What Is the Difference Between Front-End and Back-End Development?
by Anna Khrupa on Jul 1, 2022
When you hear about web development, it’s obvious for you that it is about writing code and building websites. You likely even know the difference between design and development, which is great. But when it comes to such notions as frontend and backend development, do you clearly understand why are they differentiated? Maybe these are two interchangeable development types? The point is that they are the different sides of the same coin.
What are frontend and backend? Let’s start from the beginning: defining what these notions mean. After you have the definitions, it would be much easier to get the difference.
What is front end web development?
Frontend development is a part of the website creating process that is responsible for building the client’s side of any software. Its main task is to make the look of the website provided by designers functioning and triggering certain actions.
To better explain what the frontend is, let’s look at the example. Imagine a website, what do you see? There’s a page with a header, a menu, some type of content, probably there are some fields to fill in and some buttons to press. Everything you can see and interact with is the front end of the website.
Frontend vs design — what’s the difference?
Here might arise the question: how does frontend development differ from design? Here’s the answer: design is usually just a picture, illustrating the future website. But you can’t upload a picture to a web page and expect it to behave like a website, letting you fill in data, click the buttons, and, what’s more important, make the system respond to your actions.
The point is that the browser doesn’t need a picture, it requires code that will be interpreted and shown as you’ve seen on the design mockup. And turning the static picture into responsive code is exactly what frontend developers are busy with.
Now, when we have the frontend development defined, let’s look at the key technologies and languages that are used in it.
- Hypertext markup language or HTML — a technology that allows you to put different elements on your page. It is the basic language for the frontend, as it is the thing that helps create elements. You can also modify them and add some style patterns with the help of HTML, but there’s a more convenient option.
- Cascade style sheets or CSS — a technology that allows applying different styles to the elements created. With its help, you can design the elements: modify their color, shape, size, and different other properties, and apply them to certain element types or classes.
For successful frontend development, all three technologies are a must.
Summing up, frontend is the part of web development that comprises creating the look of the website from the client’s or user’s side. But how do all the elements created function? Here’s where backend development comes into play.
What is back end web development?
The backend is responsible for the invisible part of the website — its server side. Backend is the thing that makes the shop receive your order when you place it on their website. It’s the thing that shows you the items you might like in your favorite music app or eCommerce website. It’s the thing that sends your email and makes it reach the addressee.
Backend developers care about the website’s architecture, functions, databases, and so on. The point of the backend is to make the website work, not only have a nice appearance.
Having the backend development defined, it’s time to look at key technologies. Here we should divide the stack into some particular categories.
- Programming languages are used to create code empowering the system and defining its behavior. There are many of them and all have peculiarities that make them more or less suitable for particular goals. Here are the most popular programming languages: PHP, Java, Python, Ruby, C++, .NET, and so on.
- Almost all the languages have frameworks that help the developers build the software faster and more efficiently. The examples can be Laravel for PHP, Spring for Java, CherryPy for Python, RubyOnRails for Ruby, and TensorFlow for C++.
- There are also database management technologies like MySQL, Oracle, MongoDB, or SQLServer.
- Server side technologies help manage the coordination between the website and the client. These include Apache, Nginx, or Microsoft IIS.
- The last are applied programming interfaces or API technologies, the most popular among these technologies are REST and SOAP services.
Of course, you don’t have to use all the existing technologies and languages at the same time. You can choose a language you’ll work with on your project and a framework for it to make this work easier and more efficient. Still, you will have to pick at least one technology from each category. Another crucial knowledge that is the developer’s responsibility is:
How do frontend and backend communicate?
These two parts cannot exist without each other. They constantly interact to provide smooth software operation and user experience. And the communication between them happens with the help of HTTP requests.
HTTP is a hypertext transfer protocol that is designed exactly to ensure the interaction of front- and backend.
The client — your browser — sends such a request to a server every time you take an action on the frontend side. Then this request is processed on the server side or backend of the website, and the client gets the response. So the frontend and backend communication can also be called client-server interaction.
This is how all the websites and many applications work.
So what is the difference between frontend and backend web development? When comparing the front end and the back end development, the main difference is that the frontend deals with the client side of the website, while the backend — with the server side. Thus, these two parts of website development have different aims, and, of course, technologies.
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