Web Development Vs. Software Development: What Is the Difference?

As technology continues to transform all aspects of our lives, a lot more people are moving towards careers that involve programming, computer science, and technology in general. With how fast technology has grown, there hasn’t been enough time for some terms used in programming to acquire concrete meanings. Because of this, some of these terms end up being used incorrectly or interchangeably even though they have completely different meanings. For many getting into this space, the terms software development and web development can be confusing because of how they are used. Today, we are going to look at what both of these terms mean and what the careers that involve them look like.

Software Development Vs. Software Development: What Is the Difference?

The primary difference between software and web development is the programs and tools developers work with as well as what they create. From their names, it is easy to see that web developers are concerned with the development of websites and web applications, while software developers focus on software that runs on computers, mobile phones, and other devices.

Even with both career options being so different, there are still similarities between them. Both careers require that you have extensive programming experience, as well as great problem-solving skills and strong attention to detail. However, both career options have unique requirements, workflows, and levels of complexity. For example, while web developers work with businesses and marketing departments, software developers tend to work alongside other software developers in tech-oriented, large-scale development environments.

Software Development

Software developers, by virtue of creating the software that runs on different devices, focus on creating software concepts, programming, testing, documenting, iteration, and software maintenance. The software that is born out of their workflows is used to help users interact with various systems for a range of tasks and activities and to achieve certain aims.

Software developers often work with different but related programming languages. They also need to understand not only development practices, but also the complete theory of software development. Because of the complex nature of their work, software developers are often required to have a broad set of skills and techniques.

Web Development 

Web developers can be considered software developers because they develop customer and user-facing software but in the form of websites. Web developers can work with web and graphic designers, in which case the designers come up with the website designs and the web developer turns the designs into code for a website.

Web developers use their coding skills to create web pages that can range from simple one-page websites to larger ecommerce websites. If a product is being accessed through a web browser, there is a good chance that a web developer was involved in its creation.

Client Vs. Server-Side Web Development

Web development can be divided into server and client-side web development. These two focuses are also called back-end and front-end development respectively. As per their names, client-side development focuses on the elements users can see and interact with directly on a website. Server-side development focuses on the systems that support the backend of websites. Think databases. While client-side elements allow users to tell the website what to do, server-side systems are responsible for making these requests possible. Developers who work on both front-end and back-end development are known as full-stack developers.

Web development, much like software development, depends on how well a web developer can write code. While web developers are capable of developing complex websites and systems (think ecommerce websites like Amazon), their skillset is often limited compared to what is required for software development. The understanding of specific programming and markup languages, e.g., JavaScript and HTML, plus a clear understanding of business needs and logic are still essential.

Becoming a Web or Software Developer

If you are considering learning programming to get into web and software development, you should understand that even though both career options require coding and programming skills, the learning paths to acquire those skills are vastly different.

Becoming a software developer requires extensive education, and a lot more than is required of web developers. Most companies ask that software developers have at least a degree in computer science. For advanced software development that requires skills such as security assessment, code analysis, enterprise application development, and other specialized skills, you need an advanced degree. Fortunately, a lot of universities now offer Masters in computer science online programs for software developers who would like to take the next step in their careers.

To gain the experience required to build and work with complex software systems, a lot of software developers intern at software development companies or volunteer their time to develop software that helps them gain this experience. Gaining this experience makes it easier to land a job as a software developer, especially if you are considering very competitive companies, businesses, and workplaces.

Becoming a web developer is a lot easier. Once you have completed a computer science degree or other related degrees, you can take courses that teach web development skills. A common option is bootcamps which are intensive training programs for those who want to get into web development. Another option is the self-taught route where you use the free resources available online and elsewhere to learn web development.

Final Thoughts

The differences between software and web development lie in what both of these developers do. If you are looking to get into either career, you need to understand these differences, especially in the skills, programming languages, and workflows required of you. Businesses and other entities need both web and software developers, so either path will be fine. Software development is a great option for those who have the time and money to invest in getting the necessary degrees, while web development is a great option for those passionate about the web and coding but who do not have the time or money to invest in becoming a software developer. Those who follow the bootcamp route often qualify to become junior web developers in less time than it takes to complete one semester in a software development program.

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