In order to create a high-functioning site or app that is easy for users to interact with, both front-end developers and back-end developers are necessary.
That being said, it's easy to get confused about the difference between back-end and front-end development and what this means for the development of your new digital product. While these two types of professionals work together to create websites, apps, or software, their goals and concerns are on opposite sides of the same coin.
At the same time, there are also full-stack developers who possess skills in both the front and back end, but each of these has become so specialized that it's more typical for a professional to focus their attention on only one.
Let's take a look at what you need to know about both of these vital aspects of site and app development to help you build the best team for your project.
Front-end development focuses on the part of a website, app, or piece of software that the user sees and interacts with. One of their main goals is to ensure that users can navigate the site or app easily. Through the use of design skills, specific programming languages, and an arsenal of other tools, front-end developers create layouts, drop-down menus, and designs for sites and apps.
In some cases, a front-end developer might also be well-versed in other programming languages, such as Ruby, PHP, or Python.
A number of different libraries and frameworks are utilized by front-end developers to ensure that the code is condensed and the content appears in its optimal form on any device.
In addition to code editing tools such as Eclipse and Notepad, these developers might also use software like Sketch or Photoshop to aid in the graphic design component of the role.
Creativity and technical knowledge are necessary on the front-end, as front-end developers help to ensure that the user interface functions correctly and visually appears in its proper form on all devices and browsers.
Wondering if you need both a front-end developer and a UI developer? Check out our recent post on the topic to find out.
In addition to being proficient in the design and technical aspects of the client side of an app or site, the best front-end developers will also possess a number of vital soft skills. These include:
Back-end development deals with the "invisible" structure under the surface that makes it possible for the user to experience the front end of a site or piece of software.
While front-end developers focus on the aspect of a site or app that users interact with, back-end developers are concerned with the server side of sites. They are the people behind-the-scenes that help ensure the overall functionality of an app or site and build the structure of the product so that the front end can perform and display as desired.
The databases, operations, and API of a site are created by back-end developers. You can think of these developers as working "under the hood" of apps and sites, dealing with aspects of digital products that aren't seen by the end user.
The programming languages used by back-end developers include Python, Java, and Ruby. They also use tools to store, organize, and alter data, such as Oracle and SQL Server.
Even though back-end developers are more behind-the-scenes than front-end developers, they still need a wide variety of soft skills to help the development project go smoothly. Some of the non-technical skills that are valued in back-end professionals include:
While some people specialize in front-end or back-end development, others are full-stack developers who can utilize coding skills for both the front and back end.
These are professionals that are proficient in the development of an entire application or site. It's common for companies to hire this type of developer in order to benefit from their ability to look at the big picture during the app or site creation.
It's typical for full-stack developers to know the standard programming languages for both the back and front end while also having skills in developing algorithms, web architecture, Git and GitHub, and databases.
Now that we've taken a closer look at front-end and back-end development, let's dive into the specific differences between these two crucial roles in website and app development.
Perhaps the most obvious difference between front-end and back-end developers is that they work on different sides of an app or website. While front-end developers are focused on the visual elements that users interact with (also known as the client side,) back-end developers are working behind the scenes to build and tweak the parts of a digital product that are unseen by users (also known as the server side.)
Through their collaboration, these two types of developers create websites, apps, and software that allow users to interact with digital products in a way that is beneficial to both themselves and the brand.
By having front-end and back-end developers focusing on different goals, they can create products that are fully functional and easy to use.
On the front end, developers approach development with the goal of making a site or app accessible to all users and responsive on all necessary devices. Back-end professionals approach development with the focus of creating a digital product that supports the goals of the front end and functions properly.
Both sides of the development process are equally vital and important. That being said, front-end and back-end developers typically bring different strengths to the table to create a cohesive, attractive, and highly functional site or app.
While front-end developers know how to work on the UI/UX of an app or site as well as the design, back-end developers bring the strengths of knowing how to solve system-related issues and implement algorithms.
Another key difference between these two types of developers is the programming languages they primarily work with. Programming languages allow individuals to communicate using code in order to create the desired outcome.
Front-end developers typically work in languages like:
They also use libraries and frameworks, such as:
The languages back-end developers work with, on the other hand, include:
Some of the frameworks they might utilize during development are:
These different languages, frameworks, and libraries allow front-end developers to create the client side of a digital product and back-end developers to build and perfect the server side.
While both front-end development and back-end development are considered pretty good gigs, there is a difference in how much each of these roles typically receives when it comes to salary.
The average annual salary of a mid-career front-end developer is almost $77,000 in the U.S., while the average for back-end developers at the same point in their career is $101,619.
If you found yourself here because you're considering piecing together your own team to develop a web app, that's great! In our post about how many developers you need to build a web app, you can see that there are a lot of different options on the table (and pros and cons to each one,) including finding your own freelancers.
While this can appear to be the most budget-friendly option out there, it's worth understanding that there are hidden costs to hiring different developers and experts online that you've never worked with before (and that haven't ever worked together as a part of this particular team.) If you're worried about the time-cost of screening and hiring these various professionals and the potential setbacks you could face if you have to switch developers mid-project, you might consider hiring a team like ours.
At Planetary, we love working with brands of all sizes to create beautiful, functional, and highly-intuitive digital products. If you're curious about whether we'd be a good fit for your next project, drop us a line today.
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