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Frontend VS Backend – What's the Difference?

When it comes to web development we often hear terms like 'Front End" or "Back End" But what do these terms mean exactly?

Let's learn about the differences between the two by examining the frontend and backend separately.

What is Frontend?

The frontend is everything a user sees and interacts with when they click on a link or type in a web address. The web address is also known as at URL, or Uniform Resource Locator, and it tells what webpage should load and appear in your browser.

It is the client-side part of a web application.

What Parts of a Web Application are Considered Frontend?

The frontend is anything and everything visual that a user comes in contact with.

It's all the parts with which they directly interact.

It's all the content and styles.

It's the buttons and the different hover effects before a user clicks on a link.

It's the contact forms with various input fields, the search boxes and the dropdown menus.

The layouts, text, and colors.

It's the images and videos.

However, it is not just the styles.

It is also how fast the website loads, how easy it is to navigate through it, and how accessible it is to people with disabilities.

It's how usable and responsive it is on a variety of different devices and browsers.

Essentially, the frontend is all the parts of a web application that create the look and feel of it.

What Are Some of a Frontend Developer's Tasks?

The tasks a frontend developer completes and works on day-to-day will vary. They will heavily depend on the company they work for and the role.

As a frontend dev, you may do a lot of design work. That could be creating a style guide to create consistent styles and the brand's identity and overall look and image.

It includes the typography (fonts) used for all text, the color scheme, the company's logo, and layouts, to name a few.

You may work on building User Interfaces using design tools to make sure the website has all the necessary visual elements it needs, displayed and organized pleasantly.

On the other hand, frontend developers may not do any design work.

Instead, you could collaborate with program managers, graphic designers, and UX/UI designers to solve problems.

You could take the created visuals, graphics, and findings from the conducted user research.

You would already know the target audience and demographic, common customer problems, and information on how usable the site is for users.

Then, your job as a frontend developer would be to translate the prototypes and static visual designs to something tangible, to a real-world, pixel-perfect, and functional website that users can easily interact with.

A big part of a frontend developer's job is to create responsive websites.

You need to make sure websites look good, are optimally displayed, and are usable on a variety of devices and screen widths.

Nowadays, users don't use only desktop computers, but they instead view websites mostly from mobile and tablet devices.

Another big part of a frontend developer's job is to make sure websites are accessible to all users. This entails creating web accessibility functions that would make browsing the web a pleasant experience for everyone.

Important accessibility features a frontend developer can implement are:

  • text-to-speech

  • keyboard-only navigation

  • accessible color combinations with sufficient contrast

  • large buttons

the most fundamental frontend technologies are HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

They run in the user's browser and are the building block of all websites on the World-Wide Web.

Besides those three, there are many frontend libraries and frameworks.

These help ensure consistency across each webpage in a website and provide out of the box functionalities for repetitive tasks.

Some of the most popular ones are:

  • React

  • Redux

  • Vue

  • Angular

Depending on the role and job description, you may need design skills.

Some commonly used tools used for design work are:

  • Figma

  • Sketch

  • Adobe XD

  • and Photoshop for image processing

What is Backend?

Backend development deals with the technologies responsible for storing and securely manipulating user data.

It is the part associated with all the hidden logic that powers the applications users interact with.

Backend is considered the server-side part of an application.

Backend is all the hidden inner workings and the behind-the-scenes processes in a web application.

It refers to everything going on underneath the hood and all the necessary components that make the front-end function properly and smoothly.

It makes sure everything is working optimally.

Essentially, the backend is what the users don't have direct access to or don't directly interact with and are most likely unaware of when using an application.

What Are Some of a Backend Developer's Tasks?

The role of a backend developer varies from company to company and from job to job.

The main focus of a backend developer's work is to create and maintain services and programs that help the front end function.

In general, here are some things a backend developer would work on:

  • Creating, managing, and maintaining the type of database the product/service uses.

  • Building, interacting with, and maintaining servers.

  • Building internal or external functionalities and server-side software using server-side technologies and web frameworks to provide solutions to problems.

  • Working with APIs (Application Programming Interface). Designing, developing, implementing, maintaining, and managing APIs that support CRUD (Create Read Update Delete) operations.

  • Performing data validation to ensure data has the correct format before being stored in the database.

  • Users need to interact safely with their accounts. Backend developers create systems that secure every user's data - especially when dealing with payment processing systems.

  • Dealing with third-party services such as authentication and external payment services, to name a few.

  • Organizing system logic.

  • Developing site architecture.

A key component of backend programming is using a server-side scripting programming language.

Some of the most frequently used ones are:

  • PHP

  • Ruby

  • Python

  • Java

  • JavaScript. Yes, JavaScript is used widely in frontend development, but in recent years is used for backend development too. Node.js (a JavaScript runtime) makes that possible by providing backend functionality.

Hopefully, now you have more insight into what frontend and backend development entails and can tell the differences between the two.

To summarize, the frontend involves all the parts a user interacts with, whereas the backend is the logic that powers the frontend interactions.



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