Web developer vs software developer – what’s the difference?

The roles of web developer and software developer are common and important ones in the overall field of tech and digital development. They are similar roles in many ways, but they do have fundamental differences that separate them too. 

In this blog, we are going to talk more about these two roles, specifically in relation to what makes them different.


What is a web developer?

A web developer is someone who works with websites and web applications. They develop web-based products from the ground up, often working with coding, development, and design aspects of sites and apps. 

There are three types of web development roles, including front-end web developers, back-end web developers, and full-stack web developers. Front and back-end developers do what they say in their titles, they work on either the front or back end of sites and apps, and full-stack developers do a bit of both. 

The role of a web developer can be very creative in nature and they will spend a lot of time collaborating with clients and stakeholders to make sure whatever they design and deploy matches their desired vision.

In a digital age where websites and apps are at the forefront of many companies and businesses, this is an essential role in the field, one that is well sought-after.

What is a software developer?

A software developer is, quite simply, someone who develops software. In contrast with the focus on websites and apps as we have seen above, software developers focus on designing, building, and implementing pieces of software for computers and other devices. 

Software developers are involved in all stages of the software development life cycle, including: 

  • Planning
  • Defining requirements
  • Design and prototyping
  • Development
  • Testing
  • Deployment
  • Operations and maintenance 

The products they work on could be anything including database software built using MySQL, communication software such as Zoom or Teams, system software including operating systems, driver software for an external mouse or keyboard, and so on. The list really does go on. Software developers can work on an incredibly varied range of products and systems throughout their career span.

Application software can be a focus of interest for software developers too, and so we can find that many people have a dual role somewhere between software developer and web developer. Whatever a developer’s exact title and focus will often depend on the software development company they work for and whether they have trained in certain specialisms or not.

The similarities

The similarities between these two development roles can include: 

  • Their primary focus on development
  • Their educational background and main vocational skills
  • The elements of design and creativity involved
  • The importance of their role in modern tech
  • Their liaison with clients and client requirement
  • The structure and stages of their project work
  • Their value in a software development company

Web developers and software developers are very similar in background and ability. In some companies, one person may be both a web developer and a software developer. Whereas in larger companies, web developers and software developers can work hand-in-hand to bring their specific skills to the table. 

The differences

The main overall difference that lies between a web developer and a software developer is the products their work focuses on. While much of the processes and intentions behind the work may be very similar, the actual output of the work is different. 

Web developers develop websites and apps primarily, and software developers mainly focus on developing software for computing systems. The range of both the apps and pieces of software within these categories can be very large and varied indeed, but the overall output of each role fits neatly into these two separate categories. 

Some software developers may decide to specialise as web-only developers at a certain part of their career if they find that they enjoy this arena the most and have developed a particular skill set for it. Other people may start out their education and training with a strong direction for web development. As with most things, there are multiple avenues a person can take to end up in either of these roles.

Summing up the two roles

Ultimately, the roles of web and software developers are critical to any software development company and any client they may service. They are key roles in the overall field of tech and they certainly aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

There are many similarities between the two and often we might see the terms used interchangeably. At the end of the day, the big difference is the product they are working on developing. And there is a whole world of products out there to be designed and developed by either one.

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