Did you know that you have more than one option for what type of work you’d like to do when becoming a web developer? Specifically, all websites have both a frontend and a backend developer. While it is possible to learn both, many developers elect to study one or the other. When developers are proficient in front and back-end programming, they are called Full Stack Engineers.
Understanding front-end vs. back-end development is not overly complicated, but each one does require a specific set of skills, and you may find you’re better suited for one or the other.
In this article, we’ll explore:
- The differences between frontend and backend development
- A brief overview of the programming languages and frameworks you’ll need to learn to be successful in either field
- Where to begin if you want to become a frontend developer or a backend developer
Let’s dive in.
What Is Frontend Development?
Frontend development uses code and other development tools to design the look, feel, and flow of how a website operates. As the name suggests, the frontend of a website is the visual side — the part of a website displayed on your monitor. In other words, it’s the part that the user interacts with as they browse a website.
The frontend development includes designing and optimizing the UX (user experience) and UI (user interface). Of course, the design of interactive visual aspects of any website is crucial, and as a frontend developer, it will be up to you to make sure the look and feel of a website match the clients’ goals and brand elements.
What Is Backend Development?
Backend development uses code and other development tools to create the website’s functional architecture and allows the website to communicate with other websites or databases. Back-end coding also allows websites to communicate with multiple browsers and store information in browser databases, such as passwords and autofill options.
As a backend developer, you are solely concerned with how a website actually functions; if a command is failing or a button isn’t linking to the place it should, backend developers can fix these issues.
However, the backend development of a site can be much more complicated, as it requires skills to help many intricate tasks work together seamlessly.
For example, a backend developer at Uber is responsible for ensuring several processes. When you book a ride, your information is communicated to the driver. Your location is accurately shared. Your ride is booked and paid for. And in the future, if you want to pull up the details of the drive, your account can accurately show the details by pulling information from Uber’s databases.
Frontend vs Backend: What’s the Difference?
The difference between frontend and backend development is that frontend developers design the look, feel, and visual aspects of a website. Back-end developers create the architecture that allows the website to function without errors and communicate with databases, browsers, and other websites.
Frontend vs. Backend Example
Imagine you want to buy a new set of rollerblades on Amazon. You’ll search for the Amazon store in your browser’s search bar, and your browser will display the Amazon interface on your monitor. Everything you see on your screen is front-end development.
You’ll type ‘rollerblades’ into the search bar and hit ‘enter.’ So far, you’ve been interacting with the frontend of Amazon’s website, but once you initiate the search, the data you’ve entered is processed by the backend. Behind the scenes, Amazon’s backend is communicating with its databases of product listings. It then sorts that information by relevance and sends the data back to the frontend.
The frontend is now responsible for correctly displaying this information. You’ll continue to interact with the frontend, but each time you ask for new information to be displayed or to complete an action like signing in to your account, you’ll call on the backend to gather information and relay it back to the frontend.
The Key Roles of Frontend Development:
- Display information in an effective and engaging way
- Display correct information
- Be quick and responsive to the demands of the user
- Look appealing and modern
- Be user-centric and user-friendly
The Key Roles of Backend Development:
- Quickly and effectively gather and relay information
- Communicate with databases
- Communicate information back to the frontend
- Send and collect information from other websites or web browsers
- Sort and categorize data to present to the frontend
No matter which developer role you decide is right for you, you’ll need to learn some similar skills. In particular, you’ll need to know how to code, and you’ll need to learn how to design frameworks.
Here are breakdowns of the most popular programming languages and most commonly used frameworks.
Top Frontend Programming Languages
- CSS – CSS (Cascading Sheet Styles) is among the most commonly used languages in frontend design. This language helps describe the look of a document written in markup. Essentially, it presents the HTML part of the code to the user.
- HTML – Short for HyperText Markup Language, HTML is a markup frontend programming language that provides the basic layout of a website. HTML relies on tags captured within angle brackets <> to provide information about how the website and its headings and titles should look.
Top Backend Programming Languages
- Python – Python is a powerful, open-source, general-purpose programming language that can be used to build any type of website. It can handle tasks such as data analysis and allow you to create automated tasks.
- Java – Java is an easy-to-use coding language that allows you to write code for almost any type of program or device. It’s applicable across almost every technology platform no matter its foundational architecture.
- Ruby – Ruby is an open-source programming language known for its easy readability and simplicity.
- PHP – PHP is a widely used language used for creating dynamic server-side applications for websites.
Top Frontend Frameworks
- AngularJS – A structural framework that allows you to quickly and succinctly express your HTML code on a website’s frontend.
- Vue.JS – As its name implies, Vue.JS is used to create interactive website interfaces that can be seen or ‘viewed’ by the user.
- Ember.JS – Ember.JS is an open-source front-end framework that allows for a complete solution for building client-facing website and application features.
Top Backend Frameworks
- Express – Express framework is used in conjunction with Node.JS and provides back-end logic for websites and mobile apps.
- Django – Django is a backend framework that works alongside Python and allows developers to quickly and efficiently create secure websites.
- Ruby on Rails – Uniquely applicable for both front and backend development, Ruby on Rails works with Ruby programming language. It’s a high-performance web language that uses a concise amount of code, making it easy to find and fix errors.
- Flask – This lightweight framework won’t bulk up your app or website. It works alongside Python and employs unique features. Its easy-to-extend core and simplicity of use make it a favorite.
- Laravel – Laravel is an open-course framework that is powerful while also remaining easy to understand. It can handle a robust number of website projects but allows the user a simple method of creation.
Learn Web Development at Coding Dojo
Want to learn Web Development in a way that works best for you? You can start your web developer career with Coding Dojo’s online or in-person courses. Not sure where to begin? Try our free Intro to Web Development workshop.
This beginner-friendly event will help you decide if coding is for you, and all you need to join is a computer with a microphone.
- How the Web Works
- HTTP Request & Response Cycle
- Front-End vs. Back-End Development
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Frontend vs Backend FAQ
What Is Web Development?
Web development, explained simply, is the process of designing and creating functioning websites and applications. Web development encompasses the entire process of frontend and backend design. Web developers are responsible for the site’s technical functions, appearance, speed, and performance.
What Is Full Stack Development?
Full stack development is the process of developing an entire website or application and encompasses both the front and backend design and implementation. A full stack engineer can individually handle both front and backend development.
Should I Learn Frontend or Backend First?
It’s most common and recommended that a developer learn how to design UX/UI on the frontend before learning the backend implementation. This is generally because a firm understanding of the front-end application will make learning the backend easier and allow the designer to be more creative and concise in their back-end approach.