2 Types of Web Development--Explained: Front-End vs. Back-End

Written by Santiago Castro

By the time you’re done reading this article, the world will have seen the publication of over 3,000 new websites. When you go to bed tonight, there will be 76,000 more sites than when your day began. In just the past 30 years, there’s been an increase from zero to 1.7 billion websites. Which is to say: a lot.

Who makes these sites? Who keeps them running? Web developers (Front-End and Back-End) that’s who. In this article, we’re going to unpack these two types of devs, layout what makes each tick, and what kinds of tools, technologies, and responsibilities are required for each.

After reading, you’ll know both who you need to contact in order to fulfill whatever needs might come up if you’re making (or even using) a website or web app, and how to encourage your nephew to go into the dynamic and interesting technology career that’s right for them (they can even work for Jobsity!).

Start Here: What is A Web Developer?

Web Developers are the architects, scaffolders, and interior designers who’ve built the world’s 1.7 billion websites--and are right now building the next 1.7 billion.

What does it mean to “build” a website? It means they write the code which tells your web browser how to read and display the websites you want to visit, and they do this using a multiplicity of programming languages to create both websites and web applications.

In other words, they are the designers of the “blueprint” for your house as well as the builder of the house itself; from the concrete foundation to the wood frame to the basement steps to the layout of the furniture in the living room and the choice of houseplants in the study.

Not all web developers, however, build every part of the house. Some do the wiring and plumbing before the walls go up: the behind-the-scenes stuff. And other web developers build the walls, the trellises, the window sills, the walls, and other external-facing stuff. Others still design the interior of the house, giving it the snazzy Scandinavian look or the cozy Americana.

Front-End: Interior Design

Front-End developers program the parts of the webpage and web applications that you can see, including the aspects of the site the user interacts with when visiting the website, and the aspects that they navigate when using the web application. In other words, this is the person who designs the interior of the house, who chooses the layout of the rooms, the pattern of the wallpaper, and the texture of the carpet under your feet.

Because of this visual and interactive purview, this means that Front-End developers are specialists in writing HTML, CSS, and Javascript, as these three languages help a Front-End developer code for formatting, text, and links (HTML); screen-based layout and style across mobile, tablet, and desktop (CSS); and dynamic and interactive elements like menus, search boxes, etc (Javascript).

To be great at their jobs, Front-End developers must use a mixture of design chops and technical expertise, working alongside designers and UX/UI specialists in order to write coding languages that bring to life the exact user experience that a client wants for their site or application. The best Front-End developers are able to bring forth the most ambitious and original designs envisioned by their peers, with code that is lean and clean.

Back-End: Home Building

Unlike the Front-End developers, Back-End developers build the parts of the webpage and web applications that you cannot see, including servers, databases, and applications. This means that the Back-End developer is responsible for building and maintaining the technology which stores and processes the data which makes the website or web app run; in this way, the Back-End developers are like the team which lays the pipes and wires the house’s walls with electricity. You may not see that stuff, but you rely on it for the house to work as a home.

Within this role as the “behind-the-scenes” developers, Back-End devs work with Back-End languages and frameworks, including server-side languages like Ruby, Java, Python, PHP, and .Net, and languages which handle the data that runs the site, like MySQL, Postgre, and Oracle.

Because the way Back-End code is built will determine not only the capabilities of the website or application, but the functionality, effectiveness, and eventual efficiency of the site, Back-End developers’ work is often called the site “architecture;” what they build is the frame which gives the house it’s for, and keeps the house standing.

To be a skillful Back-End developer, you must be comfortable using algorithms to help make smart decisions, be invested in working with complex programming languages, be excited by the differences between various frameworks and libraries. Because the programming needs and requirements of the various languages used by Back-End developers change so quickly, Back-End devs must also be adaptable, quick learners, with a passion for the new, the different, and the detail-oriented.

Back-End or Front-End: Both Ends Required

At the end of the day, Back-End and Front-End developers rely on each other to make effective websites and web applications that run well, look good, and serve their needs of clients and users.

Even though they specialize in different aspects of the development process, and don’t always speak (or code) the same languages, they work together more than they work apart, and therefore should know enough about each other’s world’s so as to make collaboration--and not disagreement--a central aspect of their work.

Because, let's remember, if the plumber who lays the pipes beneath your house, doesn’t understand interior design well enough to know that your toilet will eventually be placed in the bathroom--and not, say, the study--you are going to have a very awkwardly designed, and not user-friendly, house.

Whatever way you cut it, and however you specialize, Back-End and Front-End developers are both developers: they are two sides of the same coin, and always on the same team.

Interested in hiring talented Latin American Front- and Back-End developers to add capacity to your team? Contact Jobsity: the nearshore staff augmentation choice for U.S. companies.

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Written by Santiago Castro

With over +16 years of experience in the technology and software industry and +12 of those years at Jobsity, Santi has performed a variety of roles including UX/UI web designer, senior front-end developer, technical project manager, and account manager. Wearing all of these hats has provided him with a wide range of expertise and the ability to manage teams, create solutions, and understand industry needs. At present, he runs the Operations Department at Jobsity, creating a high-level strategy for the company's success and leading a team of more than 400 professionals in their work on major projects.