In one of my older posts I explained what the difference is between a web developer and web designer. But it occurred to me that nowadays being a web developer is not just one thing anymore. With new web based languages, libraries and frameworks available, the role of web developer has essentially been split into three roles. Front-end Developer, Back-end Developer and Full-stack Developer.
If you’re new to the industry or looking to hire a web developer this raises two questions. First, what are the differences between the three? Second, if you’re looking to hire, who should you hire?
So let’s take a look at each role, break them down and find out what the differences are.
What Is Front-end Development?
To understand what a front-end developer does, it’s important to know what the term ‘Front-end’ means. Front-end, also referred to as ‘Client side’ is what you see when you go to any website.
The front-end of a website is kind of like the exterior and interior of a car. Everything you can see, from the text, images, buttons, the colours, logo, forms and anything you can interact with and how they are styled are part of the front-end of a website.
To use a real world example, you have a website where you sell things online. What a front-end developer will do is create web pages where visitors can view your products, forms so they can sign up, login, and make purchases. The developer also make product pages where visitors can see images of the product, read reviews and get more information about a product and have an ‘Add to cart’ button so they can buy said product.
At this time though, such features as forms, the purchasing process and displaying product info from the database won’t be functional as this would be beyond the scope of front-end development.
Who Is A Front-end Developer?
To take this one step further, a front-end developer is generally someone who is going to be more creative and artistic, as it is the job of a front-end developer to create a website that is engaging, creative and easy to use.
Because they’re not dealing directly with a database or the server their main focus is on bringing to life the design of a website. This is also the easier aspect of web development to get into.
What Is Back-end Development?
In order to understand what a back-end developer does, you should know what the term ‘Back-end’ means. Also known as ‘Server-side’, a back-end developer will create everything you do not see on a website.
So if the front-end of a website is kind of like the exterior and interior of a car then the back-end would be like the engine, wiring and undercarriage of a car.
The back-end developer deals more with data and the technical side of a website so that it is functional.
Going back to our real world example, to make your online store functional you’re going to need to store data in a database and then be able to retrieve, edit or delete data stored in that database.
This is where a back-end developer comes in. A back-end developer can use a variety of server-side and database languages such as PHP, MySQL, Ruby or Python so your website can make connections with the database that is stored on a web server.
These connections will spit out the information from the database in order to do things like make your forms functional, display relevant information about products, enable visitors to register and edit their account and billing info, and of course allow visitors to make purchases. Thus bringing to life what the front-end developer has made.
Who Is A Back-end Developer?
Diving a bit deeper, a back-end developer is someone who is more analytical and logic oriented in their thinking. Because they’re dealing with data and site functionality their focus is mainly on ensuring that the front-end runs as smooth as possible for visitors and less on the design. Thus they’re generally not going to be the type of person to build a visually appealing website.
Getting into back-end development is more difficult to get into than front-end.
What Is Full-stack Development?
Now that you have a better understanding of the terms ‘Front-end’ and ‘Back-end’ development, what do you think ‘Full-stack’ development means? If you’re thinking, someone who is able to do both front-end & back-end development then you are correct.
That being said, a full-stack developer is still going to focus more on the back-end of a website because a car without an engine is not going to go anywhere. But they’re also able to build the front-end of the website so that it is appealing, engaging and easy to use, because a engine by itself also won’t go anywhere.
Who Is A Full-stack Developer?
Because being a full-stack developer requires being proficient at both front-end development and back-end, this is the most difficult role of web development to get into. Someone who is a full-stack developer requires that they be a multitasker as they need to be both analytical and logic oriented in their thinking, while at the same time having a creative side to them.
More time will also be required as you’ll have to have a better grasp on more languages. Fortunately there is an ever increasing list of frameworks and libraries for both front-end and back-end languages that make it easier for people to venture into the role of full-stack developer.
Who Should You Hire?
Hopefully this article has shed some light on the differences between these three roles that you are able to answer this for yourself.
However, if you’re still unsure let’s sum up these roles.
Front-end Developer: Someone who is going to be more creative and artistic. They deal with everything you can see on a website and bringing to life your vision for your website.
Back-end Developer: Someone who is more analytical and logic oriented in their thinking. Because they’re dealing with data and site functionality their focus is mainly on ensuring that the front-end runs as smooth as possible for visitors.
Full-stack Developer: Someone who is proficient at both front-end and back-end development languages. Because they do the work of both the front-end and back-end they’re usually analytical and logic oriented in their thinking, while at the same time having a creative side too.