Front End vs Back End Web Development
Have you ever wondered how the websites you use everyday work? Have you ever been curious about how, when you click on a form, it makes something happen on a web page?
Behind every website is a web developer who is responsible for making the web pages that you use functional.
Over the years, as the web has become more advanced, more companies have started to build their own websites in an effort to stay competitive. Think about your favorite stores, for example. Many of them will likely have both an in-person branch, and an online shop, which helps them increase their customer range.
But do you know about the two main types of web development? You may have heard the term “web developer” thrown around, but this is a broader term used to refer to two specialist fields in web development: front end and back end.
This guide will discuss the basics of frontend and backend development, and the tools each of these developers use on the job.
What is Front End Web Development?
Front end web development is focused on building what the user sees on a website. This is referred to as the “front end” of a website, or the “client.”
Everything that you see on a website—from forms to text to images—has been placed on the page by a front end web developer.
For instance, all of the text and widgets on this web page were created by a front end web developer. A web designer created the basic design, and content producers wrote the content, but the front end web developer was the one who created the code that powers this website.
Tools of the Trade
In addition, front end web developers often use tools such as EmberJS, React, Angular, and Foundation to help them write more efficient applications. These tools provide pre-written functions which automate common tasks, and give the developer more control over the user interface they are creating.
Throughout the development of a project, a front end web developer will work with designers to come up with mockups and prototypes for a website. Then, once the final specifications are established for a web page, the front end web developer will create a live version of a website using the tools we mentioned earlier.
To be a good front end web developer, you have to be able to quickly identify potential issues in a user interface, and be able to make actionable recommendations on how a web page should appear. This involves a high degree of teamwork, because both web designers and front end web developers need to be on the same page about the direction of a site.
Front end web development is best suited for people who are looking to work in a technical role, but who also have an eye for design. Because front end web developers often advise on design, then having a good sense of creativity is a crucial part of the job.
Every day, as a front end web developer, you would be responsible for turning ideas into actual websites, and bringing designs that exist as sketches and wireframes into fruition.
According to Glassdoor, the average front end web developer commands a salary of $76,929 (according to data collected May 5th, 2020). That’s an impressive sum! Some front end web developers choose to work as a freelancer as well, where they are paid an hourly rate by clients as opposed to a full salary.
What is Back End Web Development?
Back end web development is focused on making a website function. While front end web developers create what the user sees, back end developers write the code that controls what the user does not see that powers a website.
The back end of a website has three parts: a server, an application, and a database. The server is used to host a website, the application is the website itself, and the database is used to store data for the website.
Back end web developers bring together these three parts of a website and create the technology that powers what the user sees on the front end of a website. Without a back end web developer, all the features on a website—like posting on social media, or payments on an e-commerce site—would not be functional.
For instance, on Career Karma, the back end powers all the code behind the scenes for our website. When you go to our homepage and a list of posts appear, it is the back end that has created the list of posts. When you click on a post and see a list of comments, it is the back end that has retrieved those comments from the database for you to see.
That’s not all! When you navigated to this blog post, a web server hosted by Career Karma found the page you were looking for, then sent it to your browser to be rendered on your device. With this in mind, it’s clear just how important back end web developers are.
Tools of the Trade
Back end web developers use a wide variety of technologies in their day-to-day work.
In terms of developing back end applications, developers will use technologies such as PHP, Ruby on Rails, Java, and Python. These all operate on the server-side and power back end applications. Developers will also use tools like MongoDB, PostgreSQL, or MySQL to store data in and retrieve data from a database.
In addition, some back end developers may also be responsible for maintaining the servers that a web application uses (depending on the size of the application). So, you may also find that a back end web developer will spend some time using Linux, managing web servers, or otherwise being involved with the back end infrastructure that powers a website.
Before a back end web developer gets to work, they first need to work with the rest of an organization to understand the requirements for a project. Back end web developers will work with people like product managers to understand their needs, and then they will use the information they have gathered to turn ideas into technical requirements. Once the requirements for a project are agreed upon, a back end developer will start coding.
Jobs in back end web development are best suited for people who enjoy programming and working on complex problems. For instance, one day you could be working with a payment API to add payments to a website. On the next day, you could be using your skills to retrieve data from a database for a new feature. Although the user may never see your work, most modern websites cannot function today without a back end.
According to Glassdoor, the average back end web developer earns $68,524 per year. Although that is lower than the front end web developer’s salary, it is still an impressive amount for a job in the technology industry.
Back end web developers are usually employed directly by a company, although some may work as freelancers and contribute to many different projects. This arrangement is not as common as it is in front end web development though.
Front End vs Back End
Front end and back end web developers are complementary to each other.
Front end web developers write the code that powers what the user sees on a website, ranging from text to forms to buttons. Back end web developers, on the other hand, are focused on writing the code that powers the behind the scenes for a website, such as user authentication, payments, and sending content for the front end to show.
As the internet becomes an increasingly important part of our lives—and as more businesses start to leverage the internet to compete with other organizations—web developers will continue to increase in demand. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of web developers is expected to grow by 13% by 2028.
If you enjoy design, creative thinking, and coding, front end web development may be an excellent career to consider for you. On the other hand, if you have a more technical mindset, and like delving into how things work behind the scenes, back end web development may suit you more.