Web developer vs. software developer (Skills and tasks)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When you have an interest in the computing industry, finding a role that satisfies your own personal interests is important. This means you thrive in an environment suitable to your skillset and make the most of your time in a new position. Learning the differences between web developers vs software developers is a key part of choosing the right computing career. In this article, we discuss the major differences between a web and software developer, what each role is and the main factors separating the two positions.

Web developer vs software developer

Understanding the differences between a web developer vs software developer is important for anyone seeking a role in the development space. This is because the two positions, whilst sounding similar, have incredibly differing requirements. Choosing the right career at an early stage means you focus on building the right set of skills and experience that ensures you thrive in the role.

Choosing the right career also means having a better chance of enjoying yourself in your position. Different developers and software writers prefer working with different languages and in different formats. Specialising in an area you find more enjoyable because you have a complete understanding of what the roles in the industry entail means you have more fun in your career, expressing yourself through your code and taking pleasure and pride from your work.

Key factors

Learn more about the key factors differentiating between a web developer and a software developer below:

Products

One of the fundamental differences between the two roles is the nature of the products that both of the roles create. Web developers use their skills in the creation of web pages and websites for companies and services. Creating visually appealing websites that attract potential viewers and customers is a key part of the position. Depending on the role, web developers either create a single website for their business or several websites across their clientele. Software developers work with a wider range of products.

With more of a primary focus on applications and their functionality, software developers consider back-end factors of applications to a greater extent. This includes creating mobile applications, software for specialist company use or even network platforms to support businesses. A software engineer's broader set of skills means they have a less focused output and target a range of different software outcomes from project to project.

Education

The two roles necessitate different levels of education. A software developer has stringent education and requires high levels of qualifications for securing a role. This is because of the more technical nature of their work. The most common qualifications for a software engineer include a computer science degree, as software engineers have an understanding of how a computer's hardware works in addition to learning about creating software. Software developers also have an understanding of a range of different coding languages thanks to their work in a range of different mediums.

Web developers have less stringent training and education needs because their role is slightly simpler than that of a software engineer, requiring less of an understanding of the principles of computing and more of a focus on the practicalities of certain coding languages. Many web developers train themselves at home and complete a range of personal projects as a means of honing their skills before applying for roles in a company. Formal education is rarely a necessity for working as a web developer.

Related: A beginner's guide to earning your undergraduate degree

Coding languages

The two roles focus on a different selection of coding languages. Working as a web developer has a primary focus on HTML, a language with a focus on the visual elements of a website. HTML is the ideal tool for formatting content and ensuring the structure of a website or piece of written content is ideal for viewers. In addition to HTML, JavaScript is a crucial part of a web developer's skill set, supporting developers in the creation of interactive content on a website that increases engagement with the viewer.

Software developers have an understanding of a range of different languages, depending on their speciality within the software development field. HTML remains important to software developers, as this is a fundamental language with a selection of uses. In addition to HTML, developers use languages, such as SQL for database management, Python for data manipulation and C# for creating more complex applications. Some software developers focus on specific languages as this means they work more effectively as a specialist in this area throughout their career.

Salary

The average base salary of a web developer is £36,254 per year. In most cases, this is a relatively static compensation package, as performance-related bonuses are not a significant aspect of web development. Although the performance of a website or application is trackable, its impact on the success of a company is minimal. Some companies offer pay bands rather than set salaries, so there is room for an employee to negotiate within their pay band.

The average base salary of a software developer is £46,864 per year. This varies significantly depending on a range of different factors, including the industry a developer works in. For example, the finance industry features a lot of performance-related bonuses, especially when developing apps that relate to investing and profit maximisation. Pay also relates to the skill set of a software developer, as developers with an understanding of more languages have a greater likelihood of creating a wider range of applications for the company.

Related: How to negotiate successfully (plus tips and its importance)

Career progression

When working as a software engineer, there is a range of opportunities for career development available. One of the most common opportunities for software developers includes progressing to work as full-stack developers. Full-stack developers have less of a speciality in the software development process, holding a high level of knowledge in a range of different languages. Companies use full-stack developers to support a range of different tasks in the software development process, as they understand how to complete almost all the tasks within software development.

The career progression route for a web developer tends to be towards working as a software developer. This is because software developers receive higher rates of compensation and have more opportunities available to them. Another alternative route for a web developer is working in web design. This is more of a theory-focused role and involves understanding the features of a website users interact with and the ways to implement them consistently.

Related: How to be an RPA developer (plus FAQs)

Skills

Web developers have a range of skills they use in the workplace. One of the most significant is creativity, as developers seek creative solutions to design challenges on their websites. Organisation is another core skill for web developers, as they often manage a significant amount of content. Managing this content competently means more effective SEO practices and a more successful website upon release.

Software developers use different skills from their web development equivalents, with one of the most prominent skills for a software developer being problem-solving. The idea behind most pieces of software is to solve a problem or fulfil a specific need, and the most effective software developers can find solutions quickly and effectively. Software developers also work in large teams on bigger projects, so interpersonal skills are essential for discussing ideas and creating new systems.

Related: 11 top job skills: transferable skills for any industry

Choosing the right career path

When considering a career in programming, choosing the right career at the start of the process means spending more time focusing on the right skills. Picking the right career means choosing what you think is more fun and what the more rewarding route might be. When choosing between a career as a web developer and a software developer, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I enjoy being creative? More creative employees may prefer web development, coming up with interesting ways to convey information to a reader.

  • Do I like to challenge myself? Software developers learn a range of coding languages and skills in their role.

  • How important is money to me? Software developers earn more than web developers, so people who are keen to progress quickly and earn a high salary may wish to choose the software development path.

Related: How To Become a Mobile App Developer

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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