Frontend vs Backend Developer: Ultimate 2022 Guide

developer working in his office

The field of web development is growing at a rapid rate — 13% in a 10-year period, which is faster than average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Within that subset, you’ll find several specialties. Broadly speaking, web developers can be broken down into frontend, backend, and full-stack. For those outside of the field, the differences between frontend vs. backend development may be unclear. That’s why we’re going to dive into what distinguishes these two types of web developers — and why they’re both important for your next project.

What is frontend development?

A frontend developer works with the forward, consumer-facing aspects of your website. That means that they’re responsible for the user interface — the part of the site users can see and interact with — including navigational elements, aesthetics, and designs. 

Using languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, among others, the frontend developer determines everything from the positioning of a certain interactive button to the way a user can scroll down the page to the very structure and flow of the site. But it’s not just about what the page looks like; it’s also about the user needs and technical aspects of the design. 

Front-end developers must ensure that websites and web apps are compatible with multiple browsers, interfaces, and devices. The experience must be consistent from environment to environment. For example, a user looking at the website on their mobile phone should have as seamless an experience as that of a user scrolling through it on a desktop computer.

The websites frontend developers build must be functional, scalable, and high-performance. It must also be consistent with the brand the organization is trying to convey. This responsibility partly rests on the shoulders of the frontend developer, although other key players have their roles in the process as well.

What is backend development?

The backend developer, meanwhile, creates the infrastructure of the website — the part consumers can’t see. They write the code that represents the backbone of the site, essentially as behind-the-scenes programmers, building important components like databases, APIs, and servers that allow the site to function properly.

Also known as server-side developers, the backend developers leverage a number of languages, such as Python, PHP, SQL, Java, and Ruby, to establish the inner workings and foundation of the website. 

Like frontend developers, backend developers have myriad responsibilities, including security, functionality, troubleshooting, maintenance, and general management. 

What is full-stack development?

It doesn’t necessarily need to be a choice between frontend vs. backend development; a full-stack developer is considered a jack of all trades. In fact, according to Stack Overflow’s 2021 Developer Survey, nearly half of all developers surveyed identify as full-stack, with 43.73% identifying as backend and just 27.42% identifying as frontend.

Full-stack development is a cross-discipline specialty, encompassing both frontend and backend skills and modes of development. Professionals in this space must have knowledge of programming languages and the intricacies involved in the two specializations. It’s a complex field that requires a high degree of knowledge necessary for handling and building the entire system.

How to be a frontend developer

The traditional route to becoming a software or web developer of any type was to earn a degree in computer science or a related field. Today, however, there are several paths toward learning programming languages and becoming a developer, including coding boot camps and self-teaching.

Your skillset should include:

• Frontend development languages: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, among others

• Basic user experience (UX) design and graphic design, including applications like Adobe Creative Cloud

• Debugging

• Unit testing

• SEO best practices and principles

• Soft skills, such as problem-solving

You will also need to collaborate with other team members, including the backend developers. This will demand strong communication and teamwork. Additionally, you must be on the radar for emerging trends and changes in the field. The tools and methodologies are frequently evolving, and it’s important for a frontend developer to be aware of the goings-on.

It’s also important for you to have a portfolio of your work. Even if you’re an entry-level developer, you should be able to showcase independent or experimental projects to demonstrate your skills and qualifications. This is especially true if you have taken a nontraditional route — i.e. not via a college program. 

Network with others in your field. There are robust communities of web developers, who can offer guidance and tips. You should also be playing around with technologies associated with frontend development, including libraries and frameworks, as well as, of course, frontend languages. 

Stay up to date by reading all about these and associated technologies, and keep practicing. Remember, too, that there are plenty of open-source projects, and by unpacking the code behind them, you will learn a lot about how great websites are built. 

How to be a backend developer

Similarly, backend developers no longer need to have a fancy computer science degree in order to break into and succeed in the world of web development. Like frontend developers, they can take several different routes to become professionals in the niche.

As the professionals responsible for building the server side of a website, they need to have a particular array of skills, such as:

• Backend languages, including Java, Python, PHP

• Backend frameworks

• Knowledge of version control system

• Debugging and testing

• Operating system (OS) knowledge

• Wireframing

• Scripting

• The inner-workings of the browser

• APIs

• Server-handling

Backend developers should also have some knowledge of frontend development technologies and be able to collaborate and communicate with their frontend counterparts. Additionally, they will need to possess the same soft skills as their colleagues.

Frontend vs. backend development

It is impossible to declare one more important than the other when considering frontend vs. backend development. Both are critical to the creation and use of websites.

Are you in search of top web developers for your projects? Nearsure can help you find the best frontend, backend, and full-stack developers to build quality websites and web applications, no matter what the size or complexity of your project.