Quick Overview of Web Development

A Quick Overview of Web Development

In this lesson of the HTML tutorial, you will learn… 

  1. About client-side web development languages.
  2. About server-side web development languages.

Web development involves a combination of client-side programming and server-side programming.

Client-side Programming

Client-side programming involves writing code that is interpreted by a browser such as Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox or by any other Web client such as a cell phone. The most common languages and technologies used in client-side programming are HTML, JavaScript, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and Macromedia Flash.


HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is the language behind most Web pages. The language is made up of elements that describe the structure and format of the content on a Web page.

Cascading Style Sheets

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is used in HTML pages to separate formatting and layout from content. Rules defining color, size, positioning and other display aspects of elements are defined in the HTML page or in linked CSS pages.


JavaScript is used to make HTML pages more dynamic and interactive. It can be used to validate forms, pop up new windows, and create dynamic effects such as dropdown menus and image rollovers.

Dynamic HTML

Dynamic HTML is not a language in and of itself, but rather refers to code that uses JavaScript to manipulate CSS properties on the fly.


The term Ajax was originally an pseudo-acronym for “Asynchronous JavaScript And XML,”but is now used much more broadly to cover all methods of communicating with a server using JavaScript. As we will see, Ajax  is not always asynchronous and does not always involve XML.

The main purpose of Ajax is to provide a simple and standard means for a web page to communicate with the server without a complete page refresh.

Adobe Flash

Over the past few years, Flash has taken the Web by storm. At the time of this writing, according to Adobe’s website, more than 97% of computers connected to the internet have Flash Player installed. Flash Player is a plug-in to Internet Explorer and other Web browsers. It enables browsers to display dynamic graphical Web pages that can be visually more fluid than pages that built with Dynamic HTML.

Flash pages are called movies and they are created using special software (also called Flash). ActionScript, a language similar to JavaScript, is used to manipulate Flash objects to make movies more interactive.

Server-side Programming

Server-side programming involves writing code that connects Web pages with databases, XML pages, email servers, file systems and other systems and software accessible from the Web server. The most common server-side languages and programming frameworks are Perl, ColdFusion, Active Server Pages, Java (in many flavors), ASP.NET and PHP.


Perl was the first server-side language to become popular in Web development. Originally derived from C, its relative simplicity and strengths in file and text manipulation and the fact that it is open source made it a good choice for writing CGI scripts. Although Perl is still widely used, it is not as popular a choice for new Web projects as some of the other server-side languages discussed below.


ColdFusion, created by Allaire (now owned by Adobe), is arguably the simplest of all server-side languages. It is tag-based, which makes it look a lot like HTML and easier for client-side programmers to understand than some of the other choices. Because of the relative ease with which it is written, ColdFusion is sometimes assumed not to be so powerful. In fact, ColdFusion code is compiled to Java bytecode, which means the pages run quickly. Web developers can accomplish virtually any required task using the ColdFusion Markup Language (CFML). However, as ColdFusion can easily be integrated with Java applications, developers have the choice of using Java to extend ColdFusion applications.

Active Server Pages

Microsoft Active Server Pages (ASP) is a framework that allows developers to write server-side pages in many scripting languages; however, VBScript and JScript are the only commonly used choices. ASP became popular quickly and sites with pages ending in .asp are now all over the Web. It is not as simple as ColdFusion, but it has the huge advantage of being built in to Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS). Although still commonly used, ASP has been replaced by Microsoft with ASP.NET, an architecture that is much more similar to Java’s than to traditional ASP’s.

JavaServer Pages

As with ColdFusion MX, pages written using JavaServer Pages (JSP) are compiled into Java servlets. JSP pages are made up of tags (as in ColdFusion) and scriptlets (as in ASP). It has replaced Java Servlets as the most popular choice for Java coders writing Web applications.


Microsoft’s ASP.NET is not a language, but a framework for writing Web sites and software. Like ColdFusion and JSP (and unlike traditional ASP) ASP.NET pages are precompiled, so they run faster than traditional ASP pages do. ASP.NET pages can be written in many languages, but the most popular are C# (pronounced C-sharp) and Visual Basic .NET (VB.NET).


Like Perl, PHP is open source. It has rapidly become a popular alternative to the proprietary languages such as ColdFusion and ASP.NET. PHP is lightweight, relatively simple to learn and runs on almost all commonly used Web servers. A nice feature is that it can be integrated with both Java and COM.

Ruby on Rails

Wikipedia describes Ruby on Rails as “a web application framework that aims to increase the speed and ease with which database-driven web sites can be created and offers skeleton code frameworks (scaffolding) from the outset. Often shortened to Rails, or RoR, Ruby On Rails is an open source project written in the Ruby programming language and applications using the Rails framework are developed using the Model-View-Controller design pattern.”

A Quick Overview of Web Development Conclusion

This lesson has provided a general overview of the different languages and frameworks commonly used in Web development.


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