designers, and other specialists, to ensure the website aligns with business goals and branding. In smaller settings, the web master might be a jack-of-all-trades, handling everything from the website's design to its backend infrastructure.

The role of a web master is ever-evolving, adapting to new web technologies and user expectations. They play a crucial role in ensuring that websites are not only functional and secure but also engaging and relevant to users.



Agency work in web development often involves a team-based approach, where each member brings specialized skills to the table. Agencies typically offer a full spectrum of services, from web design and development to digital marketing and SEO. In this setting, the complexity of projects usually requires a collaborative effort of professionals with expertise in different areas of web development.

In an agency, the division of labor is more pronounced, with individuals or departments focusing on their area of expertise. For instance, graphic designers concentrate on the visual aspects, creating engaging and brand-consistent layouts, while front-end developers implement these designs into functional websites. Back-end developers work on server-side code, databases, and application logic, ensuring that the website operates smoothly and efficiently.

Other specialized roles in an agency might include user experience (UX) designers, who focus on making the site intuitive and enjoyable to navigate, and content strategists, who develop and manage the content to ensure that it serves the user's needs and supports SEO goals. Project managers oversee the project's progress, ensuring that it stays on schedule and within budget, while client relations specialists maintain communication with clients, gathering requirements, and providing updates.

Working in an agency environment allows for greater resource sharing and collaboration, leading to more robust and innovative solutions. It also provides individuals the opportunity to deepen their expertise in specific areas of web development, contributing to higher quality work and professional growth. As technology evolves, so do the roles within an agency, requiring continuous learning and adaptation to deliver cutting-edge web solutions.


Service Provider

Service providers in the realm of web development offer specialized services that cater to specific aspects of building and maintaining websites and applications. Unlike agencies that typically provide a comprehensive suite of services, service providers might focus on particular niches or stages of the web development process. These can range from web hosting and server management to specific technological solutions like e-commerce platforms or content management systems.

A service provider's role is often more narrowly defined and technical. For example, a hosting service provider is responsible for ensuring that websites are accessible, running smoothly, and secure on the servers. They may offer various hosting options, manage network infrastructure, and provide technical support. Similarly, a provider specializing in SEO services will focus exclusively on strategies to improve a website's ranking and visibility.

The relationship with clients also differs. While agencies often handle the broad scope of a project from start to finish, service providers might work with clients on a single aspect of their website or offer ongoing support and maintenance. Clients might turn to service providers for their expertise in a particular area or to supplement the skills they lack in-house or haven't sourced from an agency.

Moreover, service providers often scale their solutions, offering packages that can be tailored to different sizes of businesses or types of projects. This scalability ensures that they can serve a wide range of clients, from small businesses needing basic web services to large corporations requiring advanced infrastructure and technical support.



Enterprise-level web development refers to the creation and management of large-scale, complex web applications and systems typically used by large organizations. This level of development is distinct from agency or service provider roles due to its scale, complexity, integration, and the strategic importance of the projects involved.

At the enterprise level, web development projects often involve building extensive intranets, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, complex e-commerce platforms, and other critical business applications. These systems must be highly reliable, secure, scalable, and capable of integrating with a wide array of other business systems and technologies. As such, enterprise web developers need to have a deep understanding of various programming languages, database management, system integration, cybersecurity, and often, knowledge of specific industries.

Another key difference is the team structure and dynamics. Enterprise web development teams are usually larger and more hierarchical, involving roles like system architects, database administrators, developers specializing in different layers of the application, project managers, QA testers, and security analysts. Collaboration and coordination across various departments and stakeholders are crucial, as these developments are typically central to an organization's operations.

In contrast to agencies or service providers, enterprise web development often involves ongoing maintenance, updates, and continuous improvement over the years, rather than a project with a defined beginning and end. Developers might work in-house as part of the organization's IT department or be part of a dedicated development firm that contracts with the enterprise to provide long-term service.

Furthermore, enterprise-level work requires not just technical skills but also a deep understanding of the business's needs, objectives, and processes. Developers in this context need to ensure that the solutions they create align closely with strategic business goals, provide a high return on investment, and can evolve with the changing needs of the organization.


How to choose your focus

Deciding which type of web developer to become starts with understanding your interests, skills, and career goals. If you value independence and variety, freelancing might suit you. For those who enjoy collaboration and specialized roles, agency work could be appealing. If you're interested in focusing on a specific technological solution, consider becoming a service provider. And if you're drawn to large-scale projects and strategic business solutions, enterprise-level development might be your path. Reflect on your preferred working environment, the kind of projects that excite you, and how you want your career to grow over time. Your decision should align with where you see the most personal and professional fulfillment.

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