5 key skills of a successful web application developer

Most probably you will be knowing about all these skills already, it is common sense, still I have found so many developers who just know just one server side language(usually java or .net) and then they think themselves as superman/superwoman.

In web application development, that is just one thing. You need to know about lot more things before you can consider yourself successful.

So, if you know them already that’s good, you don’t need to read any further otherwise continue reading to know why each of these skills are important for you(the web developer).

Here are the skills

  1. the structure : HTML
  2. the presentation: CSS
  3. the behavior: JavaScript

With these three skill you have ability to become the super cool static website developer or a front end developer

  1. the database: SQL
  2. the server-side language : PHP( other options are JSP/ASP/PERL/RUBY choice is yours, as all the fight for best happens here)

These two skill will make you a web developer.

All five of these skills will make you a most prized web developer, in your organization.


You think you know HTML, think again. I have been interviewing lot of people, they have all rated themselves nearing 7-8 out of 10, whenever I asked them to rate their knowledge of html. Every time I tried to verify their claim, they came down to 2-3, reason is simple, HTML is very simple and everyone thinks they can bluff their way through, After all what is HTML, just tables and forms isn’t?

Well you are wrong, HTML is the one of the most important skill that you should have, you should know HTML better then you know your server side language, why?

Simply because your server side language is optional, but HTML is must, even when you dream about a web page. It gives your website a structure and layout. This is what an end user see’s and care about. You don’t know HTML, you can’t fix the strange behaviors that you see in you website.

Without proper layout, you site/application is nothing. With proper use of HTML you can not only create most accessible websites, you can also create a website which will look good in absence of css and will work without javascript.

So go and revise you HTML again, and remember just know is not enough, you have to understand where to use what.


CSS is used to give the look and feel to your website. You as a web developer need to know and understand how it works, and how you can simplify the html layout’s so that it becomes manageable. Design is what your users/client sees.

On the basis of your sites design, your ability is judged initially.

CSS is easy to learn, but it’s application is another story, all thanks to browser incompatibilities. So to make your website look good in all the browser you need CSS. Just knowing CSS is not enough, you have to understand it’s application also.


JavaScript is not just for validations as many of you think, it is what gives you ability to do some nifty things with your webpage(like lightbox, rating’s , ajax).

It adds behavior to your website, makes it interesting and improves the users experience. If you have still not chosen any framework, do it now. jQuery, prototype, YUI, Dojo are some of the interesting frameworks that make developers life easier.

If have master all the three skills above you can already consider your self above average web developer even if that person has 10 years of experience. Remember we are in IT industry. IT is Information Technology, where Information aka Knowledge is important.


The most neglected in the bunch, when this is the second most important skill that a web developer should have.

Why? what a question, we are building web applications that almost always relay on database, If you don’t understand the SQL how do you propose to get the data fast enough from your database? Almost all the websites can be distilled down to simple SELECT,INSERT, UPDATE operations. If you can master them, you can dictate your terms.

When I say SQL I don’t just mean queries but also the database schema and intricacies of database itself.


Before you get up in arms against me for suggesting PHP and not your favorite language, understand this, I am talking about web applications only, and their is no other scripting language which is so easy to learn and program with. At the same time, it provides functions for everything you can think off that is required in a web application development environment.

Please spare me the talk about java and .net they are platforms and/or programming language. If you understand “you should not use sword to do the job of needle and vice versa” then you know what I mean.

Their are many frameworks that you can use. Also their are many ready to use open source packages that you can use and adapt to your needs, you don’t need to start from scratch all the time.

If you have read till here, then I would love to know your views on these skills and others that you think are important for a successful web development career.

14 thoughts on “5 key skills of a successful web application developer

  1. I would argue that XML should be on there for a web developer and potentially a front-end developer (AJAX).

  2. Ok, so then what book will make one an expert in HTML quickly? I simply can’t stomach reading a 200 page tome on HTML when I have 10 years of using it under my belt. Is there a terse guide?

  3. @jimmy, XML may be important but we usually use parse an xml file an d for that library functions are their in server side language or create an XML for a service like rss, for which also you find a function and/or wrapper class that will do the job, also most people use AJAH then AJAX anyways.

    @Anon, just to answer your question sitepoint’s html reference section is good enough to start, but you know what just knowing the tags will not be enough, you should know why to use them and when to use them.

  4. @Amit,
    So, again, I ask…where’s a web dev to go to become an expert on these (particularly HTML, but CSS is also problematic).

  5. @Anon- It’s impossible HTML, CSS, JS, etc. from one source. Practice and application is the best way to master pretty much anything, especially programming and markup languages. But, if you’re looking for the basics, go to http://www.w3schools.com/

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  8. who is this guy that is talking what he doesn’t know. dude, you don’t have to come here and blah about the languages you are familiar with or know.
    try and learn java you will understand…more on the power of JSF , oracle Adf, etc even >Net is cool too.
    PHP is cool but it’s not the ultimate..get it dude!
    it has to depend on the project and the individual developing the application…
    shout out to all real developers out there…..

  9. Yes! This article makes a lot of sense to me. I am a web developer of approximately 2 years experience, and I have dipped into all of these technologies (learning ASP.NET over PHP because my company demands it), and I am only beginning with javascript.

    It’s good to read what I have suspected for a while. I need to have a good grounding and understanding in all five technologies to be more than an amateur with a frown on my face.

    And yes, the javascript frameworks are the way to go… you learn HTML, you learn CSS, easy easy, even .NET can be simple-ish… but then javascript appears, and =gulp=…. it’s not so easy.

  10. I completely agree with this list. I have recently decided to Do websites/ applications for a living in line with the economic crazies, I picked Drupal as my weapon of choice and started selling cheap 5 page vanilla sites with a custom theme from artisteer for just under 200 dollars. After 3 sites i find out that i can move no futher without returning to the foundational knowledge……w3schools.com is making all the difference to me i am doing a self study that should get me at least up to par on html,css,xml,javascript and, sql……everyone needing some quick pointers should do same. its free.

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  12. I know HTML, CSS & JavaScript. But as you mentioned that if I were to rate my skills, frankly I would hesitate and give my a 6/10. I have a web application idea in my mind but first I guess I should hone my skills.

    P.S. Excellent article!

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