Web development and software development are often confused with each other and the terms are used interchangeably, although they are different from each other in diverse ways. It could simply mean coding or programming to the layperson, but for those interested in a serious career in the software/IT/web design and development ecosystem, understanding the difference is crucial. Given that with a rapid overlap in the roles and practices of the two, there’s no clear demarcation between them. Let’s understand the definitions of the two and then explore the differences.

What is web development?

Simply put, web development is the process of developing a website, including building and maintenance of web pages, through the front end, back end and full-stack development. The aim is to make the website perform strongly and this is done with the help of several coding languages. Web development is for websites to work on the Internet or the Intranet. 

What is software development?

Software development is a much wider term that encompasses a range of development activities such as application development, creating computer software, such as mobile or desktop apps (like Chrome, Skype, Facebook, etc.). Software development is a broader concept but both software and web development entail building a website. 

Website developers are concerned simply with creating a website including client requirements, while software developers have to consider a greater task of business analysis, design, software engineering, quality assurance & testing, support and maintenance.

Let’s dive deeper into the key differences between the two:

Design 

Web design consists of graphic, text, pictorial elements for which a graphic designer is used. Software developers are involved in designing the programs they work on and not the aesthetic aspect of the website/application for mobile and desktop applications. 

Web design includes components like navigation, content/copy, visual design, intuitive/responsive design, branding, SEO, information accessibility, above the fact that it should focus on visibility in order to acquire customers and generate ROI. 

The core features of software design are choosing the right programming language, application programs, device drivers, and operating systems. Software design must focus on accuracy, understandability for the sake of developers so there’s no time wasted, efficiency and maintainability. 

Architecture

Web application architecture is how the various web components interact with each other and the underlying pattern. It also means architecting the application logic between the client and server-side to. It entails the structure that organizes and delivers the content on your website. An ideal website optimises SEO search so that visitors and search engine crawlers can discover your content easily by using SEO-friendly URL structure, sitemap, page flow, among other tools. 

Software architecture consists of fundamental structures of a software system, components of a software system and the relationships between. It entails a common abstraction of a system as well as a blueprint of the system that explains and summarises how the system works. Software architecture is based on its own set of principles that work to improve the flexibility, scalability, reusability, and security of the structure of a system. There are many ready-made templates available online for developers to use to save time. It requires foseveralr developers to primarily understand the guidelines and then deploy clean and effective automation to make sure that the system is sturdy and robust.

Hosting

A website has to be hosted to be accessible on the internet. Types of hosting are shared, dedicated, VPS and reseller. Essentially, it’s an online service that allows you to publish your website and its contents on the internet, whether you’re an individual, a start-up or a large organization. 

Software application hosting is a type of SaaS (software as a service) which means that hosted software is installed and accessed from a remote server or location, handled in-house by the software manufacturers or a third party vendor. Hosted software uses a SaaS model.

If you’re building a website, you can hire a  web hosting company to build and maintain these servers so they can launch and maintain your website. They’ll be storing your site’s files on a single server as a standard practice, although it depends on the size of your website.

Cloud hosting is used in software development as it provides a range of options, such as flexibility for scaling up your digital products, applications and websites, speedy loading and flawless performance, and affordable pricing.

Cloud hosting is a virtual server whereas web hosting is a real server, on a local server or PC.

Platform

A web platform is full online communication and management system, usually consists of the Web Application, Mobile Applications and the communication between third party networks and all of the above. WordPress, Weebly and Wix are web hosting platforms. 

A software platform is a platform in any hardware or software used to host an application or service. These range from technology platforms like AWS, Microsoft Azure, Computing Platforms, like Apple iOS, Google Android or Microsoft Windows, utility platforms like Google Search, Interaction platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Marketplaces like eBay, Amazon, On-demand Service Platforms like Uber, Zomato, Content Crowdsourcing Platforms like YouTube. These are just a few examples. A variety of platforms are used in software development cycles depending on the type of project. 

Practical Applications

Web Development is a useful tool for companies to sell their products and services, showcase their content and their offerings to the general visitors and target audience. It’s a creative tool for individuals, bloggers, artists, etc. to feature their talents. 

On the other hand, software development is great for accomplishing unique business or personal objectives, goals, or processes on a larger scale. It’s needed when your vision requires a systematic approach to the design, development, operation, and update/maintenance. Businesses can invest in software development to create innovative, feature-rich, user-friendly products to stand out among the competition, and get their products faster to market. Additionally, software development is useful for automating or simplifying processes that take up too much time and resources. 

Job profile

The duties of a web developer are learning coding languages, know HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, etc., in addition to testing, deployment and maintenance of websites. They need to be able b traffic, add new features, and solve customer complaints with troubleshooting.

A software developer has a bigger repertoire in comparison, including researching, designing, implementing, and managing software products, along with numerical analysis/statistical aptitude, attention to detail, knowledge of programming languages and tools. It’s also good to learn about Cybersecurity, ML/AI innovations, NLP, Deep Learning, design, testing and the ability to adapt one’s skills to different programming languages and not just limit to one language. Software developers should be able to understand business requirements in the context of flawless development so that business goals are met with the desired revenue generation.

However, both roles, that of the web developer and the software, developer, need one to be customer-centric, always factoring in the features that would make customer service, experience and navigation more than satisfactory.