Are you confused about the difference between a Web Developer and a Mobile Developer? Though the roles are often confused, they’re two distinct career paths that require different skills and aptitudes. Let’s take a closer look at each of these two fields and examine their similarities and differences to see which might be the best career choice for you.
The primary role of a Mobile App Developer is to create and maintain functional, user-friendly applications for use on mobile devices. To accomplish this, Mobile App Developers are typically responsible for researching, designing, developing, and testing mobile applications prior to their release. Once the application has been published, Mobile Developers will provide support by evaluating the application, identifying problem areas, and making updates as necessary.
Other job responsibilities for Mobile App Developers include:
- Consulting with project managers or clients to determine their mobile application needs
- Developing a plan and collaborating with others to produce a mobile app that meets the client’s specifications
- Coding the mobile application, testing to make sure it works on a variety of devices, and eliminating any bugs that may exist
- Submitting reports to provide updates on the application’s progress
- Overseeing the project, testing the end product to make sure it works as intended, and ensuring that the mobile app meets all the predetermined requirements
- Generating technical documentation to help team members understand how the app was developed and improve future maintenance
- Assessing new and existing mobile apps, Identifying weaknesses, recommending improvements, then implementing them
- Communicating with users to better understand their needs and experiences with the app
- Performing maintenance on existing mobile applications
- Remaining up to date on mobile app development trends and best practices
Mobile App Developers are often employed by companies dedicated to creating mobile apps but they can work in practically any industry including healthcare, retail, tourism, finance, and education. Mobile App Developers also have the option to be self-employed, offering their services as a freelancer.
Skills Needed for Mobile Development
Mobile Developers need a combination of technical and non-technical skills in order to succeed. Some of the most common skills required for mobile development positions include:
- An understanding of app design, user experience (UX), and user interface (UI) principles
- Knowledge of back end computing and application programming interfaces (APIs)
- The ability to research, develop, launch, and maintain mobile applications that meet the needs of the clients and users
- The ability to assess existing mobile applications, identify areas of improvement, recommend changes, and implement upgrades
- Strong critical thinking, time management, and problem-solving skills plus creativity and attention to detail
- The ability to communicate clearly, work with a team, and remain adaptable
- An understanding of the latest mobile app trends and how to implement them in a commercial environment
Keep in mind that the skills you’ll need to succeed could vary from position to position; those listed above are just a few of the basic skills required to work in mobile development.
Web development involves using code to create and maintain the core structure of a website. The role of a Web Developer is to build a website that’s functional, responsive, and user-friendly based on ideas and concepts generated by the Web Designer. Web Developers also are responsible for conducting quality assurance testing on their code to detect and eliminate any bugs.
The field of web development falls into three categories: front end, back end, and full stack. Front end web development focuses on the client-side of the website—everything that the user can see and interact with. Back end development deals with everything that goes on behind the scenes that supports the front end such as servers, databases, and applications. Full stack development is a combination of both front end and back end development, incorporating elements of each one.
The job duties of a Web Developer will vary depending upon their specialty, but here are some of the most common responsibilities:
- Working with stakeholders to determine the purpose of the website and how it should look
- Creating and maintaining servers, databases, APIs (application programming interfaces), and overall website architecture
- Developing website design on the front end
- Coding the front and back ends of the website and debugging any errors that may arise
- Utilizing user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) principles
- Creating and maintaining user interfaces and navigation menus plus modifying them when necessary
- Incorporating multimedia content such as graphics, audio, video, etc. onto websites
- Ensuring that websites can be accessed on a variety of platforms and devices including desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones
- Implementing protocols to secure data
- Testing websites for speed, performance, usability, etc. and making changes to optimize performance
- Writing technical documentation for the site
- Providing website maintenance and making enhancements when required
This isn’t a comprehensive list; it just reflects some of the most commonly assigned tasks. When working as a Web Developer, you may be asked to take on additional responsibilities based on your role plus the needs of the stakeholder, project, and employer.
Skills Needed for Web Development
Web development skills do vary between the different specialties, but any prospective Web Developer should have or acquire the skills listed below:
- The ability to test code, detect errors, resolve issues, and track changes made to the code
- A working knowledge of web development tools such as libraries, frameworks, content management systems (CMS), bug tracking tools, and code versioning software
- A high level of computer literacy, analytical thinking, attention to detail, and problem-solving skills
- A general understanding of user experience (UX) principles and SEO (search engine optimization) best practices
- Insight into how databases, hosting environments, APIs (application programming interfaces), operating systems, and servers function
Additional, less technical skills such as effective communication and the ability to collaborate with others will also come in handy while working as a Web Developer. People in this profession should also be able to manage their time wisely, distinguish between essential and nonessential tasks, and remain organized while working on multiple projects.
Job Outlook for Web Development and Mobile Development
Now is a great time to start a new career in web development or mobile app development; both fields are experiencing tremendous growth and are in dire need of new recruits to help fill open positions. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be 17,900 web development jobs opening up every year from now until 2030, which equals a 13% job growth rate; that’s significantly higher than the average growth for all occupations, which is predicted to be 8% over the next decade. The job outlook for mobile app development is even better: it’s considered a sub-category of software development, which is expected to grow at a rate of 22%—that’s the equivalent of 189,200 jobs becoming available each year.
Salaries for those working in web and mobile development can vary based on location, experience, and area of expertise, but they do tend to be lucrative career choices overall. The average annual salary for Front End, Back End, and Full Stack Developers in the United States tends to range between $100,000 to $115,000. Mobile App Developers earn a slightly higher wage, with the national average coming in at over $120,000 per year.
How are Web Development and Mobile Development Different?
Many people consider the roles of Web Developers and Mobile App Developers to be practically interchangeable, but that’s a misconception. While it’s true that both of them are tech professionals who know how to code and plan then implement projects to meet their clients’ needs, their jobs are not the same. The key difference is where their work is distributed and how users access it.
Web Developers’ sole focus is on creating websites while Mobile App Developers build applications that can only be used on mobile devices. To use a mobile app, people must download and install it on their phone or tablet through an app store. In contrast, websites can be viewed on any type of device that has access to the Internet including desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc. The key is that access to the Internet is necessary to view websites while mobile phone apps are housed locally on your device.
Web Development v. Mobile Development: Which Career is Right for You?
Web development and mobile app development might share a bit of common ground, but they are two separate career paths that appeal to people with differing interests and strengths. Mobile app development tends to require a broader range of skills than web development, making it a good career choice for those who enjoy working on a variety of tasks throughout their day. While the job duties of Web Developers can also vary, the scope of their responsibilities is much narrower, especially if they’re specializing in the front end or back end instead of working in a multi-faceted full stack development role.
If you’re not sure which career path would suit you best, ask yourself these three questions:
- Do I want to work in an exciting field that’s rapidly expanding?
- Would I enjoy learning about app design, user experience (UX), user interface (UI), application programming interfaces (APIs), back end computing plus a variety of programming languages?
- Am I interested in creating functional, user-friendly applications for mobile devices?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, you’d likely be a good fit for mobile app development. If you answered “no,” let’s see if web development is a better choice by answering the following:
- Do I enjoy work that’s both technical and creative?
- Do I want to improve how users experience a website?
- Am I interested in creating websites that are beautiful, functional, and dynamic?
Answering “yes” to these questions indicates that a career in web development would be the best option for you.
How to Start a Career in Web Development or Mobile Development
The best way to start a career in web development or mobile app development is to enroll in bootcamp. Often viewed as a viable alternative to university education, these skills-focused programs operate on an intensive, abbreviated schedule to get you career-ready in just a few months. That’s especially good news when you consider how many open positions there are in both fields; you can start to earn back your financial investment shortly after graduation.