Web developer vs Software developer: what is the difference?


The terms web developer and software developer are so commonly used, but it is easy to get confused between the two. However the roles of the two are not the same, because they perform two different duties. And both are required to work in technical and IT departments of companies that hire them. 

However, a person who works as a web developer or as a software developer will have to complete a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems, they will eventually branch out to perform two different roles when they seek a job. The knowledge and expertise they develop over the course is also different. However, the interesting fact is that both the roles involve writing codes and designing client side applications, but they use different programming languages. 

In this article, we can explore the roles and duties of both these tech roles. 

The web developer and software developer: The primary differences

The main difference between the two depends on the programs they work with.

Web developers – Their job role is to focus on creating visually appealing websites, e-commerce and web applications that run on browsers. They work in IT and marketing departments, and would need to have knowledge about HTML, CSS, and Javascript. 

Software developers – Their job role is to focus on computer programs for mobile devices and desktops. They work in technical departments and do research and development, machine learning, data science etc.

See, there is a whole lot of difference between the two, and they both are at the other end of the spectrum. 

While both developers should have strong coding knowledge, the workflows are different and the complexity levels are different.

Other differences that keep their jobs apart

Technical and mathematical aptitude

Web developers – they tend to apply their technical and creative skills into their job, because they have to make really beautiful and responsive websites and applications in order to stay ahead of the game. 

Software engineers – they are very good at problem solving and will have mathematical brilliance that will make them excel at their jobs. 

The average salary

Web developer – They earn according to the per hour basis, and on the basis of market demand. They work freelance or remotely, and hence enjoy flexibility of work. As the web developer becomes experienced, they can secure jobs as software developers. They work in creative areas like web design and user interface design.

Software developer – Actually, the software developer’s average salary is higher than that of the web developer’s. They work at government offices and big organisations, and sometimes long hours and their job will be mostly on-site. 

Knowledge of the business side

Web developer – As the web developer’s experience grows, they can go on to become senior web developers or software engineers. 

Software developer – In addition to coding skills, they might need to have sufficient knowledge of the legal aspect of the business as well. 

Both the web developer’s and software engineer’s job roles have some amount of overlay. For example, both of them should have knowledge of different kinds of programming languages, must be good team players and have sufficient knowledge in troubleshooting codes.

When do you need to hire web developers?

If you are looking for an expert to build websites or trendy e-commerce websites, then you can hire web developers. They are the right people for the job. Many businesses are already hiring web developers in-house and also as freelance team members to stay ahead of competition. This is because most businesses wish to have a strong and commanding presence online, and they need an expert to make that unique. 

It doesn’t matter if you are not selling online, you can still make use of these online channels to optimise your online presence. With the help of a functional website, you can drive traffic, generate new sales leads, foster brand loyalty and attract an international audience. 

When you hire web developers, you can either hire front-end or back-end developers. In the frontend development, the developers create the client side of the website, while the backend deals with the database development and business logic. 

The front-end developer works mostly on the visual and interactive elements that people see when they enter a website. They have to make the website as engaging and responsive as ever.

The backend developer will work with the web traffic and be responsible for troubleshooting website issues. They are mostly responsible for the functionality and capacity of the website. 

When do you need to hire software developers?

The software developers play a crucial role in every stage of the web and mobile application process. They have a say right from the initial planning to the final roll out of the computer programs. 

They have two specific roles to play: as software applications developers and as software systems developers. 

The software applications developers focus on designing desktop and mobile applications, tools, games and they might be involved in the same project for a long period of time. They will be doing the upgrades, and making sure the applications are engaging and functional. 

As for the software systems developers, they have the role of designing systems-level software. So they need to have extensive programming knowledge because their customers will mostly be enterprise companies. So their role would be to design critical infrastructure, database management systems and corporate networking apps. 

Which one to choose for my business: web developer or software engineer?

So, now comes the million dollar question – whom to hire for your business or project. Software engineers focus on the entire project from the beginning till the final roll out, while web developers focus on one major aspect of the project. 

It wholly depends on what kind of a company you run, and what the project requirements are. If you are looking for a website redesign and an engaging and amazing mobile application to match, then you need a web developer for the role. On the other hand, if you need someone to constantly watch out on the project – build, maintain and regularly update, you need to hire a software engineer.

And of course, comes the question of the budget that you can dedicate – if you need someone to handle your project all year through and solve complex engineering problems then you need to pay handsomely to the software engineer. On the other hand, you can keep a web developer on retainer through a software development agency or hire them for a short-term basis, or according to a contract and then once the project wraps up, they can be dispersed. 


It is also possible that a web developer can eventually go onto become a software engineer. If the developer enjoys being creative, loves to learn new programming languages and has excellent mathematical aptitude, is willing to work long hours and thrives while working in a team, then you can easily become a software engineer.

Interesting Links:

What are the Job Requirements and Responsibilities of a Web Developer?

Software Developer vs Software Tester: What is the difference?

Pictures: Canva

The author: Sascha Thattil works at Software-Developer-India.com which is a part of the YUHIRO Group. YUHIRO is a German-Indian enterprise which provides programmers to IT companies, agencies and IT departments.

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