Frontend vs Full Stack vs Backend Web Development

4 June 2022Written by Emma Woodward
Dive into the world of web development and uncover the distinctions between frontend, full stack, and backend development. Discover how websites have evolved from simple HTML files to interactive platforms with the power of JavaScript. Learn about the roles of frontend and backend developers, the responsibilities they hold, and why full stack developers are highly sought after. Gain insights into the skills needed for each role and the promising job opportunities in the field of web development.
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Want to understand the difference between frontend vs full stack vs backend web development? For that, we’ll have to go into a short history of web development.

Websites have become incredibly complex, but they’re really just made up of files. Just like any other file that you might use on your computer, we open these files using programs (in this case, browsers), and from there we can read and interact with them.

Back in the day, you could create a website file using HyperText Markup Language (HTML). These early websites allowed the internet as we know it to be born, but they were plain and unresponsive compared to what we have today. Why was that?

Frontend vs Full Stack: The Internet Evolves

Because HTML is a presentation language, it only allows you to set up how a web page should look. It doesn’t give you any opportunity for interactivity.

Now, HTML is an incredibly useful language. Web developers still use it today, but now it can be used in conjunction with other languages, allowing us to make the distinction of frontend vs full stack web development.

This all came about with JavaScript – a programming language that could be used with HTML to allow for user interaction. Suddenly websites weren’t just static files. The combination of languages made them responsive to individual users’ needs. And that’s basically why we can have the whole frontend, backend, full stack distinction today. Right from the beginning, developers were programming things in the backend that the end user would never see, but with backend and frontend capabilities becoming more complex, it has led to specialisation, and made the people who can do both (full stack developers) incredibly valuable.

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Want to Listen To a Developer Explaining the Difference?

Two Coder Academy legends, Oliver Lavers and Dallas Hill, sat down to discuss what it means to be a frontend developer vs a backend developer. You can watch their talk, Backend vs Frontend – What’s the difference? 👇

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Full Stack vs Backend: Distinct Roles Emerge

To help JavaScript in its functionality, databases became larger and more complex. With the ability to load data that can be left hidden in the backend or accessed when wanted, websites could do a lot more. Application programming interfaces (APIs) make the information available, JavaScript accesses that information in the user’s browser, and it can be presented to the end user through the magic of presentation languages like HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).

Frontend Developer vs Backend Developer: The Roles Today

From these simple beginnings, web development has continued to, well… develop. Now you will hear about the role of a frontend developer vs a backend developer as though the two were opposed, when they’re really complementary. You need both sides to develop a website.

So, with the roles and responsibilities separated, are certain people more suited to one than the other?

What Does a Frontend Developer Do?

Frontend developers deal with everything that the end user sees. This will include making a website look appealing, but a large part of the job will involve creating the best user experience – ensuring nothing gets in the way of the website’s functionality and the user’s interaction with it.

This will include optimising a website for use across devices, including for mobile functionality.

What Does a Backend Developer Do?

A backend developer takes care of the server, APIs and databases that comprise the backend of the website.

Backend developers will set up and maintain organised database systems, manage APIs, and create and modify website architecture.

What Does a Full Stack Developer Do?

Full stack developers bring it all together. With the ability to work on both sides, they still might find themselves working more heavily in backend or frontend. They could also oversee teams, or liaise with outside teams (graphic design and SEO for frontend, security or cloud computing for the backend).

Here at Coder Academy, we train full stack developers. It might seem daunting, but it really is the best way for a beginner to learn, as you get the training you need in order to build a “whole” website. It may be simple at first, but it’s the full stack.

From there, you can decide to specialise, but whether you do or not you will have a better understanding of the bigger picture. All websites need the backend and the frontend to work, so it’s always going to be useful to know what’s going on “on the other side”.

Frontend vs Full Stack vs Backend: The Skills You Need

As a frontend developer, you’ll need to understand presentation languages, such as HTML and CSS. Learning JavaScript will also be essential. Frontend developers will need to think about the end user’s experience.

Backend developers will deal with databases, APIs and server-side functions. They will need to familiarise themselves with programming languages such as Python or Ruby. JavaScript often crosses the boundaries between frontend and backend, so it will also prove useful.

To build websites, software and applications as a full stack developer, you’ll want to understand tech stacks like the Mongo, Express, React, Node (MERN) stack. You’ll need frameworks, such as Flask for Python, but you’ll also require adaptability to learn new languages, tools, frameworks and libraries as needed.

Job Outcomes for Full Stack Developers

The future looks bright for full stack developers. SEEK projects 30% job growth over the next five years. Full stack developers are valued for their adaptability and ability to see the larger picture. A junior full stack developer may fit more easily into a team in any role that is required, while senior full stack developers can be trusted to oversee complex projects and to assist junior developers working in the frontend and the backend.

Full stack developers will always have the opportunity to pursue the areas and projects they become passionate about. By gaining comprehensive knowledge of the frontend and the backend, full stack students can more easily choose the career path they want.

Go from not knowing a single line of code to coding legend in less than a year. Master the fundamentals of full-stack web development in 6 or 10 months with our Web Development Bootcamp.

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