What Web Development Niche Is Best For Me?
There are numerous distinct niches within the web development world. If you’re looking to break into this world, you’ve likely been wondering what web development niche you may be best suited to.
Maybe you already have some sort of idea of what web development niche you’d like to aim for. Or maybe you have no familiarity with the different roles and responsibilities within this sector to begin with.
Either way, let’s firstly go over the 3 “main” web development niches. Then we’ll branch off into what I would consider to be the related niches — areas that are tangentially related and/or integral to web development itself.
So, without further ado.
1. The front end web developer
The front end developer is responsible for the user-facing aspect of the website. So what you can see when you visit the web page. How you can interact with the page.
They will implement the website design as a whole; the colours and theme of the website, the structure and the layout, they’ll ensure it matches the client’s brand and so on.
The toolset of the front end developer includes:
As a very minimum.
HTML (hypertext markup language) is the markup language of the web. All websites are constructed from this.
CSS (cascading stylesheets) allow front end developers to make the website look pretty. It’s how they apply “style” to a HTML structure.
The modern front end developer will also likely use a selection of these tools:
- A package manager like npm
- Build tools like webpack
- Testing frameworks like mocha or Jest
- A linter like ESLint to ensure consistency when writing code
As you can see, the front end developer’s toolkit is fairly sophisticated, and these days – there is a fair amount of complexity in this regard. Luckily, there are solutions to assist with project bootstrapping. A notable example being something like Create React App, which would be used when creating React projects specifically.
At it’s core, however, the front end developer’s role is to build up and maintain the look and feel as well as the usability of the website or application.
When considering what web development niche is potentially the most suitable for you, if you enjoy contributing to the look and feel, the structure or the aesthetics of a project – then front end development may be a good path to pursue.
2. The back end web developer
As opposed to the front end developer, the back end developer doesn’t deal directly with the look and feel of the website.
Instead, they deal with what is very much “under the hood”.
Think of the front end of the website as a shell. All (or a lot of) the underlying functionality takes places in the back end, on the server and in the database. This is also where data is retrieved from, and this obviously forms a crucial part of what the website actually is and does.
The back end developer’s skillset is diverse, much like that of the front end developer. There are many different languages, tools, techniques and libraries that a back end developer must be aware of.
Typical back end languages would include (but are not limited to):
With some of the more common database solutions being:
With this in mind, we can condense a back end developers main skills down in to two distinct areas: the ability to write code on the back end with the ability to pair this code with a relevant database solution.
From here, the back end developer has the capability to “feed” data to the front end app, which the front end developer will receive and present to the end-user.
When deciding what web development role you’d like to pursue, if you’re less interested in the look and feel of a website and more interested in the nuts and bolts – what goes on under the hood, the technical pieces — back end development may be the route for you.
3. The full stack web developer
The full stack developer is a developer who possesses both the front end as well as the back end skillsets outlined above.
In theory, the full stack developer can complete every aspect of the project by themselves. They can build out a front end and then couple that with the appropriate back end.
If you don’t have a particular bias as to what web development role is best for you in terms of front end vs back end, and you’d like to have involvement in the full lifecycle of a project, maybe the full stack option is right for you.
The overlap between front end and back end development
Nowadays, it’s worth noting that in some ways there is a significant amount of crossover between front end and back end development.
Based on these descriptions above, if you still can’t determine what web development role may be the one for you – let’s take a look at some related roles instead.
The related roles
Now, the 3 roles outlined above are most definitely the main niches within the web development sector.
However, if you’ve found this article — the chances are you may be interested in other, related roles that are not “web development” roles specifically. There are a lot of components to a website; and a lot of functionalities and responsibilities that must be fulfilled in order for the software to work in the first place.
There are also a lot of roles that have a significant overlap with web development when it comes to skillset requirements.
Let’s cover some of these related roles.
1. The mobile developer
The mobile developer is responsible for the development of mobile applications. These applications target both Android and iOS primarily, though there are other operating systems out there which mobile developers will cater to also.
You may assume at first that mobile development and web development are two entirely different things. That’s partially correct. However, there is a significant amount of overlap between the two.
Programming in general is a transferrable skill. Programming on the front end, the back end or in a mobile application, it’s all programming.
To complement this, some of the languages associated with web development are also especially useful for developing mobile applications.
2. The DevOps specialist
DevOps is one of the most technical niches within web development.
It’s about handling the various processes and operations associated with the software and the application at large.
As such, the DevOps specialist has at least some involvement in basically all aspects of the software lifecycle, such as:
- The actual coding
- Deployments ie. pushing code updates to the server
- Maintenance and updates to keep the system or application healthy
Whereas a front end developer or a back end developer is more concerned with writing or maintaining the actual software at hand (ie. working with the code), the DevOps guy is concerned with the overall infrastructure of the project and how everything fits together.
3. The web designer
It’s often the case that web design and front end development become mixed into one.
In my opinion, they are entirely different pursuits.
The web designer is responsible for planning the look and feel, the aesthetics of a site. Not implementing that plan. They’ll take into consideration the main structure and layout, the typography that will be used, the branding in general and how the site will be used.
However, the designer won’t implement any of this. That’s the role of the front end developer.
The web designer won’t actually create the website at all – but their designs will be used as a blueprint for the front end developer to work from. The web designer is very much in control of how the website should look.
So this article is primarily focussed on finding out what web development role would be most suitable for you. However, maybe you’d prefer design over development? They are entirely different things.
If you’re more drawn to the creative side, or maybe you have an interest already in graphic design and the like — this may be an avenue you’d like to consider.
4. The SEO specialist
SEO (search engine optimization) is all about making the website more visible to potential users and customers.
One of the main ways of achieving this is by making the site “rank” higher in search engines such as Google. This drastically increases the organic traffic the website will receive, and as such, this can lead to more conversions for the business.
The SEO specialist is still concerned with the layout and structure of the website. The site needs to be easy to navigate and its intent must be clear. It must provide some use to its visitors, first and foremost.
They are also concerned with the content that appears on the site. In fact, this is one of their main concerns.
Ranking in search engines is all about creating quality resources with quality content, so Google (or other search providers) deem your site to be a worthwhile visit for its searchers. There are no shortcuts here, it’s about a sustained effort over time to build up a quality resource.
SEO is very much its own field outside of web development itself. Though web developers rely on SEO specialists to expose their website to the target audience.
It’s about strategy and persistence, optimization and planning. SEO specialists will always be highly valuable individuals, if this role strikes a chord with you – be sure to check out this breakdown of the possible career paths.
5. The QA (quality assurance) specialist
The QA specialist is concerned with the quality of the software. The role can be condensed down to two specific aspects, where the responsibilities would be:
- Stopping or prevent bugs (errors, with the code or otherwise) making it to the production environment
- Improving development processes
In general, the QA specialist partakes in testing the software through its full lifecycle, ultimately ensuring the end-users needs are met.
It’s often easy for developers (both front end and back end) to overlook issues when writing code. Edge cases may not be immediately apparent, or certain bugs may only be visible in a specific context or scenario. That’s why a fresh set of eyes as well as a professional, thorough approach to ensuring the overall quality of the product is so valuable.
6. The content writer
The content writer is an expert at writing SEO-friendly content for the website.
The content must be easy to read, clear and informative. And, importantly, it must be optimized in such a way that it can be considered search engine friendly.
Skills-wise, there is somewhat of an overlap here with the SEO specialist in some regards.
However, the content writer’s primary concern is actually writing the content. There is generally no (or little) concern with the wider plan regarding how to rank the site or anything like that. Ultimately, that is the SEO specialist’s domain.
The content writer may receive “keywords” to specifically target in their article. From here, it’s a matter of researching the topic, planning the article, then implementing. The article would be well-structured, and most importantly — centred around these given keywords. This gives it the best possible chance to rank in the search engines and attract the all important organic traffic.
This role is most suitable to people who simply enjoy the act of writing. Of course, there are important considerations (creating SEO-friendly articles) — but at its core, it’s about conveying information in a clear and professional manner.
I still can’t decide what web development (or related) role is right for me…
It’s definitely worth your while to do more research in to each niche. Web development is a broad field, and there are many different avenues to pursue in and around the field.
As a general summary, though, lets break down the roles by “type”, for clarity’s sake:
Generally involves writing or working with code, an understanding of how applications work.
- Front end development
- Back end development
- Full stack development
- Mobile app development
Not technical by nature, attractive to creative or artistic types
- Web design
- Content writing
It’s own niche, all about playing the game with search engines
For any other questions
Hopefully this article has helped to clear up some questions you may have had with regards to the different niches within the web development sector.
If you’re wondering if you can teach yourself web development, the answer to that is yes. Be sure to check out my article Can I Teach Myself Web Development? for more information on that.
If you’ve already decided on where you’d like to fit in to the web development world, but are lacking the all important experience, check out my other article on how to get experience as a web developer.