What Is the Best Language for Web Development in 2021?

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updated Sep 25, 2021

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Choosing the best language for web development can be difficult. If you’re just getting started with coding, it’s hard to know which programming language to learn first. You can choose between several popular tools and find great learning resources online.

But which language should you learn to start a web developer career in the future?

Even though it can feel a tad confusing, finding the perfect language for web development doesn’t have to be complicated.

You need to know what type of projects you want to build in the future. That way, you can narrow down your options.

Once you know the tools you want to learn, simply follow the best way to learn web development with a handful of proven learning strategies from yours truly.

To help you save time and choose the best language for web programming from the beginning, we’ll go through a handful of popular web dev languages in this post. You’ll get a good overview of what they’re used for and whether they’re easy to learn.

Also, I’ve included the average web developer salary for each language to help you choose the most lucrative tools to learn.

Let’s get started!

Here are a few related posts for you:

Please note: This post contains affiliate links to products I use and recommend. I may receive a small commission if you purchase through one of my links, at no additional cost to you. But please, only buy products you believe will help you achieve your goals faster. Thank you for your support!

Why learn web development and coding?

Before we dive into the actual languages, let’s look at a few big benefits of learning web development.

Lucrative income potential:
First of all, web development is a lucrative field in terms of income. Skilled developers among the highest-paid employees out there. And what’s even better: the demand for web developers is increasing faster than the average for all professions.

Variety of jobs available:
Also, when you start a web developer career, you can choose between a wide range of different jobs. You’re not limited to a certain field or industry, either, and you can find a job anywhere in the world.

Furthermore, if you know how to build a website from scratch, you have the option to become self-employed, too.

Inexpensive to learn:
Last but not least, there’s the cost of learning the skills you need. Or rather the virtually non-existent cost. You don’t need a degree or certificate to land a web developer job. You can learn the necessary skills you need by yourself – on a shoestring budget.

Just think about it – you can:

  • Learn a profession by yourself
  • Start making money in a matter of months
  • Achieve this without any big investments

I mean, for how many other professions can you say the same thing? If tech is something you find interesting, why wouldn’t you do it?

Related: I Learned Coding for 6 Months – How Far Did I Get?

Learn Web Development for beginners - Most popular computer programming languages for web development and building website projects

What do web developers do?

Broadly speaking, web developers design and build websites and web applications. Needless to say, the field is insanely vast. Every web developer you meet will have a different story to tell about their background.

Related: What Do Web Developers Do Exactly?

Nevertheless, all website projects are divided into two distinct parts:

  • Front end or client-side: This is what the user can see and interact with on their web browser. The look and feel of a website.
  • Back end or server-side: How data from the user is stored, managed, and retrieved on web servers and in databases. The logic and functions of a website.

Now, even though both areas require specific skills, they work seamlessly together. The one can’t work well without the other.

For a closer look at both, check out my article about front-end vs. back-end development.

In this article, we’ll focus on back-end development languages. If you’d rather read about front-end tools and languages, check out my post on how to become a front-end web developer.

How to find the best language to learn?

When you start learning web development, start by figuring out what your long-term goal.

Know what you want to build in the future. This helps you choose the right programming language to learn.

Even though choosing a language to learn might feel overwhelming, remember that you’re not learning any programming language per se. You’re learning how to use it to create something meaningful as a web developer.

Thus, there is no such thing as the “best” programming language that would rule them all. Keep this in mind when you’re looking for one you should learn.

Recommended: 8 Things You Should Know Before Learning Programming

6 popular programming languages for web development

Here are 6 best programming languages for web development we will look at in this guide:

  1. JavaScript
  2. Python
  3. Java
  4. Ruby
  5. PHP
  6. HTML and CSS

To help you get started, we’ll discuss the average salaries and a few recommended learning resources for each language.

If you are new to programming and not familiar with these languages, check out my beginner’s guide with 14 popular programming languages explained.


1: JavaScript

JavaScript and jQuery - Top computer coding languages for beginners

During the past few years, JavaScript has become an essential language for building websites and web apps. In fact, JavaScript was the most popular programming language among developers in the Stack Overflow 2021 Survey.

Web developers use JavaScript mostly for front-end development together with HTML and CSS. It’s an essential tool to know if you want to start a web developer career in the future.

To speed up the development process, JavaScript offers a variety of libraries and web development frameworks. You’ve perhaps heard of some of these popular tools:

  • jQuery
  • Angular
  • React
  • Vue
  • Ember

Each of these speeds up your front end development workflow. However, you can use JavaScript for back-end development, too. Node.js is a cross-platform environment that allows you to run JavaScript code on the server-side.

JavaScript is literally everywhere nowadays. Learning it can help you start a career in almost any industry you can imagine. If you have a few options in mind, you can decide as you learn and find out what types of JavaScript projects you like the most.

JavaScript developer salary in 2021:

The average salary for a JavaScript developer in 2021 is around $109,036 in the U.S. (September 2021).

Recommended learning resources for JavaScript:

  • FreeCodeCamp – Learn JavaScript together with other front-end tools for free.
  • JavaScript & jQuery (Book) – The perfect all-in-one resource for learning JS and jQuery from scratch.
  • The Complete JavaScript Course – Learn JS by building a bunch of practical and useful apps from the ground up. This is the #1 best-selling JS course on Udemy!

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2: Python

Python - Top coding languages for beginners

Python is one of the most popular programming languages worldwide these days. It’s fun to work with, quick to learn, and you can use it for a variety of projects.

Whether you like data analysis, machine learning, web development, or game development, Python is a fantastic tool to learn and use.

According to Hired, Python is the most loved programming language among developers in 2020, too:

Most loved and least loved coding languages in 2020
Most and least loved coding languages in 2020 (Source: Hired).

We can see the same trend in the Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2021, where Python was the #1 tool developers would like to work with:

Most wanted programming languages - Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2021

The best thing about Python is that it’s easy to learn. It reads a lot like English so the syntax is easy to understand for beginners. You will spend less time troubleshooting your code and more time building real programs with Python.

Recommended: 5 Reasons Why Python Is a Great First Programming Language to Learn

Python also has a few powerful web development frameworks for building web apps faster. The most popular ones are Django and Flask. You can use them to add functionalities to your website faster than coding everything from scratch.

I always thought Python was a lot of fun to work with (here’s the book I used). At that point, I was 100% new to programming and had no clue about what I was doing. But I was surprised how quickly I was using Python for my own small coding projects.

Python developer salary in 2021:

The average salary for a Python developer in 2021 is around $108,016 in the U.S. (September 2021).

Recommended learning resources for Python:

  • Python Crash Course (Book) – Perfect for beginners and tested and approved by yours truly.
  • Complete Python Bootcamp – Learn how to use Python for real-life projects with no prior experience or requirements.
  • Learn Python 2 – This free course on Codecademy will teach you the basics of Python. Perfect for getting familiar with the fundamentals of programming, too.

Related: 21 Top Resources to Learn Python Online

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3: Java

Java - The best programming languages to learn first for beginners

Java is popular in a wide variety of projects, including web development. You can also use Java to build mobile apps for Android.

Also, Java is one of the most popular languages taught in college. If you choose to study software development or computer science, chances are that you’ll work with Java (or Python) at some point.

The main idea behind Java is that it can run on pretty much any device and platform. Thus, if you decide to learn it for web development, you have a powerful tool to use for mobile or desktop software development, too. This might come in handy in the future if you wish to switch careers, for example.

Furthermore, Java has a big, global community across a variety of industries. Thus, it’s safe to assume that Java will be around for years to come.

The biggest shortcoming of Java is that it’s not the best tool for small-scale projects. The development usually takes longer than with Ruby or Python, for instance.

Therefore, you won’t see Java used at startups who need to launch their web apps asap. Check out this thread for more details on why Java isn’t that popular for web app development.

Java developer salary in 2021:

The average salary for a Java developer in 2020 is around $101,326 in the U.S. (September 2021).

Recommended learning resources for Java:

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4: Ruby

Ruby and Ruby on Rails - Best programming languages for beginners

Ruby is another general-purpose programming language, much like Python. It’s most known for its super popular web development framework, Ruby on Rails.

Ruby is relatively easy and quick to learn and a lot of fun to work with. What’s great about Ruby is that you can be creative while building your programs. That’s because you can find multiple good solutions for a certain problem with Ruby.

The best thing about Ruby is that you can get a web application up and running faster than with most other tools. Therefore, it’s often the best language for web development in smaller businesses and startups. They use Ruby on Rails to get websites on their feet quickly.

Thus, if you decide to become a Ruby developer, your skills will be in high demand among young and growing businesses. And if that’s not your jam, don’t worry. Ruby is used at bigger enterprises, too, such as Hulu or Slideshare, too.

Ruby developer salary in 2021:

The average salary for a Ruby developer in 2021 is around $127,196 in the U.S. (September 2021).

Recommended learning resources for Ruby:

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5: PHP

PHP is a powerful and popular server-side programming language used by around 80% of all websites worldwide. Thanks to the growing popularity of WordPress, PHP has become a valuable tool for freelance web developers, too.

And even though PHP is used so much, it’s relatively difficult to manage and troubleshoot. That’s why it divides opinions so often between developers.

In fact, PHP was among the least loved programming languages among developers in 2020:

Most loved and least loved coding languages in 2020
Most and least loved coding languages in 2020 (Source: Hired).

In the Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2021, only 2.55% of all respondents who weren’t using PHP yet would like to learn and use it in the future.

So why am I listing it among the best programming languages for web development, then?

Here’s the deal:

PHP’s popularity still makes it a valuable asset in the job market. For example, a few tech giants like Wikipedia, Facebook, and Yahoo! use PHP.

The language still receives frequent updates, such as PHP version 7and 8. These updates help PHP take giant leaps forward by increasing its speed, improving error handling, and much more.

Moreover, PHP is a great tool to learn if you want to become a freelance web developer. You can use PHP to build and customize WordPress websites for your clients. And if you’re into generating passive income, you can create your own WordPress themes and plugins to sell worldwide.

WordPress - The best CMS for blogging and web development
WordPress is built with PHP.

I’ve been working as a WordPress designer and developer for a few years now. It’s not the easiest language to work with, true. But it’s a lot of fun to work with all the different types of clients and businesses.

Moreover, the demand for WordPress-based websites is crazy high right now. Just a few months into freelancing, I had to start turning down projects. For someone who is entirely self-taught, it’s pretty great to choose who I want to work with, right?

PHP developer salary in 2021:

If you want to become a PHP developer, the first thing you should figure out is this: Do you want to get a full-time job or become self-employed?

For full-time jobs, the average PHP developer salary in 2021 is around $90,912 in the U.S. (September 2021).

As a self-employed freelancer, your salary depends on how much you’re willing to work. What I can say from working with PHP and WordPress is this: I’ve never been short of work. Also, I’m working fewer hours but my income is higher than as a Business Analyst in my previous job.

Recommended learning resources for PHP:

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6: HTML and CSS

I know, I know – HTML and CSS aren’t actually programming languages. But they are the most fundamental languages of all websites and web apps out there. Therefore, all web developers need at least a basic understanding of both tools.

HTML creates the structure and content for a web page. CSS targets and selects those HTML elements and applies styling rules to make them look more beautiful.

Learning how to use HTML and CSS is crucial if you want to become a front end web developer. JavaScript is the third tool you need to learn.

What’s great about these two languages is that they are very easy and quick to learn. You can feel comfortable with the basics after just a few hours, and start building your first static HTML/CSS web page right away.

Here are my favorite courses and tutorials for learning HTML and CSS from scratch:

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Where to learn web dev programming languages?

When you’ve chosen the best language for web development you want to learn, it’s time to find the best resources out there.

The thing with online learning these days is that it’s difficult to find the best courses for beginners. There’s just so much to choose from! And the sad truth is: only a fraction of online coding courses are actually worth it.

Thus, to find a learning platform to start with, check out my article with the best websites for learning web development first.

Then, when choosing a course, pay attention to a few key points:

  1. Start with a free course:
    Learn the basics with a free coding course first. Make sure you enjoy working with the language before you pay for a course or book.
  2. Choose a course with practical projects:
    Building meaningful projects along the way is the best way to speed up your learning.
  3. Check the course reviews:
    See what other students are saying about the contents and the instructor, for example.
  4. Use the right type of material:
    now how you learn the quickest. If you like video lectures, choose an online course. Go for a book if you learn better by reading.

In short: keep your eyes open and make sure you know what you’re paying for.

Here’s a helpful article for choosing the best online coding course to start with.

Final thoughts: The best programming languages for web development in 2021

Even if you’re completely new to programming. Even if you’re not even sure how web projects are built.

Finding the best language for web development doesn’t have to be difficult.

The most important takeaway is this: Think about what types of projects you want to build in the future.

I know you might not have a clear idea about it at this point. If that’s the case, ask yourself: “Where do I want to work?” This can help you narrow down your options quite a bit because small startups use different languages than big corporations.

Also, think about your location. Find out what languages employers in your area are using for web dev projects.

And finally, there’s the salary question. Depending on the language you learn, your potential salary range may vary a lot. Just something to keep in mind.

If you’re new to web development, finding the perfect language to learn first can feel overwhelming. To make things easier, try to focus on what you want to create with code.

When you know what types of projects you like, it’s easier to find the right language to learn.

Ready to start learning? Check out my master list with 120+ free places for learning how to code!

Here are a few hand-picked articles you might want to read:

If you found this post about the best language for web development helpful, drop me a line in the comments below!

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, please share it with others, too! Thanks!

Happy coding!
– Mikke

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About Mikke

Hi, I’m Mikke! I’m a blogger, freelance web developer, and online business nerd. Join me here on MikkeGoes.com to learn how to code for free, build a professional portfolio website, launch a tech side hustle, and make money coding. When I’m not blogging, you will find me sipping strong coffee and biking around town in Berlin. Learn how I taught myself tech skills and became a web dev entrepreneur here. And come say hi on Twitter!

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