A Day in the Life of a Web Developer
February 8th, 2017 | Natasha Englehardt
If you’re interested in working as a web developer you might wonder what the career is like day to day. We asked web developers to describe what their typical workdays looked like, and here’s what they told us.
Michael Heath, Full Stack Developer and Owner, 1903 Studios
For many web developers, day to day work includes not just web development but also running a business. This is true for Michael Heath, who splits his time between web development and entrepreneurship, and finds that his work as a business owner enhances his productivity as a web designer:
“My day-to-day tasks consist of scrum meetings, lots of coding, and working with stakeholders to make sure projects are done. However, since I’m also the owner, I also work on gathering leads, assessing new project requirements, and networking. The best skills that I learned in school or from other developers really have little to do with coding and more to do with how to approach problems. While creating websites or apps you inevitably reach a point where you start doing something new that you or maybe no one else has done before. A lot of people give up at this point, because they rely heavily on guides or others to show the way. However, critical problem solving has helped me progress immensely over the course of my career. Anyone can write code, but it’s how you use it that matters.”
Kandra Churchwell, Brand Consultant and Designer, Phases Design Studio
For people who started in the industry before web design and web development were part of most curricula, the day to day work of web development includes expanding skills and learning new techniques to stay current. It also means transforming other skills—perhaps learned in other contexts for other purposes—for use in fresh new settings. This is how Kandra Churchwell describes her “day in the life”:
“I started out as a prepress technician for the print industry, then graduated to full fledged designer. I quickly had to expand my skill set to include web design to stay up with the changing industry. Once I started tackling web design, I realized that I also needed to know web development (coding) and have a basic understanding of SEO so my designs could be coded so that the sites could be found. Web development is one industry where you are always learning something new. And, those new things may not always be best for your project. A good developer will understand the consequences and benefits of various technology options.”
Daniel Davidson, Owner of ByDan
Many web developers use the skills they honed in and out of the classroom every day in their careers. They also find themselves using tools and languages that web development students learn every day; this is certainly true of Daniel Davidson:
“I began as a designer. I learned HTML and CSS first. From there I grew into a web designer position. In that position, I learned PHP and custom WordPress theme development. This allowed me to move into a Lead Design role with a SaaS startup. Here I matured my abilities with the command line, local development environments, and workflow tools. Now I build websites for the SMB market.
My day-to-day tasks include: powering up my dev environment using Vagrant box, gulp, etc., opening my code editor (sublime text) and design software (Photoshop), and coding. In addition to the tools I already mentioned, I also use HTML5, CSS3, Sass, PostCSS, jQuery, PHP, WordPress, and Gulp on a daily basis.”
For many web developers, everyday work activities are made possible not by the specific skills learned in the classroom, but by the thinking skills formal educational programs in web development taught them. For Erik Gfesser, the difference is significant:
“The skills learned in a typical computer science program in school revolve around concepts that might be applied to multiple technologies, so that students can apply more general concepts when faced with using a new tool. For example, I took courses on algorithm design in school, but the focus was not the specific language (e.g. Java or Python) that the professor used to implement the algorithms but the logic and flow that is used by the algorithms, even though it was required to pick up specific languages in order to implement the algorithms. Another example is database design. While I took a course on database design in school, the focus was on how data should be structured and stored, rather than on whether a specific vendor database product (e.g. Oracle or SQL Server) was used.”
Maayan Levy, CEO and Co-Founder EverThere
For many web developers, each day brings a host of new tasks and novel problems to solve. Staying on top of new technologies and interesting developments in the industry is critical, as is honing problem solving abilities. This has been the case for Maayan Levy, as she describes:
“My official training as a web developer and a developer at large started in the Israeli Army computer science school where I served for 7 years, as an instructor, a commander, a full-stack developer and then went on to be an officer (ranked Captain) and a team-leader of DBAs. After my honorary discharge from the service, I looked for a workplace where I can tackle new challenges, learn new things and cutting-edge technologies. I started working for EverThere as a full-stack web developer.
A lot of my tasks at EverThere include running across the board, from front-end development (HTML, SCSS, AngularJS, etc..) to server-side development (Django, Python, C++) to managing servers and services at scale. I develop new features and enhancements, solve problems and perform research. I design and code complex algorithms where necessary to extract the data we need for the next big thing.I set aside a few hours a week to learn new things and implement new ideas and approaches to keep me and the company up-to-date with recent novelties.”
So that’s what a day in the life of a web developer looks like—at least for five of the web development professionals we talked to. One of the best things about working in web development, though, is that the career options are incredibly varied, so your day to day in web development may not look the same. Fortunately, the consistent thread from web developer to web developer is that the day to day work is exciting and fulfilling.