Front End vs Back End in Web Development

March 21, 2021

Web development is an important field in the tech industry because it contributes to the development of e-commerce sites, social network services, and complex web applications. Building a web application requires two fundamental parts: the back end and front end.

Understanding the difference between these parts is important especially to young developers because it helps determine their right career paths.

This article will provide a comparison between the back end and front end in web development and provide an overview of how they interact with each other.

It will also provide a brief guide that can help developers choose the right development path.

Table of contents

What is front-end development?

Front-end development is the section of the web that users interact with. This includes everything that users can see, experience, and touch. It represents the graphical user interface with various icons such as the navigation menu, videos, and images.

This type of development is also called the ‘client-side’ since it enhances direct interaction with users. Front-end developers enhance the attractiveness of web pages by building sites that are user-friendly and easy to use.

What is back end development?

Back-end development is the section of the web that cannot be seen by users. Users cannot interact with this part. This part handles various behind-the-scene activities such as creating libraries, coding, and writing APIs. It involves a higher level of collaboration when compared to front-end development.

This type of development can also be termed as ‘server-side’ since it provides the functional support of web applications. The presentation layer of a web page cannot function without back-end development. The server-side communicates with the client-side to enable the web application to function well.

Differences between front-end and back-end development

The comparison between the front-end and back-end can be done using the following criteria:

Application side

Usually, the front-end development is done on the client-side of a web application while back-end development is done on the server-side (sometimes it can be done on client-side too). The server-side is connected to a database that responds to requests made on the client-side.

Roles

The back end provides the functionality for the presentation layer while the front end provides the visual aspects that enhances user interaction. The back end is the enabler of the front end side. The latter collects input from users while the former processes it.

The front end enhances accessibility and provides a feature for search engine optimization (SEO). Back-end development may involve using backup and security features to secure data and web content.

Front end developer vs back end developer

Front end developers mostly deal with the design of the website while the back-end developer deals with programming. Back-end developers ensure that the data requested at the client-side is delivered.

Languages

The front end uses web languages such as CSS, HTML, and JavaScript. The programming languages used in the back end may include PHP, Java, Python, and Ruby.

User interaction

In the front end, users can interact with the web application through various icons and features. However, users cannot interact with the back end part because it does not provide visual aspects. Instead, it acts as the brain of the web application.

Frameworks and libraries

Some of the frameworks used for front-end development include Angular.js, React.js, jQuery, SASS, and Flutter. Back-end frameworks include Laravel, Express, Spring, and Django.

Full-stack development

Full-stack development entails working on the entire stack of the application. This includes back-end development, API, database, server, and front-end development. In this type of development, the developer builds and interacts with both the server-side and the client-side.

A full-stack developer is required to have multiple skills to build an entire web application. These include coding, testing, debugging, and web design. This developer should also know about databases, APIs, security, algorithms, and version control systems (VCS).

Full Stack Development

Image Source: Revenue River

Choosing the right development path

Various factors may determine the right development path for developers. The following are some of the important factors that you can consider before making your choice:

Skills required

If you have adequate coding skills and you are proficient with popular programming languages, then back-end development is a good path to follow. This path is ideal if you are also conversant with testing, database, and servers. If you are extremely creative, excellent in designing, and well versed in HTML and CSS, then front-end development can be a good path for you.

Responsibilities

Every development path consists of unique responsibilities. Before choosing a development path, make sure you are comfortable with the corresponding responsibilities.

The following are some of the responsibilities of a front end developer:

  • Implementing the visual elements of the web application.
  • Designing the user interface of the application.
  • Testing the web application.
  • Modifying the interface of the website.
  • Working together with the back end developer to solve any arising issues.

The responsibilities of a back end developer include:

  • Analyzing codes, data, and processes.
  • Reporting data.
  • Monitoring the status of the server.
  • Troubleshooting issues relating to the server.
  • Creating APIs and performing API integration.
  • Performing backups and security checks.

Career ambition

The choice of development path can also be driven by the career ambition of developers. You should choose front-end development if you have the ambition of becoming one of the following: front-end developer, front-end engineer, web designer, UI/UX designer, or SEO expert.

You should choose back-end development if your ambition is to become one of the following: back-end developer, back-end engineer, DevOps engineer, software engineer, REST API expert, database designer, or WordPress developer.

Summary of comparison

The following table shows a summary table for the comparison between the front end and back end.

Criteria Front End Development Back End Development
Application side It is done on the client-side of the application It is done on the server-side of the application
Roles Provides the visual elements of the application Provides the functionality of the application
Developer Responsibility The front end developer mostly deals with the design of the application The back end developer mostly deals with programming, server, and database
Languages Languages used includes HTML, CSS, and JavaScript It uses programming languages such as Python, Ruby, PHP, and Java
User interaction It allows interaction with users There is no interaction with users
Frameworks Angular.js, React.js, jQuery, SASS, and Flutter Laravel, Express, Spring, and Django

Conclusion

In this article, we learned the main differences between back-end development and front-end development.

To summarize:

  • We gained an understanding of back-end development.
  • We gained an understanding of front-end development.
  • We have learned the specific differences between these parts along with various criteria such as interaction, roles, languages, frameworks, and application side.
  • We have also been guided on how to choose the right development path.

Happy coding.


Peer Review Contributions by: Srishilesh P S


About the author

Onesmus Mbaabu

Onesmus Mbaabu is a Ph.D. candidate pursuing a doctoral degree in Management Science and Engineering at the School of Management and Economics, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC), Sichuan Province, China. His interests include economics, data science, emerging technologies, and information systems. His hobbies are playing basketball and listening to music.

This article was contributed by a student member of Section's Engineering Education Program. Please report any errors or innaccuracies to enged@section.io.