Back to Basics: Front-End vs. Back-End Development
When Katie asked me to write this article I walked over to her desk, exclaimed, “Front-end writes the code that makes it look pretty and back-end writes the code that makes it work”, gave her a, “Bam, what?!” and walked back to my desk.
(For those of you who don’t have kids and watch Disney Channel’s Liv & Maddie, I present, “Bam, what?!”.)
At the simplest form, this may hold true, but in practice there is quite a bit more to it, as every business handles these terms and distinctions differently. I also want to point out that we have a stellar team of content strategists (read Aly’s post on “What is Content Strategy” if you haven’t already) that pave the way for developing the design for a front-end developer and the site architecture for a back-end developer, without which our jobs would be substantially more difficult.
The front-end developer is responsible for translating the designs of a website to the code required to make it display correctly on your browser. This is a delicate job that grew even more meticulous when responsive web design was introduced. The front-end developer not only needs to make sure he is supporting the recent versions of all major browsers and mobile platforms, but also keep in mind how they display at all different browser widths and computer resolutions.
We have a stellar team of content strategists that pave the way for developing the design for a front-end developer and the site architecture for a back-end developer, without which our jobs would be substantially more difficult.
The back-end developer is responsible for connecting the content you see on the website to the content management system (CMS) and developing the logic required to make everything work properly. At Reusser Design, they are also responsible for translating the designs and front-end development into an CMS setup, providing clients with an intuitive way to manage the content on their website. Make it too simple, and the client won’t have enough control – make it too complex, and the client will get lost.
Back-end developers code using server-side scripting – languages that are executed on the server. Unlike front-end development there is a seemingly endless amount of different server-side scripting languages. While our office has the ability to work with many different languages such as .NET, Python and Ruby we generally leverage PHP and ExpressionEngine’s proprietary tag-based language.
Back-end developers are the construction company who builds the house, while front-end developers are the interior designers that prepare it for presentation.
One other term that you might hear thrown around is the “full-stack developer”. Simple put, a full-stack developer is responsible for both the front-end and back-end development on a website.
Hopefully this article has given you a brief glimpse and some solid understanding of the differences between front-end, back-end and full-stack development. Let me end with an analogy comparing the development of a website to the construction of a house. Back-end developers are the construction company who builds the house, while front-end developers are the interior designers that prepare it for presentation.