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The different types of developers explained

Web/software development is the cornerstone of the digital business world. Analysts valued the global application development market at $131.4 billion in 2020 and expect it to reach $733.5 billion by 2028, making development one of the fastest-growing professional services industries. This is only possible thanks to the over 24 million people who’ve dedicated their careers to developing software and web applications. These are the unsung heroes of the digital age.

Let’s explore the different types and categories of developers to gain insight into how they work and what to expect when hiring them.

Categorizing developers

All software products, from ERPs, websites, mobile and desktop apps, firmware, databases, and operating systems to video games, have one fundamental function — interface users and computing hardware. Software utilities also interlink different hardware resources to form one versatile unit. A typical desktop computer, for instance, is just a collection of several devices held together by strings of software.

Computing devices can be manipulated and utilized in any number of ways using software, making development a massive playground limited only by technology and imagination. So, individual developers usually specialize in one occupational area, technology, programming language, or product type.

However, there’s no one standard way of classifying developers. You’ll find numerous categories based on just about every quantifiable trait — skills, preferences, qualifications, experience, product types, etc. For example, some developer categories are based on the following factors:

  • Development level: Low-level, mid-tier, and high-level.
  • Experience or prowess: Junior, intermediate, and senior.
  • Development platform: Game, app, web, PC, Mac, etc.
  • Language of choice: Java, Ruby, Python, C, etc.
  • Working style: Remote, freelancer, contractor, in-house, etc.

Types of developers

Exactly how many types of software or web developers there are depends on who you ask or the distinctions you’re looking for. Thanks to extreme job specialization and technological diversity in the development industry, you can probably assign a type to nearly every developer. But let’s not split any hairs for now. We’ll discuss the general developer types that really matter when hiring a developer or outsourcing an enterprise-level development project.

In our line of work, as an IT staffing and outsourcing agency, these are the main types of developers we encounter and work with regularly:

Web Developers

A web developer builds websites and web apps around the server-client model. They design and code every function and feature on a website, from the web pages and buttons to the internal technical workings.

Each web application and website has two main components: the front end (client-side) and the back end (server-side). Think of the front end as the face of the application, the part the user views and interacts with. On the other hand, the server-side is hidden from the user and contains the mechanisms powering the entire site. Naturally, some developers specialize in either front-end or back-end development, while others are comfortable doing both.

Front-end developers

Front-end or client-side developers work on the website’s UI (user interface). The UI comprises everything the user sees or “touches” on the website, including menus, media, buttons, tools, and links. These developers essentially write code for human interaction and experience. But besides coding, the developer must also lay out the UI’s features and navigation into an intuitive, user-friendly, responsive, and visually appealing design without compromising the intended functionality or performance. Branding is also an important UI consideration when designing a commercial website or web app.

Web UI code should run on any browser and platform. So, front-end developers commonly write in lightweight scripting and markup languages such as CSS, HTML, PHP, and JavaScript.

Back-end developers

Back-end developers specialize in what goes on behind the scenes. They put together the complex systems that bring functionality to the application. The job involves developing and integrating APIs, runtime routines, resource libraries, third-party services, and databases. Unlike client-side developers who use high-level programming languages, back-end developers code with mid-tier languages such as C, C++, NET, and Python.

Full-stack developers

Full-stack developers can work on a website’s front end or back end. They have the combination of skills needed to develop any part of a website or even from start to finish. All-around web developers are always in high demand since they can deliver regardless of the project or role in question. In addition to programming and designing, some full-stack developers play even bigger parts in web development projects, such as feasibility evaluation and mediation.

Mobile apps developers

Nearly everyone owns a smartphone nowadays. And mobile app development has really taken off due to this massive user base. The leading mobile app galleries, Google Play and the Apple Store, have more than 5 million apps and billions of downloads between them.

Mobile app developers were once considered embedded systems developers (those who build software for non-computer devices such as household appliances). But over the years, they’ve earned a respectable category of their own. According to Zippia’s data, the US alone currently employs over 4,000 dedicated mobile app developers.

These developers are responsible for building utility and user apps for smartphones and tablets. They mainly use high-level programming languages such as Objective-C and Swift for Apple products and Java and Kotlin for Android devices. They may also use web-based languages such as HTML, JavaScript, PHP, and CSS to create cross-platform mobile apps. And actually, most enterprise mobile apps are web-based, meaning they have a client-side and a server-side and, consequently, dedicated developers for each end.

Development and operations systems (DevOps) developers

DevOps is a digitalization approach that integrates software engineering methodologies with ongoing IT operations. It combines IT management and software development through a deep-seated organizational culture of collaboration and shared responsibility. This essentially means developer and IT support/management teams working together throughout the entire software’s lifecycle, from conception and development to deployment and maintenance.

DevOps is a cross-functional agile approach to software development that helps accelerate delivery at scale and ensure the end product’s value, relevance, and reliability. This methodology is based on four fundamental principles:

  • Effective collaboration and communication
  • Automation and optimization of the software development lifecycle
  • Continuous iterations and improvements
  • Sharp focus on the user’s/client’s needs

Besides competence in coding, DevOps developers and engineers must also be excellent team players and problem solvers. They need to understand the software lifecycle and their place in it. There’s much more to creating software as a DevOps team than merely writing code or designing structures to meet pre-defined requirements. In some cases, the employer/client barely has an idea of what they want. So, it’s up to the DevOps team to interpret the problem and implement a fitting solution.

Quality assurance (QA) developers and engineers

Quality assurance is a big part of software and web development. A QA developer or engineer reviews programs for errors, bugs, requirement fulfillment, performance issues, and inconsistencies during and after development. They then profile the results and may collaborate with other developers on fixing any detectable problems. Software testing is an ongoing process that starts at the code and modular levels and continues beyond the final implementation. It includes the following responsibilities:

  • Designing test cases that yield meaningful feedback
  • Thoroughly examining the software using various test inputs, environments, and tools
  • Documenting the test procedures and results
  • Scoring various software quality metrics
  • Making professional recommendations based on test results

In some cases, QA developers also conduct security analysis through penetration tests, vulnerability assessments, and security audits. However, security assurance has become a highly specialized field with dedicated experts and tools, relieving general QA developers of this responsibility.

Get the right developer with WeDevelop

Software and web developers come in all shapes and sizes. Now that you’ve learned the general types of developers, it should be easier to find the right fit for your organization or project. However, the choices can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t have a clear talent vetting criteria or understanding of the development requirements. It’s easy to pick the wrong type of developer for a particular role and only realize the mistake when it’s too late.

Assigning posts or projects to unsuitable developers is a costly mistake that can jeopardize the entire project or team. Fortunately, WeDevelop eliminates this risk completely. Leave it to us to find the right developers for your project or team. All you have to do is tell us your development needs or goals, and we’ll take care of the rest. We have a diverse talent pool of over 200 pre-vetted developers, designers, and engineers sourced from Latin America. Outsourcing to LATAM gives you incredible value for your labor spend, yet you still get highly skilled and vastly experienced world-class developers.

You can quickly build a collaborative DevOps team using our staff augmentation service. Or, you can put together an independent developer team from scratch through the dedicated teams staffing model. And if you’re looking to outsource whole projects, we’ve got that covered, too.

We’d love to hear from you. Don’t hesitate to email us or schedule a zero-obligation consultation to discuss any of your staffing or development needs.

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