• TG Marketing Team

Become a Better Web Developer with these Basic Skills

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

By: Erik Wessel

Over my years as a manager of web application developers, I’ve taken part in the hiring of new employees a good number of times. One trend I’ve noticed in applicants right out of school--whether they’ve earned a certification, an undergraduate degree, or those coming from a coding bootcamp-is they are missing what I consider to be basic skills that every web app developer should have. Part of this is that some basic skills, like SQL and data modeling, receive no focus in schools. Part is because web development stresses using different frameworks to accelerate development, but those frameworks hide the basics. This means when those developers are hired, they’re going to have a lot more on-the-job learning to do before they can be truly productive.

Even for programmers with a few years of experience, if they lack these skills, their jobs are going to be that much more difficult for them as they encounter issues they won’t be able to diagnose quickly. So, here is a list of basic skills I think developers should have to make their jobs easier and make them better job applicants.

Databases and Data Modeling

At the heart of any web application is the need to access and store data. Often, I’ve seen academic programs address SQL and databases as a unit in a single class, and the class leaves the students to figure out how to use a database in applications on their own. Granted, the trend in data is towards NoSQL-type data, but SQL is still in high demand. Learning SQL and NoSQL skills together are both basics that will enhance any developer’s skill set. Understanding how to dig deep into a database with advanced queries, and how to model data so the data scales and is easy to fetch is a core skill any developer should have.


Many tools at a web programmer’s disposal do a lot of heavy lifting, including writing out the tedious HTML that goes into building a web page. However, when the components or helpers don’t get things quite right, it’s important to understand the HTML underneath to discern where the problems lie and how to fix them. HTML is constantly evolving, and understanding the value of using semantic markup from HTML 5 like ‘section’ elements or what an input of type ‘tel’ is, or even that such things can exist, will accelerate any web developer’s days. In modern browsers, using the right HTML elements can do a ton of work that would otherwise need to be done with complex CSS or fragile JavaScript. Learn about as many HTML elements and what they do as you can, and save yourself a lot of time and frustration.


Just like HTML, understanding CSS at its core level is necessary for any developer. Surely, frameworks like Bootstrap, Foundation, or Tailwind can get things out of the gate much faster, but as much as they do, you can bet there are going to be customizations in any given application that won’t be covered in those frameworks by default. Developers need to know how to write CSS. And CSS can be very tricky to get right. Because of the “C” in CSS, “Cascading”, figuring out how to effect a change in a page built with a framework can be a hair-pulling exercise even for experienced CSS mavens. For someone whose sole experience with CSS is adding Bootstrap to an application, CSS fixes can be a nightmare.


Modern applications require interaction between server-side applications and client-side JavaScript. Similarly, many applications require integration with other applications on the internet. Think allowing a user to sign into your application with Facebook or a Google account. Key to these kinds of interactions is HTTP, the protocol under which all web traffic travels. Understanding this protocol allows a developer to send and interpret the messages being sent from a server in a way that will speed up and simplify a web application. Often, I’ll see apps built that spend a lot of lines of code and programming time sending a message that could be fully handled by using the right HTTP code. Plus, if you put some effort into it, you get to uncover gems like “418 I’m a Teapot”, a code referencing the capabilities of a particular server. It’s worth looking up.

A Vital Language

If you think you’re seeing a trend here calling out different web programming frameworks, you’re right. In this case, it’s the framework of the app itself abstracting away some of the tools that are built into programming languages. Whatever framework you use, React or Angular in JavaScript, Django in Python, Rails with Ruby, MVC.NET in C#, or any number of other languages, it’s important to have a strong understanding of the vanilla language underneath the framework.

Another trend in this article is saving time and effort. Knowing about the one function or method that can change an array in one line of code instead of fifteen will save you the time of writing, testing, and debugging those fifteen lines of code. Over the course of a whole project, those savings will add up, not to mention future time saved because it’s much easier to discover a problem in your application at a glance. Writing those fifteen lines can incur a large technical debt a single built-in function call would avoid.


This is more of a warning than encouragement. Debugging is a skill that takes time and experience to gain, but it’s worth knowing ahead of time that you need to put effort into learning this skill as you progress through your career. All of the previous skills mentioned in this post will help with debugging. You’ll need to work on understanding the different errors reported back by the application and the different ways those errors can be generated. Seeing them and fixing them is the best way to learn those problems. Eventually, you’ll get to understand how your language, framework, server, and other tools work together--and fail together--so that as soon as you see an error popping up, you’ll know the right direction to look in the code base to resolve the problem.

Working as a web application programmer can be a fascinating job with a lot of ups and downs. Learning the basics can help reduce the downs, make them less impactful, and allow you to better enjoy the ups.

TESCHGlobal has been recognized as a Top 30 Software Companies in Wisconsin by DesignRush.


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