Why AI Won't Replace Web Developers Anytime Soon

Author profile photo for CareerFoundry author Nicole Abramowski.

Are you worried that the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) will render developers and engineers obsolete?

AI and web development is a hot topic that’s got the industry buzzing right now. You might be wondering, is web development still a valuable career? Or will we see AI coding for us soon?

You might imagine AI algorithms effortlessly whipping up stunning websites, leaving coders in the dust. Is it true? Despite the AI hype, developers aren’t going anywhere just yet. 

Let’s take a moment to shed some light on why web developers are here to stay. From creativity to adaptability, human intuition to problem-solving skills to bugs, there are countless reasons why AI still has a long way to go before it can truly take over our roles. Web developers possess a unique set of talents that AI can’t replicate. 

What we probably will see? Developers using AI to help them with their jobs!

Let’s dive into it.

  1. Will AI replace programmers? AI’s current role in web development
  2. Limitations of AI in web development
  3. The future of AI and web development
  4. Building a strong foundation: How to learn web development in the AI era
  5. Wrap-up

1. Will AI replace programmers? AI’s current role in web development

AI is already playing a role in web development, with new and improved tools coming out as we speak. From OpenAI’s (ChatGPT’s creators) API and ability to generate code snippets, to GitHub Copilot, how are these tools shaking up the field?

Automation and code generation

AI-powered programming tools like GitHub Copilot can automate repetitive tasks in web development, such as generating code snippets, suggesting function implementations, or completing code blocks.

These tools leverage machine learning algorithms trained on vast code repositories to assist developers in writing code more efficiently.

If you’re interested in getting stuck in, you can take the ChatGPT Prompt Engineering for Developers course for free!

Data analysis and insights

AI algorithms can analyze extensive data sets in web development, providing developers with valuable insights and helping them make informed decisions.

By processing and interpreting data related to user behavior, website performance, or market trends, AI can offer actionable recommendations for improving website design, optimizing user experience, or enhancing overall performance.

2. Limitations of AI in web development

All these tools sound great, but what are the downsides?

The first one, and it’s a very big one, is that often AI generates info that looks real, but is actually incorrect.

These occurrences are deemed “hallucinations” by ChatGPT’s creators, but it helps more if you called them “lies” or “falsehoods”. This throws up a tricky conundrum for not just coders but everyone using the tool, as it’s harder to see what’s right and wrong. As a result, quality checks become even more important than ever.

For example, in web development, GitHub Copilot will often generate code that looks right, but doesn’t work. It can be helpful for repetitive tasks, but often scouring your generated code for one tiny typo can take longer than writing it yourself.

On top of these hallucinations, let’s go over some more specific limitations of AI and web development.

Creativity and innovation

AI coding, including tools like GitHub Copilot, excel at working with existing code patterns and structures. However, they struggle to generate truly original and creative solutions or designs.

Since AI is trained on existing data, it doesn’t know how to generate anything totally new and innovative. Web development often requires out-of-the-box thinking and the ability to create unique user interfaces, brand identities, or custom functionalities. Human programmers bring that creative spark and intuition necessary for such tasks.

Complex problem-solving and bug fixes

AI and web development might soon go hand-in-hand, but what happens when something breaks?

AI often lacks the nuanced understanding and context required to address complex bugs effectively. Bugs can arise from various factors such as conflicting code interactions, server configurations, or external dependencies, requiring a deep understanding of the codebase and system architecture.

Human programmers possess the critical thinking skills and experience to diagnose intricate bugs, trace their root causes, and implement appropriate fixes. Additionally, AI may struggle with identifying bugs that stem from user experience issues or non-technical factors. Thus, the expertise of human programmers remains invaluable in the bug fixing process.

Client communication and understanding

Software is still being created mostly for humans, and humans often don’t know what they want. Even worse, business owners, clients and stakeholders might think they know what they want, but describe something totally different. Us humans are walking contradictions sometimes!

AI thrives on clear and specific requirements. Without that, it may give you what you want…but not what you need (cue The Rolling Stones).

Basically, AI struggles interpreting vague or ambiguous requests. That’s where humans come in! Human programmers excel in gathering requirements, clarifying ambiguous instructions, and interpreting client objectives.

As money and time are not limitless, humans are still needed to set realistic priorities, guide business leaders and stakeholders on the realistic technical side of things, and set boundaries when something is not technically possible (or too time consuming). While these soft skills may go unnoticed, they prove their worth time and again in our professional lives.

Privacy and ethical considerations

Naturally, the use of AI in web development brings forth significant privacy and ethical issues.

One crucial aspect is the protection of intellectual property. If developers are pasting sections of their codebase into AI, or using significant amounts of code generated by AI, this raises questions about ownership and licensing of the resulting codebase. 

Say you paste a code snippet including your company’s API token into AI. That token gets added to the AI’s training data. What if it then generates your API token as an example for another developer? This is a security risk. Developers and organizations must ensure they have clear guidelines and agreements in place to protect their intellectual property rights.

Another example of the debate this provokes can be seen in the StackExchange community debate over the CEO’s decision to add an AI tool to their StackOverflow for Teams product, trained on the answers from that same community.

Industries like the finance, healthcare, or legal sectors, which deal with highly confidential information, must take extra precautions to ensure data privacy and maintain compliance with industry-specific regulations. Pasting sensitive or confidential information into AI-powered tools can pose risks, as these tools may not have adequate safeguards in place to protect such data. 

In healthcare especially, the use of AI for medical diagnosis or patient data analysis requires strict adherence to privacy regulations like HIPAA to safeguard patient confidentiality. Similarly, financial institutions face challenges in utilizing AI for fraud detection while maintaining the privacy and security of customer financial data. These examples highlight the need for organizations to navigate privacy and ethical considerations carefully when incorporating AI into web development and other domains.

With all of these considerations it’s no surprise that we predicted the job title “data ethics officer” to be one of the top jobs of the future.

3. The future of AI and web development

As we look ahead, it’s evident that AI will continue to shape the future of web development, but in a collaborative manner with human programmers, not a combative one.

The integration of AI into web development workflows holds immense potential for streamlining processes, enhancing productivity, and unlocking new possibilities. More emphasis will land on developers becoming proficient in so-called AI programming languages to give them more options.

Here are a few key areas where AI is expected to impact the future of web development:

  • Automated code generation. AI-powered tools like GitHub Copilot have already shown promising capabilities in generating code snippets and assisting developers in writing code more efficiently.
  • Enhanced user experience. As AI continues to evolve, we can expect more sophisticated tools that offer intelligent recommendations for improving website layouts, content, and overall user engagement.
  • Data-driven decision making. From identifying trends and patterns to predicting user behavior, AI can empower developers to optimize their strategies and drive better outcomes.

4. Building a strong foundation: How to learn web development in the AI era

To excel in web development amidst the AI era, it’s crucial to build a strong foundation in the fundamentals.

In the end, working with AI is all about asking good and specific questions. If you don’t understand how different technologies work, and their use cases, you won’t be able to write good prompts. This is big business: research group Forester predict that in 2024 60% of employees will receive training in prompt engineering.

iYes, you can tell AI to generate you a code snippet, a page of HTML for a website, or a good response to an interview question. But if you don’t know the fundamentals, how will you know if the information is correct?

Remember that AI may provide responses that are convincing, but not always right.

In CareerFoundry’s Web Development Program, we’ve created a bespoke curriculum and combined it with a learning structure that’s designed to equip you with the essential coding skills needed to thrive in the field. Gaining a solid understanding of both frontend and backend development will not only enable you to choose which coding job you want, but also to be able to give AI tools the right inputs to get the right results.  

With these fundamentals, you can go on to work with AI to write accurate and efficient code, to design and build whatever is asked of you.

5. Wrap-up

AI in web development is already here. Instead of taking it away, instead it makes a developer’s job easier and more impactful by automating tasks, providing code suggestions, and offering data-driven insights.

It’s time that people stopped with the hyperbole: Frontend development isn’t dying, we’re not all due to be replaced next month. In a field that’s always facing new technologies, generative AI is just another to add to your toolkit.

However, being able to maximize its effectiveness is only possible if you master the building blocks of coding first. AI’s limitations in creativity, complex problem-solving and bug fixing, effective client communication, and privacy make human programmers indispensable. The collaboration between AI and programmers can enhance productivity and efficiency, though, if you know how to write clear and specific prompts.

Get started on the building blocks of coding with CareerFoundry’s free 5-day short course. In it, you’ll learn how to build a web page with HTML, style it with CSS, then add functionality with JavaScript.

If you’re interested in reading some more about web development, check out the following articles:

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