Front-End Web Developer vs. Back-End Web Developer: A Guide to Web Development

In just a couple of decades web development has gone from a brand new job to a fast-growing industry. Almost everyone needs their own website, whether personal or professional, and most need a web developer to build their website for them. But can one person still do the whole job? As the industry continues to grow, it has also diversified. Now, the industry has changed so there are specialized web developers, specifically “front end” and “back end” developers.

Front End

Front-end web developers create everything you see when you use a website: the layout, the font, how buttons and dropdown menus work and so on. In the early days of web development, those who worked on the front end of websites were known as web designers and mostly worked with Photoshop. Since then, designers have expanded their skills to include working with CSS, HTML, JavaScript, and jQuery (which is a compiled library of JavaScript). This makes them more than just web designers, although front-end web developers might also have some design skills and/or work closely with web designers. Because front-end developers work with code in various formats, they are also web developers in their own right — they’re just developers who work on the front end.

Back End

Back-end web development is just what it sounds like: it deals with the aspects of web development that users need, but never see. They’re responsible for:

  • any application the website uses
  • a database that stores all the information entered on the website
  • the server upon which the database (site) is created

For example, when you enter your billing information on a website to buy something online, the application stores that information in a database. Then, the next time you log in to your account, all the information is still there. Back-end web developers usually use web languages like Ruby, Python, and PHP, most of which come with frameworks (such as Cake PHP, Ruby on Rails, and Code Igniter) that help web developers code in those languages.

Because back-end web development is generally more complicated than front-end web development (although that’s quickly changing) back-end developers tend to possess a higher skill set.

Full Stack

Despite the diversification of the field of web development, the lines between front-end and back-end web development are still pretty blurry. Some web developers, known as “full stack” developers, work with both the front and back ends of web development. This has become easier with frameworks like WordPress, which you have to install on your server with a database.

WordPress is an excellent example of the front and back ends of web development working together. Web designers use jQuery, CSS, and JavaScript to improve how WordPress websites look and function.

Becoming a full stack web developer is a great way to learn more about your industry and increase your job prospects because it makes you a one-stop shop. The more you know and the more you can do, the more desirable you will be to potential employers/clients.

What Makes A Good Front-End Developer?

A front-end web developer is not quite the same thing as a web designer, but they’re not far off. The front-end developer does more coding than the designer and thinks more about functionality than design. However, a good front-end developer also has to take design into account. They work closely with web designers and the easier you can make your designer’s job, the more smoothly the whole project will go.

Front-end developers also have to be able to think about one aspect of a project from multiple angles. Specifically, a good front-end developer considers not only whether their code works, but how it works. They have to be able to consider how the user interacts with the website and how it compares to they way the want to interact with the website. Will a user intuitively find what they need, or will they click around in frustration? Front-end web developers who successfully take all this into account build user-friendly websites, which are ideal. They avoid frustrating visitors, increase engagement, and keep customers coming back to the website due to the ease of use.

Stay On Top of Industry Changes

Web development is still a new field and it’s changing quickly. Because of this, web developers need to have tons of curiosity about their profession, how web development works, and how it’s changing. The web developers that stay on top of industry news and become familiar with new platforms and new coding languages will be the ones who help develop the best websites. This will make them more valuable, and as a result, will increase their potential earnings.

Along with this is the fact that a good front-end web developer needs to be active in the open source community. Although web development is growing exponentially, it’s still a niche in the economy. It requires a particular kind of person with a certain skill set and way of thinking. As a result, web developers have formed their own communities all around the world. Anyone working in the industry should remain active in that community, either in their geographical area or online or both. Doing so helps them stay informed of new issues and emerging technologies in the industry, and also helps to form and maintain connections with other web development professionals.

Planning and Communication Vital to Front-end Developers

Front-end developers also need to be proactive and plan their projects in advance. Some developers prefer to work on a project by the seat of their pants, and deal with issues as they come up. But planning before they start writing any code can help them work more efficiently when it comes time to start developing the website. It can also help avoid problems if you plan out projects ahead of time and anticipate problems that might occur. Failure to do so usually means running around putting out fires as problems crop up, which leads to delays.

Finally, communication is an essential skill to have in all industries. Few things are more frustrating than giving a project to a web developer and never hearing from them again. Developers can avoid unexpected issues by updating their supervisor and/or client on a regular basis. If problems occur, the client will trust a developer who communicates well more than the one who doesn’t say anything until the project is behind schedule.

Similarly, front-end web developers work closely with both web designers and back-end web developers. The more the front-end developer communicates with both these people/teams, the more smoothly the project will go. Strong communication skills also help to build healthy relationships with coworkers, which is always ideal.

What Makes A Good Back-End Developer?

While front-end web developers need to be able to take into account both how a website functions as well as how it looks, back-end developers focus solely on the website’s functionality. This means they have to be able to think in more technical terms than front-end web developers. Back-end developers have to think about what will happen when a user clicks a button, or fills out a form. Where will that information go? What will happen next?

The answers depend on the code the back-end developer writes to help the website talk to the server. As a result, the back-end web developer needs to know all the relevant programming languages; that way they can write code that effectively pulls information from the website and securely stores it in the correct server. They also have to make sure the opposite is true: that the data will flow from the server to the website when users log in to their accounts.

Like front-end web developers, back-end developers need to stay on top of changes happening in their industry. For instance, new programming languages make it possible to do more online, or do it better.  Back-end developers need to familiarize themselves with all of them, and use the programming language that is most effective for their projects.

Online Security a Key Part of Back-end Development

Back-end web developers are also responsible for the security of the information that clients keep on their website. This means back-end developers need to remain up to speed on everything that’s happening in the world of internet security, which continues to change and evolve. The more advanced hackers become, the more advanced databases and servers need to be to keep them out. Many consumers are already distrustful of the way their sensitive information is handled online; being able to assure clients their information is secure is integral to staying in business as a back-end web developer.

One way back-end web developers can accomplish this is by becoming and staying involved in their local open source community. This will not only help back-end developers stay on top of their game, it will also help them build and maintain relationships with other web developers.  In addition, they’ll establish themselves as competent professionals in their industries.

Web Development Program at Sullivan and Cogliano Training Centers

Sullivan and Cogliano Training Centers has specifically designed our program to prepare students for a career as a web developer. It provides the groundwork web developers need to be successful, while still thoroughly diving into the material. Students of our web development program learn all about CSS, HTML, JavaScript, and other programs. The great news is that there are no pre-requisites. This opens up the world of web development to anyone who has a high school diploma or equivalent and who has an interest in web development.

You can find out more about the details of our web development program here.

Sullivan and Cogliano Training Centers prepares you to earn your certificate of completion and enter the job market, and features

  • flexible schedules
  • access to financial aid for those who qualify
  • career placement assistance
  • affordable, accredited career education
  • knowledgeable, friendly and caring staff

Call us at 1-888-872-4677 or visit us at

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