If you landed here it means that you have some doubts about the differences between Front End and Back End and in this article you will find all the answers you are looking for. For this I will try to explain these two aspects of the world of web programming, analyzing the objectives of each, the languages used, the skills required and the most common tasks that are carried out.
In case you want to learn more about what a Front End developer does and what a Back End developer is, I suggest you to read the previous article in which I describe these two areas (What does a Front End Developer do?).
After this brief introduction it's time to get started.
Differences between Front End and Back End: goals
The main differences between Front End and Back End can be found in the goals they set for themselves. Each area has its purpose and its protagonist. Let's see the details:
Front End goals
If we have been good and have done our homework, such as reading the article on what a Front End developer does, we will already know that the main protagonist is the user and the goal is to guarantee the best usability. In this case we refer to a web application that is usable by all types of target users thanks to acceptable performance and a user interface in line with the purpose of the application. In fact, as we analyzed in the previous article, we know that not all applications are the same and this depends on the type of user and the nature of the application itself.
Back End goals
On the other hand, the protagonist in the Back End side will no longer be the user but the data. Consequently, the goal also changes and shifts to guaranteeing efficient data processing. But what does it mean? The Back End area deals with storing, processing and supplying data to the Front End. It will therefore have to do with data persistence systems, such as a database, and with the configuration of requests to the server, to allow a client to request resources.
If this process slows down, the Front End has to "entertain" the user somehow. But as we all know, too much waiting affects the user experience!
Below you will find a summary of the goals for each area to better understand one of the differences between Front End and Back End.
In the development of the Front End:
- Protagonist: the user;
- Goal: to guarantee the best usability.
In developing the Back End:
- Protagonist: the user.
- Goal: to ensure efficient data processing.
Now let's move on to the languages used to discover another of the differences between Front End and Back End.
The differences between Front End and Back End include languages that are mistakenly referred to as programming languages. Not everyone falls into this category and now let's see why.
Let's start first by understanding what a language is. This comes as a well-defined form of passing information to the code execution environment to perform a certain instruction.
There are several and they differ according to the following factors:
- Execution environment: server, browser or mobile;
- Type of language: programming language, markup language, style sheets language and language for structured requests (there are many others);
- Purpose and functionality: final use of the language and functionality.
We can argue that each programming area, based on the execution environment and purpose, will adopt one or more languages. And now let's see which ones and what they are used for.
Front End languages
The languages used in the Front End will be executed by the browser, which we can define as a container. Among these we identify:
- HTML: is a markup language used to create the skeleton of a web page.
- CSS: is a style sheet language that describes the style of the elements of a web page.
As you can see I have used several categories, and not all languages are programming. This is because a programming language must be compiled or interpreted to be called one. Maybe I'll write some articles on the different types of languages to learn more.
For now we need to know that not all languages in the world of programming and software development are called programming languages. Sounds strange but it is!
Back End languages
Languages that run on the server side can access the resources of the system that runs the code, that is, the execution environment, unlike languages that run from the browser which do not have the same functionality.
But there are also other types such as SQL used to make structured requests to a relational database, when we have to query the database to get stored data.
After the analysis of the languages, we can confirm that they are among the main differences between Front End and Back End, based on their type and purpose: access the file system, create a server, define the style of a page or manage the interaction with the user.
Having explored the differences between the types of languages, let's now move on to the skills that every developer must have in his area to add another piece to the differences between Front End and Back End.
Front End and Back End skills
As we have just seen, objectives and languages are already two important variables when we analyze the differences between Front End and Back End. The combination of these two factors makes us understand that the skills required in each area are a little different.
Due to the nature of the Front End, the following will be required:
- Intuition: understanding if a feature works well from the point of view of the user;
- Patience: you will need it when dealing with browser compatibility;
- Flexibility: new technologies updates are just around the corner;
- Algorithms: knowledge of the main search and sorting algorithms is required. Don't worry because it will be a basic level and then it depends a lot on the type of application;
- Networks: a good knowledge of how the Internet works and the main protocols never hurts even if a basic level (in my opinion wrong) is required to undertake this type of career. However, you need to recognize the different types of APIs, the main server responses, and know the fundamentals of the Internet. In my course to become Front End I dedicated some videos to all this.
The Back End, on the other hand, will be for those who want to devote themselves more to data manipulation and will require:
Database: know the main database models (relational, non-relational, etc) and which languages they use;
Algorithms: knowledge of the main sorting and search algorithms is fundamental for data manipulation;
Networks: exploring this issue is very important. A Back End Developer recognizes the different types of APIs for a more precise choice when designing communication with a client;
System: knowing the major operating systems is equally important because they are the server-side code execution environment. So a knowledge of Linux commands for example will help a lot.
Many other skills could be included but these allow you to identify which are the main requests from each area.
However, I don't like categorizing so much and when it comes to knowledge I consider myself more transversal, avoiding the so-called silos. In fact, a developer should also be interested in the spheres that are not his competence, even if he will limit himself to a more superficial approach. For example, a Front End developer needs to know the main databases even if a Back End developer will have more experience and more skills.
This concept is very important both when dealing with informal topics and when designing an application, a moment in which the two developers must interact and be able to understand each other.
We have just added another piece to our puzzle called "differences between Front End and Back End", although I prefer transversal knowledge to vertical ones.
Now let's move on to the activities that perform the two areas to complete this analysis.
Which are the tasks of a Front End and a Back End developer?
It is not easy to identify the activities carried out by each single area because everything changes depends on the type of application and many other factors. For this I will limit myself to a more general approach.
From what we have learned, from the nature of each area, it is possible to identify the following activities for the Front End developer:
Design: a better usability of the platform is constantly sought, identifying new developments to improve the interface and make it more usable;
Performance: the key to the success of most applications lies in speed. Quick execution of the instructions makes the user experience less stressful.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): the constant updating of the SEO rules forces the developer to search for new solutions for a better positioning of the web page within the search engines. This as long as it is a web page!
Design: a very important part during which the candidate technologies are studied for the development of a new application or for an update;
Maintenance: each application needs to be updated to improve its stability following bug fixes for example;
Research and development: there is no progress without innovation. Every good developer must keep up in order to be able to contribute positively to the success of the application they are developing, integrating new solutions or improving existing ones.
Regarding the Back End developer:
- Performance: data processing must be efficient, with the shortest possible execution time. There is therefore a constant search for how to improve algorithms;
- Design: when talking about a new application, for example, the Back End developer must provide his/her experience to identify the best architecture for client-server communication, for the database and for data processing;
- Maintenance: in this case the activity is the same as for any other developer: updating the application as a result of bugs or new versions of the technologies.
- Research and development: here too, we can refer to what was said in the Front End part: search for new solutions to improve the final product.
And with this we conclude our adventure in analyzing the differences between Front End and Back End. We have analyzed the goals, the languages used, the skills and finally the tasks that these two areas carry out.
If you are looking for an answer to the question "which area is right for me?", you have to know that unfortunately there is no sure answer but I can guide you through the image below:
Differences Between Front End and Back End: Personality
If you think the Front End can do for you, you are in the right place because the FrontendPills section aims to introduce you to the world of Front End programming. Just go to the contact page here and send me a request selecting "Become a Front End Developer" as subject. I will contact you in the shortest time possible.
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