Web Development Basics

Nearly half of the world’s population has access to the internet, and they use it for everything from education to entertainment, from connecting to commerce, from digesting global news to keeping up with the economy. The internet is often the first and only channel we use to interact with the rest of the world.

Since the 1990s the internet has remained a constant in our lives and only continues to expand with time. Despite the extensive use of the internet and computer code for web development, coders are still relatively rare. Only approximately 2.5% of college students pursue degrees in computer science although the demand for programmers has steadily increased. Many people are repelled by the complexity of computer programming and the difficulty of learning code. Even if you aren’t looking to be a web developer, learning the basics of web development can help when it comes to understanding websites.

What is Web Development?

Website development consists of the work involved in building a website. This encompasses anything from creating a single plain-text webpage to developing a complex web application or social network.

Although web development often refers to web markup and coding, it includes all aspects of development such as client-side scripting, e-commerce development, network security configuration and content management system development.

Web Development Basics

What is a Website?

Websites are files stored on a server, which are typically computers that host or store websites. Each server is connected to a network known as the internet. The website is essentially a collection of related web pages constructed from computer code and housed under a unique domain name. Web pages can be thought of as documents that can be viewed or interacted with through a web browser.

Browsers are computer programs that load websites via an internet connection. This includes Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc. Your computer may also be known as a client. Webpages can be accessed either from a search engine results page, links on the website home page or directly through a web address. In order to access a website, you need to be able to access its IP address. This unique address allows users to distinguish between the billions of other connected devices that make up the internet. It also allows devices to accurately exchange digital information.

What is an Internet Protocol (IP) address?

Internet protocol is a set of standards used to command interaction on the internet. In order to access a website, you need to know the IP address, a unique string of numbers. To find your device’s IP address, you can type “what’s my IP address” into a search browser. Although you can access a website using its IP address, most people prefer domain names or search engines.

What is HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP)?

HyperText Transfer Protocol or HTTP is something we’ve all seen but probably know little about. HTTP connects you and your website request to the server that holds all of the website data. This set of rules or protocol helps to determine how messages should be sent via the internet. It’s what allows you to move from page to page and site to site.

Whenever you type a website into your browser or search engine, HTTP generates a framework so that the client or computer and server can speak the same language when they make requests or respond to each other over the internet. It acts as a translator between you and the internet. It reads your website request, interprets the code sent back from the server and translates it in the form of a website.

What is Coding?

Coding consists of writing code for servers and applications. It’s known as a language because it is made of vocabulary and grammatical rules for communicating with computers. It also includes abbreviations, punctuation and special commands that can only be understood by devices and programs. As a developer, you act as a translator.

All software has to be written by at least one coding language, but it can vary based on the platform, operating system and style. In addition to this, there are a number of different coding languages that fall into two different categories – front-end and back-end.

Coding Screen

What’s the Difference Between Front-end and Back-end?

The terms front-end and back-end refer to the part of the client/server relationship that you’re working with. Front-end means that you’re working directly with the client side that can be seen in the browser while back-end means you’re working with the part of the website that handles functionality.

Front-end code allows users to interact with a website and play videos, manipulate images, highlight text and more. Back-end code may just look like a bunch of numbers, letters and symbols to non-developers. But these languages allow the website to operate correctly. There are more back-end coding languages than front-end because browsers (front-end) only understand JavaScript while servers (back-end) can be configured to understand almost any language.

What is a Content Management System?

A content management system (CMS) is an application or series of programs used to make and manage web content. Although this is not a requirement when building a site, it does make it much easier. A CMS provides building blocks like plugins or add-ons that help create the structure in your code.

Content Management System

Why is Web Development Important?

For business owners looking to build their own websites, understanding web development can helpful when trying to navigate a technology-driven world. The internet shows no sign of disappearing anytime soon. It has actually become the primary source or research, connection, entertainment and education across the globe.

More and more people have started to use the internet for a multitude of reasons and each one of them needs a website that has been developed by a skilled web developer. Understanding the basics of web development and the different types of web development can help you hire the right developer for your site.

Mobile Web Development Basics

When deciding to design or redesign a website, you also need to create a mobile friendly version of the site. This is not the same as a native application that resides on the smartphone, ones that needs to be downloaded from the app store. Most smartphones usually have their own browsers that can generate websites. When embarking on this journey, you’ll need to make a list of the devices that will be supported and design alternative sites that will meet these requirements.

The most apparent obstacle is the fact that these devices all have a small screen size. But there are other obstacles to consider such as the automatic switch of screen orientation from portrait to landscape and touch screen for user input. APIs like geolocation or screen orientation are typically not supported on desktop or less useful, but these APIs allow mobile users to have a much different interaction with a website.

Mobile Web Development

Small Screens

Responsive web design is a term for a set of methods that allows your website to change its layout based on its viewing their environment. Most notably, the size and orientation of the screen changes. This is accomplished using techniques such as:

  • Fluid CSS layouts which force the page to adapt seamlessly as the browser window size changes.
  • Media queries that conditionally include CSS rules appropriate for the width and height of the device screen.

Code can also be added to the site that detects a user’s device and redirects them to the appropriate version of the website. Since there are so many devices to choose from, developers typically create multiple device profiles and categorize a number of devices into one of these profiles. Typically, profiles are driven by screen size:

  • Microscopic – 132 pixels or less wide
  • Tiny – 240 pixels or less wide
  • Small – 320 or less wide

These small screen sizes make it apparent that alternative designs are necessary in order to deliver a pleasurable web experience.


Devices are particularly unique because they no longer have 72-dpi pixels. Many devices have steadily improved and now have higher resolutions. This can make development tricky because for websites and CSS, elements must still be defined in pixels that are 1/72 inch wide.


When developing a mobile website, it’s important to remember that there is no mouse to move around. Many users have a keypad or touch screen. In order to accommodate these features, many mobile sites have a much more stripped-down navigation scheme. This is due to the fact that there isn’t enough space to include all of the navigation elements that might typically be included in the main website. User’s enjoy an intuitive and simple design that allows them to accomplish their goal whether that is digesting news or entertainment or purchasing products.

Screen Sizes

File Size

When not connected to Wi-Fi in order to browse the web, devices can accumulate a lot of megabytes on a user’s data plan which could have a monthly limit. So, the more you can reduce the file size and dimensions of interface and content components, your site will download faster on cell networks and it will put much less pressure on the user’s monthly data transfer limit. You can also reduce the amount of unnecessary code, comments and optional tags in order to speed things up. User’s can be fickle when it comes to using mobile websites and speed is a huge determining factor in the number of users that will visit your site. If a site takes too long to load, most users will either exit the site or find a competitor’s site that may load faster.

Horizontal and Vertical Orientation

Mobile browsing is a fairly fluid environment. From the variety of pixel densities to the ability to view a site in both horizontal and vertical orientations, it’s best to design your site with a flexible layout rather than a fixed-width layout. By not specifying the site’s width and letting it fill up the screen naturally, your site can adapt to a mobile environment much more effectively and effortlessly. Using CSS color and tiled graphics instead of pixel bound single images to fill your components is another great way to ensure that the website flows more naturally. This is especially important for users because a website that doesn’t fully fill up a page or overfills a page can seem a bit unprofessional. When user’s have a seamless mobile web experience, it adds credibility to your site and makes them much more likely to revisit.

Horizontal and Vertical Orientation

Single Column Layout

Although smart phones and mobile devices have become larger than their predecessors, they are still not large enough to accommodate anything more than a single-column layout when displaying content. Although this can be a large design alteration to make to your main website, the results are well worth it. The boost in usability this alteration causes makes your site much more attractive to potential users. A single-column layout that uses the entirety of the screen creates an experience where the user does not need to pan back and forth or zoom in. The content can expand down the page rather than across it. Users enjoy scrolling down the page much more than having to move side to side and zooming in to see content.

Why is Mobile Web Development Important?

In today’s day and age, most users browse websites on a mobile device. It’s not enough to just have a presentable, well-functioning site that is designed for browsing on a desktop, a mobile-friendly version is also needed. When you implement a responsive web design for your mobile website it allows you to appeal to more users who may prefer to browse on mobile devices. Developing a mobile-friendly site can be difficult, so hiring a professional to design your site is recommended. Provide the maximum experience to your audience regardless of the device they’re using.