Front End vs Back End Development: What Is the Difference?


Web development is the process of building sites and apps. If you are new to it, terms like the front end, back end, and full-stack can make your head spin. The primary goal of website development is usability. Both front and back ends are two aspects of the same process ensuring that your website functions smoothly and provides a superb experience. Find out more about these web development styles below.

Defining Front End 

Any web development team includes experts in front end technologies. This programming style focuses on users and the features and components visible to them. It lets companies like create apps that boost awareness, loyalty, and sales through visual elements that are pleasing to the eye. 

Developers working with the front end make sure the aesthetics are functional. Their job involves coding the visual elements and bringing them to life while putting themselves in users’ shoes. It is all about the “client side”. Based on the visual concepts created by UX and UI designers, these specialists build such crucial elements as:

  • Layouts and navigation;
  • Buttons;
  • Images, graphics, and animations;
  • Content organization. 

This position should not be confused with other job titles involved in the front end, such as web designer. A designer in one company may use software like Photoshop and never touch the code. In another organization, they may also deal with HTML and CSS. Design is a broad field, but it is still different from development. 

A front-end developer can create a website on their own, but the result will be static. For example, a restaurant or a beauty salon may have a site that does not need a database. All of its pages remain the same, and they do not interact with the user. 

The creation of such websites usually requires knowledge of testing strategies, HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. The developer may or may not have experience with design software

Defining Back End 

This area of expertise concerns the sides of websites and apps that are hidden from users. They form the basis of interactivity. You can interpret the back end as the “server side”. 

For example, for a social media site to function properly, it requires accessible storage for user data. This database (for example, Oracle, SQL Server, or MySQL) containing information about all users must run from a server, which may be compared to a remote computer. The job of a back-end developer includes managing the database and its contents. Their work ensures that visual elements function properly 24/7.

Therefore, although users do not see or access the back end directly, it is crucial for smooth interactions and navigation design within your app or website. This dimension of web development deals with data management and supports the proper functioning of the front end. The main tasks of back-end developers are:

  • Code writing;
  • Troubleshooting and debugging of web apps;
  • Database management;
  • Framework utilization. 

Front end vs. Back end: What Is the Difference? 

As you can see, these terms describe different aspects of the same process — the creation of an app or website. They are intertwined. While front-end programmers create visual elements seen by users, back-end developers support their functioning on the server-side. 

Their collective web development effort results in a dynamic app or website. This product may let users place orders, communicate with the brand, participate in different interactive activities, etc.

Comparing the Skill Sets

There are many differences between the jobs, so developers need specific skills and strengths for each field. It is a mistake to assume that either side of the process is more challenging than the other. They are equally important for any website or app. Front-end developers need such skills as: 

  • Developing engaging design solutions;
  • Designing, creating and modifying web pages based on HTML5 specs;
  • Analyzing consumer experience based on website/app performance on the client side;
  • Creating and deploying interactive and mobile-friendly web apps based on such technologies as HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, and React;
  • Pairing those skills with back-end technologies like databases and Node.js, as well as developer tools like Bash, Git, and automated tests;
  • Efficient problem solving; 
  • Strong teamwork skills.

Aside from mastery of their chosen programming languages, back-end developers also need strong soft skills to work in a team, knowledge of common bottlenecks, and more. Basic back-end courses teach:

  • How to use language features like lists, sets, and dictionaries;
  • How to interact with technologies like databases and servers;
  • How to find and fix common problems;
  • Technologies that make apps faster, more responsive, more stable and more secure.

Different Languages

The front end can be built using languages like HTML, CSS, or JavaScript. Developers use a special set of libraries and frameworks, such as AngularJS and Sass. 

Their back-end counterparts may also use JavaScript, but they have their own set of languages. It includes PHP, C++, Java, Ruby, Python, and Node.js. The frameworks are also different (Express, Laravel, etc.)

Defining Full Stack 

As we have mentioned, developers do not have to settle for either front end or back end exclusively. They can build a comprehensive skillset and tackle tasks from both realms. The job of a full-stack developer includes the building of apps and sites that render on both sides (client and server).

In addition, full-stack expertise includes the creation of components, services, and integrations encapsulating business logic. These elements may solve particular problems and provide access to infrastructure. For example, they may connect to cloud services, servers, or databases. 

To Sum Up 

By now, the distinctions between the back end and the front end should be clear. Both dimensions of the development acumen are crucial for creating visually appealing and functional digital products — apps or websites. While it is possible for a front-end expert to build a website without back-end support, the result will only be static (not interactive and unchangeable until redesign). 

Finally, some experts master both fields.  Full-stack developers can build the client side and the server side equally well. This lets them get the best of both worlds.

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