10 things every modern web developer should know

Web development is a huge field, with a lot to learn. It can be overwhelming deciding what to spend your precious time learning. But there are basic skills you can rely on. These ten skills will improve your website creation and streamline your workflow.


Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is the backbone of all websites. Some tools will allow you to create websites without writing HTML, but HTML takes your web development to the next level. Coding in HTML gives you more control over content, and understanding HTML will help you diagnose problems faster. You can also add SEO information directly into your HTML code to help web crawlers read your page and increase your visibility.


The power of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) has increased. Developers used to primarily use CSS to define the color and layout of a website, but now it can handle animation and an interactive design. However, one of its most important features is the responsive design.

These days, users expect websites to move seamlessly from desktop to tablet and mobile. The responsive design ensures that the display is optimized for each platform. A CSS concept that will take your layout to the next level is flexbox. This is a layout mode that simplifies the creation of flexible and responsive layouts.


If HTML is the backbone of the website, JavaScript is the brain. Websites are no longer electronic versions of newsprint. Users expect interactivity, and interaction is the basis of many designs these days. To add this interactivity, you need a solid foundation in JavaScript.

It is a mistake to underestimate this language, it is a powerful language that has only grown in power with each new JavaScript library developed. But don’t worry, it’s lightweight language that you can set up in no time.

At least one JavaScript library

JavaScript Vanilla is powerful, but coding the latest and greatest JavaScript features in pure JavaScript takes time. There are many excellent JavaScript libraries available that will reduce your coding time. Most developers have a love-hate relationship with jQuery. It’s no longer the sexiest JavaScript library, but it’s still a powerful workhorse. You’ll want to know jQuery if you’re developing something with a lot of document object model (DOM) manipulation, event handling, and Ajax.

A popular new JavaScript library worth checking out is React. It is ideal for developing interactive websites that depend on real-time data. Facebook developed it to manage their news feeds, but you can find it pretty much everywhere these days.

A server-side language and databases

Although you can become a web developer without diving into the backend, learning a server-side language will make you a much more versatile web developer. Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) is over twenty years old but is still an important server-side language to know. If PHP is powerful enough to be the go-to for WordPress, it can certainly handle anything you throw at it.

Data is everything these days. To store and access this data, you need to know about databases. There are many different databases, but a great database to start with is MySQL. It is an open source database and can introduce you to relational databases. All relational databases use a language based on Structured Query Language (SQL), so the skills you develop using MySQL will be transferable to other relational databases.

The above skills will get you coding, but nothing will stop you like a bug. Understanding the development tools offered by browsers can speed up debugging and reduce frustration.

Both Chrome and Firefox offer popular developer tools. Web development tools let you see what styles are applied to each element, analyze JavaScript, and provide more error information.


A great way to build a website is to take advantage of existing data and services. Application programming interfaces (APIs) give you access to third-party data and functionality. If you’re new to APIs, start with Google.

Google offers many different APIs, including Analytics, YouTube, Maps, and Translations. It is also very popular, so there are many tutorials for their various APIs. Most major social media and marketplace platforms will also have APIs, which give you access to both app functionality and user information.


Creating a website is meaningless if no one can find it. As the number of websites increases, it has become more important to increase your website’s visibility and readability for web crawlers, and you do this by using search engine optimization (SEO ).

At the very least, you need to know how web crawlers use information to rank a site and what they can and can’t read. This will help you get the most out of adding metadata to your site and site elements that web crawlers cannot display.

Version control

Most website development projects require a team of developers. Working with others poses a lot of coordination problems. Fortunately, version control tools can handle these issues.

All version control tools keep a record of changes made to a code repository. This allows you to track changes and even roll back to previous versions. Git is one of the most popular version control systems, so if you’re new to version control, give Git a try.

Project management

An often overlooked core skill for web development is project management. It is not enough to know how to code; you need to know how to translate your idea into a product. Does your project require a waterfall or an agile workflow?

If it’s a big project, how will you distribute the work within the team? Will users understand the interface? As a web developer, your role may not be to answer these questions, but it’s important to gain insight into how project management decisions impact development and your workflow.


The developer community offers great support when upgrading your skills. You can connect in person or online. Reddit and Stack Overflow both host large communities of developers. There might be a lot to learn, but you’re not alone, and there are plenty of tutorials to learn. Learning with and from other developers is the best way to accelerate your skills.

Each of these skills will take time to learn and improve. But becoming a good web developer requires continuous learning and improvement. Even after mastering these skills, there will be others you’ll want to add to your arsenal. One of the most rewarding aspects of being a web developer is that it constantly challenges you to grow as a developer.