Do Web Developers Make Apps?

With so many different disciplines when it comes to programming, it can sometimes be confusing, especially for those who are trying to break into the industry. One thing for sure is that if you write code, you are a programmer, but does that mean you can do everything? Specifically, can web developers make apps?

Web developers can build websites and web apps. That does not mean that they can build applications for PC or mobile. Most companies that port their web apps over to mobile via an application will hire an app developer. Unless, of course, the web developer has the necessary skillset to program in a completely different system and languages to what they are used to.

A key theme in this article is going to be a heavy emphasis on web applications and mobile applications. The question in the title is a complex one that requires a lot of thought, and so we will try our best to answer any questions that you might have and any that may arise while you are reading this article. With that out of the way, let’s jump straight into it.

The difference between web development and app development

We get asked this question a lot, and the way we wrote it in the title is how people frame it when they ask it. However, it is not the correct way to frame the question because you get websites, web apps, mobile apps, and then apps for computers.

Web developers can build websites, or they can build web apps. The main difference is that a website or web app does not have to pass any criteria to be listed on any storefront. For example, Facebook has a web app and a mobile app.

The Facebook web app does not have to pass the Android requirements to get listed on the app store. It does not have to be an official Android app. You can access the Facebook web app on any browser, whether on your phone or PC.

However, the Facebook app stored on most Android and Apple phones needs to pass certain measures for the respective storefront, either the Apple Store or Android store. If it does not pass the requirements, it will not make it onto your mobile phone.

At first, the previous paragraph might be hard to digest but trust me, read it twice, and it will make more sense.

Even though a web developer can build websites and web apps, their job title does not necessarily entail developing apps for PC or mobile.

creating apps
I work as a web developer and I am working every day on the web app. But I do not know how to build mobile or desktop applications without further training and specializing in that.

Web applications Do Not Need to Be Built Using Specific Programs

to understand better the difference between web development and app development; I think it is best if we use an example. In this example, let’s say a company has two divisions, one that focuses on web development and the other that focuses on mobile development, specifically for Android or iOS.

The web developer can use whatever software the company wants to use to build websites or web applications.

The mobile app developer has to use a specific program. If they want to build an app that needs to be listed on Android, they will usually use Android Studio. The exact same thing applies if he wants to build an app that goes to the iOS store. For development to distribution, everything can be found on the Apple developer portal.

The main reason for this is it helps Android and iOS better control what kind of apps are listed on their store. Also, the development kits of each store are complete with all the assets that an application would need for the assets to work on their respective devices.

Yes, you can use other programs to develop for Android, such as Eclipse and Fabric. However, any program that you use must have the Android SDK. 

Can a Web Developer Become a Software Developer?

At some point, many of us have considered a career change. It is a tough decision to make. However, it becomes easier to stay closer to the industry you have been working in already. In this section, we want to see if a web developer can become a software developer, and we will try and give a few tips on achieving your goal in the best way possible.

Web developers, like software developers, will understand the fundamentals of writing code. Even though web development is easier, you should still understand how to write code logically, and depending on the amount of experience you have, you should know how to write code cleanly. You should also know how to test and debug your web apps or websites.

With all of this knowledge, you can transition to becoming a software developer, but it will take some work. You will need to study, whether in school or self-taught, the languages and systems that software developers use that you might not be familiar with.

How to Change From a Web Developer to a Software Developer

In order to change from a web developer to a software developer, you will have to learn as much as you can about software development. Now, we cannot tell you what languages to learn because it depends on you. With that out of the way, here is a step-by-step guide on transitioning from a web developer to a software developer.

  1. Choose what apps you want to build.
  2. Find out what programs are the best for that discipline.
  3. Study the language you want to specialize in. Many companies hire a variety of specialists.
  4. (Optional) Attend a boot camp. This step might be optional, but it is the best thing you can do. 
  5. Update your CV.
  6. Start applying for jobs. You might have to start at the bottom again.

With all those steps, I must emphasize that you should be patient on your journey. It would be best if you never quit your job before you are ready. Look, wanting to take a step up in your career is great, but you need to be realistic. Please go through the steps we listed and start looking for jobs while maintaining your current one.

I do recommend learning Python or Java as a foundation. Ideally, you would learn both. Another language to consider is Go. If you plan to build cloud apps or plan on working on the server-side of programs, Go could be a great investment for your future. 

The Difference between a Website and a Web App?

In a technical sense, a website presents itself through something called “web view.” As a user, you can only affect the front end by choosing what is displayed through this view. A web app can be engaged to the point where you, as the user, manipulate the server-side of the site.

Right, I understand that you might be slightly confused at this point in the article if you are a beginner at programming. What exactly is the difference between a website and a web app? Well, it might seem technical at first, but trust me, once you have read through this section, it will make complete sense.

On the surface, a website will seem similar to a web application. However, they are significantly different. A website delivers content, and you can engage with the website by selecting what part of the site you want to be on. You cannot change anything about the website as a user.  A web application has a lot more functionality than a website.

I see many people saying that a website does not allow you to engage with the content. “It also has no functionality.” However, this is false. A better way to phrase it would be to say that a website has limited functionality. Even with limited functionality, you could still make purchases, search for content, sign up for newsletters, and much more. In my opinion, that counts as engagement, and all of that is functional in some sense.

However, the functionality of a web application is vastly superior. A web application often allows you to create an account, become a member of that application, and then alter its content. On most web apps, you cannot only control the content but also change the user interface.

Twitter, for example, is a web application. You can alter the content of the website. When you create a tweet, it goes to the website. You have now altered the state of that website forever.

Amazon is a hybrid between a web app and a website. You use Amazon on its web view for most people, and you can make purchases like this. However, it becomes a web app for people who sell on Amazon because they can alter the website by adding listings. The same can be said with eBay.

Video: Should you learn web development or mobile development?

Examples of a Web App

In this section, we want to list three examples of web app. Obviously, we will use the three most popular web apps. We will give you a brief explanation as to why they are apps and not websites. 

  • Twitter: You can engage with tweets, and you can also alter the site’s contents by creating tweets.
  • Youtube: once you have created a YouTube account, you can engage with content by liking, disliking, or commenting on each video. Thus, changing the state of the website completely, you can also upload videos that further alter the site.
  • Facebook: Once you have created a Facebook profile, you customize your timeline by adding friends, selecting what you want to see, and creating a post. You have now changed the state of the website forever.

As you can see, it all comes down to the amount of functionality that a website has. Once it crosses a certain line, it can no longer be called a website. It becomes a web app.

Can a Web App Have a Mobile App or PC App?

I doubt that this needs much explanation. All you have to do is log on to Netflix via your computer browser. You will now be using the web app. However, you can quickly switch to using the Netflix application on your phone.

So yes, a web app can have a mobile app and even a PC version. If a web developer is skilled enough, they might be able to build a web app and then use one of the development kits from a storefront like Android to develop the mobile application.

However, most of the time, the web developer will focus on the web application, and a software developer will focus on the mobile application. Both individuals or teams will work together, but I can say that a web developer will often do most of the work, and the mobile developer will adapt what the web Dev has done to the application.

Now, I would like to mention that even a website can have a mobile application, but in my opinion, it is a bit of a grey area.

A website with a mobile application uses a very clever trick where the application becomes like a browser with the sole purpose of directing the user to the website address.

Examples of Web Apps That Have Mobile Apps

  • Netflix
  • Youtube
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Gmail
  • Medium

Is it harder to Make Mobile Apps or Web Apps?

Let’s recap for a second: A website or web app can be built using any software and launched simply by buying a domain and a host. Anyone can find your website or web application by using any browser that they have.

For a mobile app to make it onto any storefront, it has to pass certain requirements. The developer who creates these apps has to learn the development tools for each storefront. They also have to use the languages that these development kits support.

So, in my experience, a mobile app developer has a harder job than a web developer. We do need to consider the complexity of either the web app or mobile app. 

Building a calculator for a mobile phone is simple. It is one of the first things that you get taught in your journey of becoming a self-taught developer, but building a web application with full functionality is more technical than that.

So, when we say that app development is a harder job, we are speaking about more complex projects than just building a calculator or an alarm clock.

What Languages are used to Make Websites?

You can’t speak about the differences between app development and web development without talking about the languages that each of these uses. Remember, it plays an integral role in the difficulty and the possibilities of an app or site.

There are three main languages that developers use when building websites, these include:

  • HTML5
  • CSS
  • JavaScript

HTML5 is what gives a website its structure. It stands for the hypertext markup language, and a web developer will use it to design the layout for how they want the content to be displayed.

CSS stands for cascading style sheet. It is what a developer uses to change how elements that were created using HTML5 are displayed. For example, the color, size, and style of any element.

JavaScript will be used in most cases to give a website slide functionality. For example, when you click a button and a window pops up, this was programmed using JavaScript. In many cases, jQuery will be used instead of JavaScript as jQuery uses the best of JavaScript and provides assistance to the developer.

Other languages can be used. The back-end is complex for the most complex sites like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Netflix. A variety of app languages like Python and Java will be used amongst many others.

What Languages are used to Make Mobile Apps?

When you open uber on your phone, it seems rather simple. However, some of the best software engineers in the world were contracted to develop for uber. It is an extremely complex operation that requires the brightest in the industry, but what languages did they use?

The most common language that app developers use is Java. Regardless of your discipline, Java is one of the languages that almost every developer knows because almost every app uses some form. Not all, but most. Whether or not this will be true for the future, we don’t know. Here is a list of languages that apps use when in development.

  • Java
  • Python
  • Go
  • Node JS
  • Javascript
  • C#
  • C++
  • C


At a system level, Uber users C and C++. For the most part, and for the front and back end of uber, they use Java, Python, a language that I am intrigued by; Go and Node JS. Each of these languages will be leveraged to take full advantage of its best parts. To learn more about how Uber builds and maintains its application, we recommend taking a look at this article on the Uber engineering website.

Instagram was one of the most popular apps, and it still is amongst millennials. The development of Instagram is a little less complex than it was for something like uber. On the back end, you have the power of Python. Most of the app was developed using Python, and on the front end, which is what the user sees, you have React17.

Instagram does have a little bit of HTML5 and CSS along with a little bit of JavaScript.

Who Earns More, Web Developer or App Developer?

When making a comparison like this, you need to make sure that you compare at the same level. So, you need to look at a junior web developer and compare that with a junior software developer. It is best to do that up to senior.

In general, software developers make more than their web development counterparts. As you will see in just a moment, the difference is quite significant.

  • Web developers average salary: $80,000 to $85,000
  • Software Developers Salary: $110,000

An entry-level web developer will start on approximately $44,000 to $50,000 per annum. An entry-level software developer can start on $55,000 to $60,000 per annum.

One thing to note is that regardless of which discipline you choose, once you become a senior developer in your respective field, your possibilities become endless. You could, for example, start your own development company. 

You could also start freelancing to build your agency, and you could make a lot more as a web developer than you could as a software developer, but those are just if and maybes.

App Developer Vs. Web Developer: Which is The Best Career?

The answer to this question depends on your personality and your skill level. If you were to eliminate those two factors, answering the question becomes a lot easier.

If you have the necessary talent, patience, and work ethic, building apps is a more prosperous career than web development. Again, software development wins from a financial point of view, but things are not always that simple.

As a web developer, you have a little bit more job security because finding a job as a web Dev is often a lot easier than finding one as a programmer. Also, people don’t mind outsourcing their web development projects to web development freelancers but will be more hesitant to do so if they need software to be built.

Acquiring the skills necessary to do either job is also an important factor, and because it is easier to become a web developer, it is the better option for a lot of people, especially those who are getting into the industry later on in their lives say in their 30s.

Final Thoughts

If you are unsure of what career path you want to choose, remember that you can always change your career path with a little bit of time and effort. Writing code usually follows the same fundamental rules. The main rule is logic. To get from point A to point C, you need to go through point B. Because developers always understand this, switching from building websites to building applications is easier than learning how to build applications from scratch.