A helpful start might be to see if we can come up with a definition of Web Development. That can actually be a trickier problem than it appears simply because any definition we come up with is somewhat subjective - it can differ from person to person or, more significantly, from project to project. Web Development is also multi-faceted. That is, it encompasses many technologies that can be merged into a single end product - a functional web site. Having said all that, let's have at it anyway!
When does the process of Web Development begin? Almost certainly it is not in front of a keyboard and monitor. Rather, the initial phase of web development is always a mental exercise. As a web developer, you are initially faced with a project of some sort where the finished product will reside on the Internet, viewable by the millions of web surfers that exist. There are many decisions you must make about this product even before you sit down at the keyboard and begin coding.
Before we discuss the decision making process, we'll need to make a few distinctions and define a few terms. We must first establish the difference between a web site and a web page. Simply put, a web site contains all of the content necessary for you as a developer to get your message to your target audience. This content is usually a collection of individual web pages - and that's the difference! A web page is a component of a web site. Think of a web page as a brick in the building of a web site.
Web pages can contain a variety of technologies. The underlying language of the web is Hypertext Mark-Up Language (HTML). Every page that exists on the web is written in HTML and it is HTML that allows us to jump from page to page on the Internet. Quite frankly, without HTML, the web would not exist. We'll be discussing HTML in great detail very shortly but for now, think of it as the glue that holds the web together.Now let's see if we can agree on a definition of Web Development.
Web development is a process that occurs between two parties: the developer and the target audience. In fact, the first order of business a web developer undertakes is to clearly define who the target audience is. Without an audience to view your work, why bother creating the web site at all? Having said that, it follows that any developer should put the target audience's needs at the top of any "to do" list.
The process that occurs is a means of communication. At the very least, the developer has a message to convey to the audience. It is the developer's job to convey that message to the audience in a meaningful way so that the audience's needs are fulfilled. And that's where web development occurs.
So, we've arrived at a definition for Web Development. It is a means for a developer to convey a message to a target audience using the technology of the web. That was easy!