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Confused woman looking at a laptop and sitting at a table. Front End vs Back End Development

Front End vs. Backend Development: Which Is Right for Me?

If you’re interested in pursuing web development but you aren’t sure whether to be a front end developer or backend developer, this article will guide you through the differences between them. You’ll learn about the differences in skill requirements, programming languages, job duties, and other details that differentiate front end vs backend development. 

What Is Web Development?

Web development is the process of building a web page or website for public or private access. It requires different technologies, tools, functions, and programming languages to create an end-to-end website. Depending on the size of the web development project, an organization might employ one web developer or hundreds of web developers.

Within larger organizations, it’s common for multiple departments to collaborate on web development projects. These departments will typically include front end developers, backend developers, and full stack developers. Additionally, web developers often collaborate with web designers throughout certain stages of the development process. 

Front End vs. Backend Development

Front end and backend development require different skills and programming languages. The table below defines backend and front end development and includes the skills and coding languages required for each job. 

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Front end development Backend development
Front end development involves developing the user-side of a web page or website. It also includes ensuring a website’s layout is compatible with various devices. Backend development, also known as server-side development, involves developing the functionality that is accessed by users.
Search engine optimization (SEO), version control, web performance optimization (WPO), debugging, testing, responsive mobile design Data structures and algorithms, application programming interface (APIs), servers, database caching, backend frameworks
HyperText Markup Language (HTML), Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), JavaScript, React, jQuery JavaScript, Python, PHP, Java, Ruby

Web Development Skills

Front end and backend web development each requires a different set of skills. While front end development is focused on search engine optimization, version control, and web performance optimization skills, backend development requires skills in data structures, algorithms, and database caching. Listed below are detailed descriptions of the different required skills.

Front End Development Skills

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is the process used to attract as many website or web page visitors as possible. This is often done by strategically including keywords, optimized title tags, and optimized file names. SEO is vital for front end development because it ensures users can easily find the web page or website through a search engine. 

Version Control 

Having skills in version control is essential for the front end development process. Front end developers rely on version control to manage amendments on websites, software, applications, and programs. With version control, front end developers can track their changes and identify major edits in graphic design processes. 

Web Performance Optimization (WPO)

While SEO ensures users are attracted to and can easily find a particular website or page, WPO ensures users enjoy their experience once they’ve arrived. It ensures smooth and fast operation, easy navigation, and device adaptation. It also uses a variety of tools and methods to address the variables that prevent users from having an optimized experience.  

Debugging

Working with any programming language means you have to frequently test and debug your code. Front end developers must know how to debug code to resolve issues related to interface or interaction designs. As a result, front end developers are required to test design elements to develop a seamless experience for users. 

Responsive Mobile Design 

Responsive mobile design refers to the process of ensuring a website or web page is compatible with multiple layouts. More specifically, front end developers are responsible for ensuring a website or page adjusts in terms of size and usability for a variety of devices. This ensures the website or page is easy to access and navigate, regardless of the type of device. 

Backend Development Skills

Data Structures and Algorithms

Algorithms can be thought of as detailed instructions, while data structures are the locations that store and manage data. It’s important for backend developers to have skills in both because of how intertwined they are in the backend development process. Algorithms organize, locate, and add data to data structures.

Application Programming Interface (APIs)

APIs are integral components of backend web development, as these tools allow developers to access backend services. APIs offer real-time data tracking and saving, user management, and access to analytical data. Sometimes, developers don’t have to create server coding and can implement enhanced functionality because of APIs. 

Servers

Backend developers must know how to work with different servers. Different backend projects will require you to work on various servers, and while these servers are similar, each one is slightly unique. A few of the servers include Nginx, IIS, and Apache. 

Database Caching

Having skills in database and cache is just as vital as understanding servers because these two components are present in every backend development project. Database caching allows flexibility and scalability when processing data, which notably improves the performance of your applications. 

Backend Frameworks 

With any backend programming language you choose to work with, you must know its framework. There are a wide variety of frameworks, all of which can help you correctly configure an application. Frameworks also allow you to add unique features to your application and optimize usage. 

Front End vs. Backend Languages

Front end and backend development require different programming languages. Backend developers often use PHP, Java, JavaScript, Python, Golang, C#, and Ruby. Each backend programming language is crucial for server-side development and complements different applications. 

Front end developers use JavaScript, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), HTML, React, and jQuery. Unlike backend programming languages, these languages focus on creating a pleasant and easy-to-navigate user experience. 

Which Type of Web Developer Should You Become?

If you’re interested in pursuing a web development career but you aren’t sure whether to become a front end or backend developer, the following lists might be able to help. Listed below are some of the criteria related to each position.

Consider becoming a front end developer if you:

  • Enjoy problem-solving 
  • Have critical thinking skills
  • Are detail-oriented
  • Are easily adaptable  
  • Are creative

Consider becoming a backend developer if you:

  • Are a fast learner 
  • Love solving analytical problems that require complex thinking
  • Enjoy working on a team 
  • Have excellent management skills
  • Have strong communication skills 

Front End vs Backend Development Salaries

Calculator, cash, and notepad on a desk. Front End vs Back End Development
Front end and backend developers’ salaries slightly differ.

Front end and backend developers are both compensated with a comfortable salary. However, due to the nature of the role, backend developers tend to have a greater earning potential. The average annual salary for front end developers is $75,576 per year, while backend developers earn an average of $82,166 per year.

Both salaries vary based on years of practical experience, location, job title, and the organization. However, according to PayScale, late-career front end developers experience a 17 percent increase in salary, while late-career backend developers enjoy a 58 percent increase in salary. 

Web Development Jobs: At a Glance

Job Type Average Salary Job Outlook
CSS/HTML Developer Front End $65,701 13%
Mobile Developer Front End $60,781 13%
JavaScript Developer Front End $82,324 13%
User Interface Designer Front End $74,859 13%
Web Designer Front End $60,202 13%
Java Developer Backend $76,857 22%
Python Developer Backend $115,066 22%
Software Developer Backend $110,140 22%
Software Engineer Backend $119,560 2%
Web Developer Backend $77,200 13%

Front End Development Jobs

CSS/HTML Developer

CSS developers share many of the same responsibilities as any other front end developer, but they specialize in CSS and write in HTML. They solve problems and create visual design elements using specific languages and skills. Typically, CSS developers are required to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field. 

Mobile Developer 

Mobile developers work in front end development environments to create responsive mobile applications. They’re responsible for ensuring websites and pages are adaptable and can be easily navigated on mobile devices. Mobile developers often work for tech and entertainment companies, and they’re usually required to have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field.

JavaScript Developer 

JavaScript developers create dynamic websites and pages using Java as the programming language. As JavaScript is known as one of the most popular programming languages, JavaScript developers can be found within most industries and organizations. Most companies require JavaScript developers to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or engineering.

UI Designer 

UI designers create optimal user experience through design patterns, interactive elements, and attractive styles. They work closely with UX designers and developers to ensure their outcome is consistent with the client’s vision. UI designers often enroll in bootcamps or junior colleges to qualify for this career. 

Web Designer 

A web designer works with many tools, practices, and functions to polish the visual aspects of a website. Web designers encompass skills like UI design, graphic design, search engine optimization (SEO), and programming to fulfill their duties. Most web designers develop the required knowledge and skills through bootcamps, online courses, or community colleges.

Backend Development Jobs

Java Developer 

Java developers are backend developers who write, test, debug, and maintain code in Java. They are hired throughout a variety of industries and organizations, as Java continues to be one of the most popular programming languages. Generally, a Java developer job requires a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field.  

Python Developer 

Python developers are backend developers who specialize in Python. Since Python is a common server-side scripting language, many Python developers are employed through various businesses. Python is considered one of the easiest programming languages to learn, which is why many Python developers become fully qualified through bootcamp programs.

Software Developer 

As a software developer, you’ll design and develop software using a variety of programming languages.  Big tech companies like HubSpot, Amazon, and IBM rely on software developers to design and develop software according to set requirements. Most companies require their software developers to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science. 

Software Engineer

A software engineer uses modern technologies and server-side logic to create software for computers, programs, and applications. Organizations of all sizes and industries employ software engineers. The minimum requirement for software engineering is a bachelor’s degree in computer science or engineering. However, many software engineers hold master’s degrees.

Web Developer 

Web developers participate in the server-side development process for websites and web pages. This position deals with all the backend frameworks, database systems, code libraries, and APIs related to the website or page. You can enroll in a bootcamp program, online course, or associate degree program to meet the requirements of this profession. 

What Is a Full Stack Developer?

A full stack developer has the combined skills and responsibilities of front end and backend developers. They are required to be fully equipped and skilled in both ends, as they assume the roles of both front end and backend developers. 

You need to have a wide range of skills and experience in front end and backend development to work as a full stack developer. The minimum requirements for this position are typically a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field, in addition to at least a year of experience. 

Full Stack Developer Skills

Full stack developers need to be well versed in front end and backend programming languages, web architecture, fundamental design principles, and database storage. They will also need Git and Github, REST, and HTTP skills and experience. 

Additionally, full stack developers need a variety of soft skills. Just as backend and front end developers are required to communicate and collaborate with development teams, departments, and clients, full stack developers can expect the same responsibilities.

Is It Better to be a Front End or Backend Developer?

Ultimately, your career goals and interests should be the determining factors in whether you pursue front end or backend development. Backend development is best-suited to people who enjoy working with technical components and solving complex problems. Alternatively, front end development requires creativity and attention to detail.  

Although front end and backend development share some similarities, they also differ in significant ways. As the responsibilities and requirements differ between the two professions, so does the salary. Both professions include a high salary and a secure career.

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