In our digital age, organizations rely on technology to support everything from product development to customer service. As technology advances, career opportunities in information technology (IT) will continue to grow.

Pursuing a career path in IT can be exciting — and lucrative. Professionals with strong technical skills are in high demand, and many job opportunities offer high salaries. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for IT occupations is higher than the median wage for all other occupations. 

Web development and web app development are popular career options for IT professionals. Web developer jobs are expected to grow by 16 percent by 2032 — much faster than jobs in other industries. Between higher salaries and job security, the future looks bright for professionals with web application development skills.

What Is Web Application Development?

Web application development is the process of creating interactive web-based applications that are accessed through web browsers. It is a subset of web development, which involves designing, building, and maintaining websites and web applications.

Web developers build webpages, which are primarily static and display information that users can consume. Web application developers build web applications, which are dynamic and interactive. Web applications have functionality that enables a user to perform tasks. 

For example, a bank has a website that displays information about its products and services. A web developer created the website and maintains it using basic coding languages like HTML and CSS. 

The bank also has an online banking application, where customers access their accounts, transfer money, and pay bills. The bank customer signs in to access their account and manage their tasks. A web application developer created this application using more advanced programming languages like React or PHP. 

What is the Web Application Development Process?

Web application development typically involves a seven-step process that entails the following eight phases:

  1. Identify the purpose. Website applications solve problems. The first step in developing a web application is to identify the problem that your application will solve.
  2. Conduct research. Next, research the needs of potential users. You may also research and assess other applications that offer similar solutions.
  3. Define the functionality. This step is about defining what the application will do. Document how the user will interact with the application and what features it will have. 
  4. Sketch the design and workflow.  Think about how users will progress through your application to solve their problem. Map their journey from beginning to end and try. Be sure to anticipate all the different scenarios a user could expect or choose.
  5. Build the application. After the prototype has been approved, you’ll begin coding the front and back end of the application, including the integrating databases needed to support the application.  
  6. Develop a prototype. Next, create a prototype that includes basic functionality. This step helps you and stakeholders visualize the product and making decisions about design and functionality before you develop the app. 
  7. Test and validate. Before pushing the application out in a live environment, you want to make sure the features and functionality work properly. If you are building an application for a corporation, testing can happen with other IT team members or with employees in a testing environment. If you are building an application on your own, you can recruit peers and other professionals in your network to test the functionality. 
  8. Deploy the application. Once you have tested the functionality, the application can be pushed into a live environment.

7 Web Application Development Skills Needed for Success

If you’re considering a career in web development or web application development, here are seven essential web developer skills you need to be successful. 

Front-End Web Development

The front end of a website or application is what the user sees. It must be user friendly, functional, accessible, and visually appealing. Front-end web development encompasses the visual and interactive aspects of a website or web application.

Front-end developers write code in languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to style layouts, structure content, and create interactive elements like forms. They apply web design principles to ensure the user interface is intuitive, aesthetically pleasing, and responsive across various devices and screen sizes. 

UX & UI 

Web developers and web application developers embrace the best practices of user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design — important aspects of the website or application’s front end. 

UI includes all of the interactive features on a website or application — the different screens, buttons, icons, and other visual elements the user interacts with. UX encompasses the overall experience a user has with the website or application. 

You can’t achieve good UX without a good UI, but you can have good UI and a bad UX. For example, a web application may look great (good UI), but if the application loads slowly or it takes too many screens to get to a needed action (UX), then people aren’t going to use it. 

Back-End Web Development

The back end of the website or app encompasses everything that users don’t see. It is the mechanics — the code — that makes the front end work properly. The back end also includes the databases that collect and connect data captured in an application.

Back-end development relies on programming languages like  Java, Python, and PHP. Developers also need to be skilled at connecting their server-side code to the internet so users can access the application. 

Version Control

It’s important to document any changes to the code on either the front end or back end so that developers can easily revert to earlier versions in case problems arise. This is done through version control systems such as GitHub, which provides features for branching, merging, and rollback. This allows developers to manage complex codebases and ensure stability. 

Security & Data Protection

Corporations need to fortify their systems and data against cyberattacks, with most taking the “it’s not if, but when” approach to developing a cybersecurity and resiliency plan

Web developers must apply security measures to mitigate risks like data breaches, unauthorized access, and malware. This includes building two-factor authentication into an app’s design and maintaining an offline data backup that can be used to restore an app in case of a breach.  

API Development 

Knowledge of application program interface (API) is critical for developers who are creating web applications. API helps different software elements communicate with each other. For example, an online banking app tracks daily account activity, which is pushed to the user’s mobile device. The mobile device “talks” to the online banking app to deliver the information to you via an API. 

Testing and Troubleshooting

Web developers use problem solving skills and are  committed to testing and debugging their applications to ensure optimal functionality, performance, security, and device and browser compatibility. You’ll need to implement a testing process to identify bugs in the testing environment before code is pushed to production.   

Begin Your Journey in Web Application Development 

If you are ready to start or advance your career developing websites or applications, enroll in Harvard Extension School’s Web Application Development Microcertificate, where you will gain the fundamental skills needed to create and maintain modern web applications. 

You’ll learn the basics of web programming and explore how to manage complex operations. The necessary skills you’ll learn include:

  • The basics of web programming using JavaScript 
  • Building interactive web applications
  • Working with databases, APIs, and server-side programming
  • Understanding authentication, security deployment, and scaling
  • Using either the Jamstack architecture or Node.js to build complex web applications 

Want to take it a step further? The Web Application Development microcertificate stacks into the Front End Web Development Graduate Certificate — allowing you to easily earn multiple credentials.