Understanding the Difference in Front End, Back End, and Full Stack Developers

The concept of the internet isn’t something that is very well understood. All you may know is that you open up a browser tab, type in the URL you want to visit, hit enter, and “wa-la,” you have a website loaded on your computer immediately. The ultra-clean layout, impressive visuals, and well-constructed visuals may even take your breath away. But your consideration of all this may stop there. However, if it doesn’t, you are in the right place.

The people who are responsible for each part of this amazing experience are none other than web developers.

In January of 2020, the internet had more than 1.5 billion websites – with this number steadily ticking upward. This pretty much shows web developers they have walked into a career with great job security. The people who code, build, analyze, and maintain the websites are truly artists and people who are needed more and more throughout the years.

Today, websites are considered a critical component for a business to remain competitive. Also, with best practice and web development trends changing with the season, there is no real shortage of work for those with developer skills.

The question is, how do you know what type of web development you should look for? If you need services, you may wonder what type of web developer you need – after all there are more than a few options – front end, back end, and full-stack. To know what you should do, you have to know the role of each of these developers. Keep reading to learn about these, and more.

The Role of the Front-End Developer

When you are talking about the front end of a website, this refers to the portion of the site that people interact with. It is what provides an immersive user experience. To execute the objectives, a front-end developer has to have skills in three of the main coding languages, including Javascript, CSS, and HTML. Along with fluency in these particular languages, front end developers are familiar with things like EmberJS, AngularJS, Backbone, Foundation, Bootstrap, and more. These all help to ensure the content looks great, regardless of the device that is being used.

The front-end developer is the one who takes the design and who creates a functioning website out of it. There are some sites that are only designed using JavaScript, CSS, and HTML. However, with other sites, more code is hidden in the back end of the site, which works to augment or to enhance the front end of the site.

The Role of a Back-End Developer

The role of a back-end developer is to build the “under the hood” parts of websites that a user will never interact with directly. They use an array of tools, such as Windows VPS hosting to ensure their work is done properly and that it meets the needs of what’s going on at the front-end of the site.

You still may wonder, though, what does front end versus back end really mean? Even though the front end is what a user will interact with directly, the back end is much more behind-the-scenes and it may have a few advantages over the front-end technologies with specific products. Some of the most common back end programming languages will include Python, Ruby, and PHP.

There is something that you need to take note of. You are likely not going to see too many job listings that state that a business or company is looking for a back-end developer. Instead, the job listing is going to state the company is searching for PHP developers, Ruby developers, or something similar. That’s because the real programming language that a developer knows how to use is essential to being the proper fit for a certain job.

Regarding what you are able to do with back end language that you aren’t able to do using JavaScript, the list is considered much more limited today than it was in the past. One of the biggest differences – the majority of content management systems are designed on back end programming languages, along with an array of complex web applications.

JavaScript may suffer from performance problems – it may get buggy or slow. Even though it is a possibility to use JS for building virtually anything you can imagine, in some cases, there are several better solutions available. Learning the right way to code is going to teach you what the best solution is for your specific problem and in some cases, this means that you must use a back-end language.

A back-end developer is usually going to work closely with a front-end developer. This is done to help ensure the code they create will work with the app’s or the site’s design and the entire front end.

There is no developer that is more important than the other – both the front- and the back-end developers have specific jobs to do, which are crucial to the development and quality of the website in question.

The Full-Stack Developer

A full-stack developer is an engineer or a web developer who is working with both the back and front ends of an application or website. This means they can handle any projects that involve things like the construction of user-facing websites, databases, and even work with the clients during the planning part of the project.

A full-stack web developer is able to handle an array of jobs and they will be familiar with all of the following (and usually more):

  • Familiar with JavaScript, HTML, and CSS, along with other back end languages.
  • The majority of full-stack developers are going to specialize in specific back end programming languages, such as Python, PHP, or Ruby. However, there are some – especially if they have been working in the field of developer for quite a while – will work with more than one. If a business or company is looking for a “full-stack” developer, they are going to say so in the ad.
  • There are some full-stack developers who learn other skills, as well, such as user experience skills, web design, visual design, or project management to help complete the stack.

Today, the line between what is able to be done in the back end versus the front end is getting more and more blurred. More and more developers are becoming what is referred to as “full-stack.” Many employers – especially the agencies who are working on various sites – are looking for a developer who is able to work on every part of a website. That ensures they can use the right tools for whatever the job may be, regardless of if it is back end or front end. As a result, the increase in companies that are searching for a full-stack development professional is going to continue to be seen.

Also, contrary to what many people believe, “full-stack” doesn’t always mean that a developer is writing all of the code that is being used on their own. There are some full-stack web developers who spend most of their time working on the back or the front end of the site.

The point here is that the individual has enough knowledge and experience about code, throughout the stack, that they can pitch in anywhere their help is needed. There are some people who work as full-stack developers who will code the entirety of a website. This includes the front and back end; however, this is usually only the case if they have begun to work freelance or if they are the only developer that is working on the project in question.

A full-stack developer is going to have acquired the skills needed to work on any and all parts of a website, regardless of if it is client-facing, or not. This is going to make the individual an invaluable part of a business’s team and a crucial element in making sure the business’s web presence is up to par compared to the competition.

The Takeaway

The fact is the realm of web development has many different faces. However, regardless of the type of development that a person is thinking about pursuing or that a company needs to hire, certain soft skills, such as the ability to learn quickly, the ability to solve problems, good communication, and attention to detail are going to stand out.

Each of the developers mentioned above – front-end, back-end, and full-stack – has a role to play. For bigger companies, having separate front- and back-end developers may make more sense, as you can get more done, faster. However, for smaller companies or businesses with limited budgets for these costs, having a full stack developer may be a better option. This is an individual who is able to work on all parts of the website and who can write code that ensures everything works seamlessly together. In the long run, this is an invaluable part of a business’s online presence. 


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