Front-End and Back-End Development

Free Coding Guide: Part 3

Front-end vs Back-end Development

Now that you know what coding is and have a basic understanding of programming languages, it’s time to dive a bit deeper into how web development works.

If you want to learn coding to start a new career, web development is one of the most in-demand skills in the job market.

However, if you want to become a web developer, you should decide between two specializations:

  1. Front-end Development
  2. Back-end Development

Even if you’ve never heard of them before, don’t worry. In this tutorial, you’ll learn everything you need to know to make the right decision. You’ll know what each role entails and which tools you should learn to start a career in either one of them.

We’ll also look at what types of tasks front-end and back-end developers do at work. By the end of this guide, you’ll feel more confident in choosing an area to focus on.

Keep reading!

Web Dev 101: How do websites work?

To get a better idea about the difference between front-end vs back-end development, let’s start at the basics. When you know how web-based projects work, you’ll understand what each specialization is responsible for.

Let’s consider a practical example and assume you want to create a Twitter account.

First, you find your way to the start page of Twitter. Perfect.

You see a clean homepage with just a handful of helpful links. After a few seconds, you find the right link to click, “Create Account”. You enter your account details, choose a Twitter handle, and confirm using a sign-up button.

So far, everything you saw and used was designed by front-end developers:

  • Colors
  • Fonts
  • Layouts

In other words, front-end developers take care of the visible parts of a website.

So where do back-end developers step in, then?

Well, the moment you confirm your signup process, things get interesting. The information you entered during the registration is sent to Twitter. They use their web servers to store your details in their database. Of course, all of this happens “behind the scenes”, so you can’t really see how Twitter does it.

That’s the work of back-end developers. They built the systems that are responsible for receiving, storing, and retrieving data.

So when you want to log in, you use your username and password. The system checks it against the data you gave during the registration. If it’s a match, your login is successful and you can see your Twitter feed.

Summing it up: Back-end developers create the non-visible parts of a website.

That said, front-end developers build everything you see in your web browser, or the client side. Back-end developers, on the other hand, create data-driven features and systems on the server-side.

Both areas work hand-in-hand. The front-end developer needs to make sure that the visible elements on a web page are linked properly to the features built by the back-end developer.

Should you learn front-end or back-end development?

Web development is one of the most lucrative businesses in tech. The job market is booming as the amount of available work keeps increasing.

But if you want to become a professional web developer, you need to choose one are to focus on. At least for now.

True, mastering both areas is possible, too. But you should start with just one. Trust me, you don’t want to learn a dozen languages and tools at the same time.

So, what do you want to build with coding and web development? Are you more interested in what people see in their browser or would you rather take care of how things work under the hood?

To help you get a better idea about both areas, let’s look at front-end and backend development and the tools they use in more detail.

What do Front-end developers do?

As we saw above, Front-end Developers are responsible for the part of a web page you interact with directly. They create and determine the final layout and all the colors and fonts for it, for example.

Front-end developers also make sure to consider such factors as brand identity and emotional experience a particular website wishes to convey to its end users.

A typical day for a Front-End Developer:

As we saw above, Front-end Developers are responsible for the part of a web page you interact with directly. They create and determine the final layout and all the colors and fonts for it, for example.

Front-end developers also make sure to consider such factors as brand identity and emotional experience a particular website wishes to convey to its end users.

A typical day for a Front-End Developer would probably look something like this:

  1. Team meeting with other user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) designers.
  2. Exchanging ideas between front-end and back-end teams.
  3. Testing new design and layout ideas, conducting user surveys.
  4. Hunting for the latest design trends and brainstorming new ideas for UX improvements.
  5. Sketching ideas, building wireframes and prototypes to present to others.

Front-End Developers have a heavy focus on the creative parts of a web project. More than anything, they do their best to make sure users don’t get confused or lost on a website.

That said: if a website user doesn’t have any question marks popping up in their head, the Front-End Developer has done their job well.

What you need to learn for Front-End development:

If you want to become a front-end developer, you need to learn a few programming languages and tools to start with.

Front-end tools are some of the easiest, most beginner-friendly languages you can learn. You can find heaps of helpful tutorials and courses online – even for free.

As a Front-End Developer, you need to learn at least three languages:

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • JavaScript

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. You’ll use it to create the actual content and structure for a website. You know, images, text paragraphs, headings, videos, etc. But a pure HTML web page isn’t nice to look at.

That’s where CSS or Cascading Style Sheets steps in. CSS is your main tool for styling the HTML elements to look pretty.

Finally, JavaScript allows you to breathe some life into your web page. You’ll use JavaScript to add animations, transitions, and interactivity to the elements you created with HTML and styled with CSS.

I know, three languages sounds like a lot. But here’s the deal:

You can learn the basics of HTML and CSS in just a few days. The best way to learn HTML and CSS is to build your own small websites from scratch. So, as you’re going through your first web development course, you’ll be building lots of small projects on the side.

Now, I’m not gonna lie: learning JavaScript will take a bit longer. But again, you’ll just go through it one step at a time, learning at your own pace.

Pluralsight Free Trial: Start Learning Coding for Free for Beginners

Further Front-End Developer tools

When you start learning JavaScript, you’ll run into a number of further tools you can add to your front-end developer’s toolbox.

You see, building a website from scratch with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript is a lot of work. And in most projects, you’ll use and reuse similar solutions time after time.

Therefore, you can take your front-end skills one step further to help you save time and build your front-end projects faster. I’m talking about JavaScript libraries and frameworks here. You may have even heard of a few of them by now. The most popular ones are:

  • jQuery
  • Bootstrap
  • Angular.js
  • React.js
  • Vue.js

Each library and framework helps you streamline your processes. You can take advantage of their ready-made tools to speed up your work.

However, when you start learning JavaScript, don’t rush into using any libraries or frameworks just yet. Instead, make sure you know how to use JavaScript as it is, plain vanilla. Otherwise you’ll just be using a tool without understanding how it really works.

p

Summary

  • Front-end developers create the look and feel of a website or application
  • Programming languages used by front-end developers include HTML, CSS, and JavaScript

What do Back-end Developers do?

These days, most websites have a lot of technical stuff happening in the background that we can’t see.

For example: You can log into your email account with a username and a password to see your emails only. Or when you use a social network, you only see your own posts and messages from your contacts, not those of other users.

But how does the website know who you’re friends with? And how can it remember everything you ever posted or wrote on your profile?

This is where Back-End Developers work their magic. They build features that allow you to store your data, see more relevant content, and connect with your friends and family.

The most important task for any Back-End Developer is to improve performance and create efficient, fast programs. The faster the code runs, the quicker their website works. And since most of us have zero patience online these days, that speed is everything!

A typical day for a Back-End Developer:

A typical day for a Back-End Developer might look something like this:

  1. Team meeting to discuss the most recent technical solutions in the industry.
  2. Analyzing website performance and finding improvement opportunities in page speed, for instance.
  3. Testing and tweaking a new, more accurate search function algorithm for the website.
  4. Meeting with UX designers to discuss a new website function to allow users to connect with each other through messaging.
  5. Start working on a structure for the messaging function. Breaking the project down into small, individual steps to solve with code.

Hence, whereas Front-End Developers make sure a website user has a smooth visual experience, Back-End Developers make sure those visuals are supported by a robust technical foundation in the background.

Back-End Development Toolbox

The tools you can use to become a Back-End Developer aren’t as straightforward as was the case with front-end development. The foundation for any back-end work is to learn how to create a connection between website users and databases.

That said, Back-End Developers need to learn at least one server-side programming language and a database management system.

When it comes to choosing a back-end language, the most popular choices are:

  • Java
  • PHP
  • Python
  • Ruby
  • C#

Again, you don’t have to know just yet which language you’d like to learn.

Recommended article: The Best Websites to Learn Web Development in 2019

On one hand, you should choose a programming language that you enjoy working with. On the other hand, if you want to work as a Back-End Developer, you should make sure there’s demand in the job market for the language you learn. You don’t want to spend hundreds of hours learning a skill that doesn’t help you land your dream job.

Here’s what you should do: Do some research about potential employers in your area. Find a few job descriptions to see what skills they’re looking for. If you can’t find any job openings, don’t hesitate to give the most intriguing employers a call!

Pluralsight Free Trial: Start Learning Coding for Free for Beginners
p

Summary

  • Back-end developers are responsible for the logic, infrastructure, and data storage of a web project
  • Programming languages used by front-end developers include PHP, Python, Ruby, and SQL

Can’t decide? How about going full-stack?

I know it may feel too early to make any decisions about your future career at this point. And I don’t mean to put any pressure on you, don’t worry. 

But if you find it difficult to decide what to focus on when you start learning, I’ve got some good news for you:

You can also learn both areas and combine your front-end skills with those back-end tools. That would make you a Full-Stack Developer. And also a superhero.

I mean, it’s not going to be quick or easy to learn two sets of skills. So just start with either one and go one step at a time.

And if that sounds too demanding for now, I know how you feel. Learning even one set of tools is going to be more than enough work. But your efforts will pay themselves back, I promise!

p

Summary

  • Full-stack developers master both the front-end and the back-end tools for building websites or applications

Final thoughts: Front-end vs back-end development

I hope you have a basic understanding of what front-end and back-end development entail. Perhaps you’ve got a better idea about which area you could see yourself focus on in the future?

In general: If you’re more into design and aesthetics, I’d suggest you look into front-end development. On the other hand, if logical thinking and more complex, technical systems are your thing, consider learning back-end development tools.

Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong here. Both areas are just as demanding, empowering, and rewarding. Regardless of which one you choose, you’ll need to work hard to achieve your goals.

If you are just starting with learning how to code and feeling a bit confused about the difference between front-end and backend development, don’t worry.

All that matters with learning coding is that you start. Simple as that.

Once you take the first step and start learning more about one area or the other, you’ll find out if it’s for you or not quite quickly. And if you don’t like it, it’s never too late to change your mind and start learning something else.

I’d recommend starting with simple HTML and CSS by building a simple website for yourself.

The two languages are very easy to pick up on and you will see the results of your code right away when you open your HTML files in your web browser. You can start learning right away with these hand-picked HTML and CSS resources I used to become a self-employed Web Developer with no technical background.

Recommended article: Top 5 Web Development Courses for Absolute Beginners

What’s next?

Now that you know how the front end is tied together with the back end, it’s a good time to take a closer look at how the web works.

In the next part of this chapter, you will learn about the dynamics of the Internet and its infrastructure. This will give you a better idea at what is actually happening when you visit websites and use web applications.

15 Practical Tips to Start Learning Coding For Beginners

FREE E-BOOK!

DOWNLOAD YOUR COPY NOW

Get your FREE copy with 15 time-saving tips for learning coding more easily to achieve your goals faster!

Yay, thanks for subscribing! Please check your email to confirm your subscription and to receive your download link.