Back-End vs Front-End Web Development

April 22, 2021

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When you’re starting to learn web development is very common to start hearing many terms that you’re not familiar with. Two frequent terms that you hear very frequently are Front-End Development and Back-End Development.

These are two major areas of Web Development and as a developer, you’ll need to have at the very least a basic understanding of both even if you focus on just one of them.

So, let’s understand what is the meaning of each, and how they relate to Web Development in general.

What is Web Development?

Now, if you’re interested in learning web development, is very likely you already know the definition of Web Development. But, just so we all are on the same page, let’s make a general definition.

Web development refers to the technical aspect of creating a website or web application. Is very frequently confused with Web Design. However, while Web Design focuses more on the user interface, looks, and user experience of the website in general. Web development focus on the structure. It uses programming languages (JavaScript, Java, Python, PHP), markup (HTML), and styling sheets (CSS) to develop the project.

That been said, Web development is a very broad term considering everything that’s involved in the process to create any web application. In order to give a more clear definition of web development the term can be divided into two major areas: front-end and back-end. So let’s examine each and see the differences.

What is Front-End Development?

In very simple terms, Front-End refers to the visual part of the process. This is what the users of the website can see and interact with (e.g. buttons, forms, videos, images…). A front-end developer uses markup, style sheets, and programming languages to create everything that the user sees in the browser.

This is the part of web development that can be confused with web design, but, notice that web design doesn’t involve the use of any programming languages. Instead, web design uses other software like photoshop, illustrator, Figma. Once the design is created is the time to basically “transfer” that design into a rendered website in the browser. Here is where a Front-End Developer gets involved.

In essence, a front-end developer is in charge of rendering to the browser (using code) everything we interact with when we visit a website.

Frequently used in Front-End Development:

What is Back-End Development?

On the other hand, we have Back-End Development. As you may imagine already because of the Front-End definition. The back-end developer focuses on the “back-side” of the application, meaning the server.

A back-end developer is in charge of connecting the front-end created an application to a server and then to a database in order to store data. This developer is in charge of the back of the application, which means, authentication, error handling, database integration, security, and so on…

Let’s understand it better with an example.

Every time we submit a form in the browser, or register to a web service, the front-end sends a HTTP request to the server. Then, the server must manage this request and send a response back (if required). All the process is defined by the back-end developer. This type of web developer is in charge of defining what to do with every request received from the front-end application and creating the required response.

Frequently used in Back-End Development:

Which one to choose?

In case you’re wondering which one is more important, the answer is very simple: BOTH!. The argument can be made that you can’t have one without the other. In the end, you can choose which one you like the best and focus on just one part.

Another thing to consider is job availability. Both areas of web development have high demand. My best recommendation would be to do some research in your area and see what type of jobs are available and take that as a reference in case you’re on the fence on whether to learn front-end or back-end development.

But, why choose?

Another term you may have heard is Full-stack Developer. This is just a developer that has knowledge in both areas, front-end and back-end. The so-called “jack-of-all-trades”. Now, if full-stack development interests you, my advice would be to learn one part first, it doesn’t matter which. And then learn the other one.

Many people choose to learn front-end first mainly because it’s a more visual area and helps you to understand many topics that are important in web development, whereas in back-end development since you focus more on the server not always you will have some visual rendering in the browser, everything is handled strictly through code. And while you can render your application to the browser to have some visual help, keep in mind this is not the focus of back-end development.

Final thoughts…

Whether you want to learn front-end or back-end, you have to understand that web development is a very wide field. So, even if you choose one or the other (or both), there is a lot to learn. The most important thing is the have a clear path and set clear goals you want to achieve and start the learning process. I hope this post was helpful. See you in the next one.