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Monitors sitting on a desk with a cup, keyboard, and other things. Front End vs Backend Development

Front End vs. Backend Development: Key Differences

If you’re an aspiring web developer, you might be wondering how to distinguish between front end development and backend development, and which would be the right career choice for you. To help you out, we’ve created this article to break down the key differences between the two and help you make an informed decision.

In a nutshell, front end developers work on the client-side of apps and sites, making sure that the colors, buttons, and layouts are user-friendly. Backend developers are responsible for all of the website or application functions that you enjoy, but can’t see. They develop and maintain all of the technology that runs a particular website, page, or application. 

What is Front End Development?

Front end development is the process of creating a graphic interface that users can interact with on a website or app. A front end developer builds with the users in mind. The goal of the front end developer is to provide users with a seamless experience when interacting with a website.

What is Backend Development? 

Backend development is the process of using computer programming to make a website interactive. It is the server-side of a website, and it is not visible to users because it runs in the background. Front end development is only possible through the work of backend developers. 

Is It Better to Be a Front End or Backend Developer?

Front end and backend developers have different roles, so you would ultimately need to choose the profession that better aligns with your interests. The table below will help you to compare the two roles, side-by-side to get a better grasp of how they’re different and what they’re responsible for.

Front end development Backend development
Definition: Front end developers work on the client-side of an application, website, or web page. Definition: Backend developers develop and maintain the system that controls and allows all of the functions accessed by a website or application user.
Skills: Graphic design, the ability to create a responsive design, testing and debugging, CSS processing, web performance, attention to visual designs Skills: Working with servers, data structures, database management, programming languages, API
Responsibilities and projects: Creating the user interface, coding a website, testing & debugging, programming in multiple languages Responsibilities and projects: Implementing new features and updating existing ones, coding a website, programming website functions, maintaining the system behind every function
Programming languages: HTML, CSS, JavaScript Programming languages: Python, Java, PHP, Ruby, C#

Front End Development: Top Skills

The skills listed below will give you a better idea of what is involved front end and backend development. These skills are directly tied to their individual responsibilities and are depended upon to accomplish their tasks. 

Graphic Design

One of the main responsibilities of a front end developer is to make sure that a website is visually appealing. Graphic design skills help these developers choose colors, layouts, and graphic elements to retain users’ attention and guide them through the contents of a site.

Creating a Responsive Design

This skill allows front end developers to create websites that respond to human interaction through the use of flexible grids and layouts, images, and CSS media queries. Adapting a website to different screen sizes, platforms, and orientation is an important aspect of responsive design.

Testing and Debugging

This skill allows front end developers to detect and solve issues on a website. As a front end developer, you will constantly need to test your website to make sure that it is functioning as it should. You’ll also need to develop debugging skills to handle any bugs that may arise.

CSS Preprocessing

Front end developers use CSS to personalize websites and control how they are presented. CSS preprocessing allows for easy automation of repetitive tasks. It is a useful skill that eliminates the need to frequently rewrite CSS selectors and strings.

Web Performance

A front end developer can analyze the loading time of web pages, optimize images, and minify CSS and JavaScript. This skill is essential because slow page-loading time can reduce users’ satisfaction and productivity.

Backend Development: Key Skills

Servers

A web server is a computer software that houses all the contents of a website. It is like the backbone of a website. Without it, websites cannot function. Having this knowledge is one of the essential skills of a backend developer. 

Data Structures

Backend development is driven by data, so you’ll need to understand how data is processed, structured, and displayed, and the ways algorithms are used for these processes. This skill involves understanding linear and binary search, data sorting, stacks, queue, and lists. 

Programming Languages

Backend developers use different programming languages to create apps and websites. Some popular languages you should be familiar with include Python, PHP, and Java. While HTML and CSS are more relevant to front end development, being familiar with them is also helpful to backend developers.

API

Application program interface (API) allows two computer programs to communicate. API tools are vital in all industries. One example of an API function is the Google Maps API that can be embedded into other applications. API knowledge is an essential skill for a backend developer.

Database Management

Database management involves storing, maintaining, and accessing data, as well as ensuring security standards are met, maintained, and updated as needed. Maintaining and organizing the website and the user’s stored data is an important skill to have as a backend developer.

Front End vs. Backend Languages

Programming languages enable our communication with computers and give them instructions to complete tasks. Depending on whether you want to work as a front end or backend developer, you’ll need to learn a few key languages. Below are the main languages used in front end and backend development.

Top Front End Development Languages

HTML

HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is used to design the structure of a website. The text, images, tables, and links you see on a website are done using HTML. If you understand this language, you’ll be one step ahead in your front end developer journey.

CSS

Cascading Style Sheet, better known as CSS is the language that is used to work on the style of a website. This includes colors, fonts, and layouts. CSS makes it possible for websites to be adapted to different screen sizes and orientations, and is a key skill for a front end developer.

Javascript

JavaScript is a text-based programming language that enables users to interact with a website. Without JavaScript, web pages would be static. You’ll need JavaScript to activate the dynamic elements of a site. You can enroll in an online JavaScript bootcamp to learn or improve this skill.

Top Backend Development Languages

Python

Python is an object oriented programming language. Its numerous libraries make it a preferred choice for web developers. Backend web developers use Python development frameworks such as Django and Flask for their projects. Python is a preferred language because it’s easy to read and has great machine learning capabilities. You can enroll in an online Python bootcamp to improve your Python skills.

Java

Java is a general-purpose, object oriented programming language with a wide range of applicability. It is one of the most preferred server-side programming languages because of its capability of handling large data, and its strong association with Android development. It is a must-have skill for backend developers.

PHP

Hypertext Preprocessor, more commonly known as PHP is a general-purpose, server-side scripting language that is designed for web development. Its main function in web development is to create and enhance dynamic web page content. 

Which Type of Web Developer Should I Become?

A road sign Front End vs Backend Development
Software developers create dynamic websites with popular frameworks and programming languages.

If you’re wondering whether you would be better suited for front end development or backend development, the questions listed below might help you decide.  

Am I Artistic?

To be artistic means to be creative and innovative. An artistic person has a natural tendency to create, whether that’s painting, cooking, or building. Although this is a necessary skill for front end and backend developers, it tends to be more closely related to front end development.

The verdict: If creativity is one of your primary strengths, you might be better suited to front end development. 

Do I Enjoy Working to Create a Good User Experience?

Front end and backend developers are focused on user experience but in different ways. Backend developers work hard to ensure functionality and operation are seamless and enjoyable for users. Alternatively, front end developers are more focused on layout, design, visual appeal, and user interaction.  

The verdict: If you’re more interested in the visual experience, front end development might be for you. If you’re more interested in developing optimal functionality and operation, backend development is better suited to you. 

Do I Enjoy Creating Aesthetically Pleasing Sites?

This question allows you to weigh your interest in front end development. As front end developers are highly involved with aesthetics, they’re naturally interested and gifted in determining what design, layout, colors, and other visual features are most pleasing for users to interact with. 

The verdict: If you enjoy creating aesthetically pleasing sites, front end development is probably for you. 

Could I Spend the Whole Day Coding?

If you enjoy and are naturally gifted at coding, backend development might be well-suited to you. As backend developers are responsible for developing and maintaining the functionality of a website or application, one of their primary tasks is coding. Although coding is not exclusively tied to backend development, it’s more closely related than it is to front end development. 

The verdict: If you thoroughly enjoy coding, backend development is probably ideal for you. 

Do I Enjoy Graphic Design?

Graphic design involves creating visually appealing content through colors, texts, graphics, and vectors. Front end developers are required to design visually appealing and interactive websites or applications for users, which is why graphic design is an important skill for them. 

The verdict: If you’re interested in graphic design, front end development might be more rewarding for you than backend development.  

Am I a Logical Thinker?

Critical thinking skills are essential for programming and web development. Backend developers are innate logical thinkers who use this skill to solve users’ most pressing needs, using the most effective methods available. Similarly, front end developers often utilize critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Although applied differently, those skills are highly involved in their tasks.

The verdict: Backend and front end developers both use logical-thinking skills. 

Do I Have Strong Problem-Solving Skills?

Problem-solving skills are directly tied to critical-thinking skills. Problem-solving skills include the ability to look at an issue from different angles to find the most appropriate solution. Backend developers need these skills to handle complex coding problems.

The verdict: Although problem-solving skills are relevant to both backend and front end developers, backend developers more heavily rely on these skills.

Am I Mathematically Inclined?

In this field, mathematics is highly involved in problem-solving. Many web or application development issues require math skills to solve. Although math skills are related to both front end and back end development, they are more closely related to backend development, simply due to its complexity. 

The verdict: Math skills apply to both types of development, although they are more frequently associated with backend development. 

Do I Thrive Working Individually or as Part of a Team?

Backend and front end developers both work in teams, as well as individually. However, backend developers work more independently than front end developers do. Front end developers often collaborate with other development teams and departments, especially graphic designers, copywriters, web designers, and even clients. 

The verdict:  If you like to work alone, you’ll most likely prefer backend development. If you enjoy working as part of a team, you’re probably better suited to front end development. 

Can I Work Autonomously or Do I Need Supervision to Perform?

Generally speaking, backend developers can manage their own work and do not need constant supervision to keep track of their projects and meet deadlines. As front end developers work on the client-side of development, they naturally seek constant feedback and approval from employers or clients to ensure they’re pleased with the results.

The verdict: If you prefer to work autonomously, backend development is best for you. If you rely on supervision and approval, front end development is best for you.

What Aspect of Web Development Do I Enjoy Most?

The most effective way to determine which type of web developer you want to become is to assess and compare your options. Do you enjoy graphic design, user experience, aesthetics, and artistic tasks? Or do you prefer coding, problem-solving, critical thinking, and math-related tasks? 

The verdict: The web development aspects you most enjoy are indicative of which type of development you should pursue.

What Is a Full Stack Developer?

A full stack developer takes on the roles of both front end and backend developers. As implied, full stack developers are responsible for designing, developing, and maintaining the server-side of an application or website. They’re also tasked with visual aesthetics, user experience and interaction, graphic design, layout, and other visual aspects and interactive elements. 

According to ZipRecruiter, full stack developers earn an average salary of $102,744 per year. This number can significantly increase depending on the location, company, level of experience, and level of education. Full stack developers can be found in well-known companies like Adobe, Google, Amazon, and Panasonic.

Full Stack Developer Skills

To excel in full stack development, you’ll need to master a wide variety of web development skills. Some of the essentials include front end technology like HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript. You’ll need to be familiar with UX/UI design, and understand the basics of graphic design.

In addition, you’ll need to be familiar with third-party libraries such as jQuery, Angular, LESS, and ReactJS, and programming languages like Python, PHP, and Java. It’s helpful to have experience working with databases such as MySQL, Oracle, and MongoDB. You should also be familiar with version control systems (VCS) and APIs.

Front End vs. Backend Development Salaries

Your salary as a front end or backend developer will depend on the organization you work for, in addition to your location, level of experience, and level of education. The table below includes some of the most common developer jobs, salaries, and job outlooks.

Web Development Jobs: At a Glance

Job Type Median Salary Job Outlook
CSS/HTML Developer Front End $76,284 13%
Front End Engineer Front End $125,501 13%*
Front End Tester Front End $52,522 13%*
Front End UI Developer Front End $88,828 13%*
Front End Web Designer Front End $63,063 13%*
Backend Developer Back End $80,258 13%
Java Developer Back End $93,118 22%
PHP Developer Back End $79,499 22%*
Python Developer Back End $96,890 22%*
React Developer Back End $81,765 22%*

*Jobs with a similar outlook

Is a Career in Web Development for Me?

Whether you have the soft skills to work in front end development, or the critical thinking skills to excel in back end development, a career in web development is secure and lucrative. If you enjoy the tasks, skills, and responsibilities assigned to either development process, you should pursue a career in web development. 

If you’re ready to get started in this field, you might want to consider pursuing a web development bootcamp program or an online web development course. Most bootcamps and massive open online courses (MOOCs) have career coaches who will guide you on the best career path, according to your skills, personal preferences, and professional goals.

Get matched with top job training programs that are designed to get you hired.

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