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Front End Development and Backend Development. What is the Difference?

You’ve probably encountered both of these phrases online, often used interchangeably, but what is the difference between the two? And how do they relate to each other?

Well let’s find out by taking a closer look at exactly what’s involved, starting with front end development.

What is a Front End Developer?

A front end developer, often referred to as a web developer, is someone that implements the visual elements that users see and interact with on a website.

This is distinct from a web designer, who is responsible for the visual concept of a website, such as page layouts, grids, templates, typography and general ‘look and feel’.

So What Does Front End Development Involve?

Essentially a front end developer takes a mock-up of a website from a designer and develops this concept into a website using development languages such as HTML and CSS.

The result is what’s known as a static website – a website that doesn’t change, transform or rely on dynamic /interactive features, such as allowing a user to fill in a form and submit information.

How Does a Front End Developer Make a Website Dynamic?

In order to implement dynamic features, a front end developer will use a JavaScript framework such as Angular or a Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress, to link the static website with a database.

In a nutshell, this allows information to be collected from the front end of the website and stored in the database. Or, conversely, it allows information to be retrieved from the database and displayed on the front end of the website.

A perfect example of this is process in action is Facebook. After registering for a Facebook account using the front end of the website your personal details will be stored in the Facebook database.

Then, when you log into Facebook your account details are retrieved from the database and a personalised version of Facebook is presented to you.

So What is a Back End Developer?

Back end development refers to the development of applications such as Content Management Systems which run on the server and are used to convey information between the database and the browser / front end.

Back end developers are often referred to as programmers or coders, since their work is very much focussed on building applications using server based coding languages such as PHP, Ruby, Python and .Net.

What does backend development involve?

Backend development takes place on the server, often referred to as the ‘server side. Essentially this means anything that happens ‘behind the scenes’ away from the front end of the website.

Essentially if a website requires any additional dynamic functionality, it’s the job of the backend developer to develop it, test it and ensure that it functions with speed and responsiveness in mind.

This could range from a comprehensive internal search system for the website, to simply ensuring that the drop down menu that the front end developer places on the website is populated with information pulled from the database.

So What is a Full Stack Developer?

A full stack developer is a developer that is familiar with both front end and back end development languages. These developers have an understanding of the individual layers that go into software development and can specialise in any area of that development process.

A Final Thought

The role of ‘developer’ is evolving almost as rapidly as the software and technology that developers use. It just isn’t as clear cut as front end or back end anymore, not when so many other disciplines are involved in the development process.

The days of a lone ‘web designer’ building an entire company website in a few hours before heading off to the slopes for a cheeky snowboarding session are over.

These days development requires the input of UI designers for the visuals, UX designers to ensure the right goals are achieved and QA testers to make sure that everyone has done their jobs correctly.

Who knows, the way things are going with recent advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence, will we even need web developers 10 years from now?