What’s the Difference Between Front End, Back End, and Full Stack Developer?

Updated on Jan 07, 2020

What's the Difference Between Front End, Back End, and Full Stack Developer?


You have heard of web developers – these are individuals who specialize in developing World Wide Web applications, or various applications that are run over HTTP from web servers to web browsers.

What you may not realize is that there are different types of web developers. These three types of developers include Front End, Back End, and Full Stack.

Each developer has a unique job and specific role to play. You can keep reading to learn more about the three types of web developers and the role they play.

Website 101 #

Before diving into the various developers and what they do, you need to understand how information is displayed on your screen. Each website uses HTML for processing the website’s structure and display its content. You can think of HTML as the “bare bones skeleton” of a website.

In the past, this is how most websites operated. A static HTML file had to be updated when the developer wanted to show new information on the website. This resulted in developers having to rework HTML files to display new or updated information on the end user’s screen.

While this method may seem fine for smaller websites that only post websites once a week, what about sites that have updates multiple times a day? For example, in 2013, “The New York Times” website was posting approximately 350 stories per day. Just imagine having to create 350 new files every day to showcase a different article? This would be tedious and time-consuming.

However, “The New York Times” doesn’t publish stories on individual pages. Instead, they have a “template” where data is inserted in the proper sections. If you aren’t including the articles in the actual HTML files, then how is the data (the articles) stored. This begins to explain the difference in static and dynamic websites.

Dynamic web pages use databases for storing articles in text as an HTML file to show information from the company’s database. These two entities are essentially the front-end and back-end of the website. Remember, HTML alone can’t get information from the database. A server-side language must be used to grab that information and send it to the HTML files.

An extremely popular server-side programming language is PHP – Hypertext Pre-processer. So far, there are three components: the news articles in your database; PHP code that grabs information; the HTML for your webpage to display on the screen.

You can see the linear progression. The database contains all of the information; PHP takes the information out of the database; HTML displays it on the screen. This is the way most websites operate today. What this means is that the information isn’t stored on the webpage; which, allows developers to spend more of their time optimizing the website’s look and feel, instead of worrying about constant updates to the content.

Now you get to the point of what a front-end, back-end, and full stack developer does.

Front End Developers #

A Front-End developer is responsible for creating what you see on a website you visit or in a browser. This work is often referred to as “client-side” work. It means that the front-end developers are responsible for all the elements you see when using the internet, including sliders, dropdown menus, colors, fonts, and more.

A UI-Developer (User Interface) is also on the client side. These developers use JavaScript, CSS, and HTML, along with other client-side technologies. However, there’s not as much emphasis on the scripting languages, such as JavaScript today, and more emphasis put on CSS and HTML. The main focus of the UI-Developer is to determine how the website is going to feel, look, and behave in various contexts.

You can learn more about the development of specific elements and components of web development in this article here.

Back End Developers #

Put simply, a Front-End developer focuses on the creation and performance of everything a user is going to interact with directly. With Back End developers, much of the work they do isn’t seen by the end user.

Usually, a Back End developer is working with the application’s “guts,” which are found on the server (usually referred to as server-side). Some of the elements included on the back end of a website are the server, database, and application.

Usually Back- and Front-End developers work together to ensure their code works with the design of the site and the user interface.


Full Stack Developers #

With Full Stack developers, you have a professional who works on both the front- and the back- end. In this description, “Stack” means layer.

Full stack web developers have experience and knowledge in all areas of a website’s development. Some of the things this includes (but this is not an exhaustive list) are: the server, hosting and client, data modeling or structuring, user experience and interface, and the needs of the business.

The line between what’s done on the front end versus what’s done on the back end is becoming more and more blurred, as developers are turning to full stack services. Many employers today are searching for individuals who can work on all parts of the website, which reduces the number of people they need on staff.

The Role of Web Developers in Today’s Tech-Centric World #

There’s no question that it is the digital age. As such, the need for individuals who have specific tech-related skills is growing by the day. Regardless of what skills you have, you need to know what your strengths are.

By becoming proficient as a Full Stack developer, you may have more opportunities available to you, than someone who is only able to contribute to the front-end or back-end of website development. However, this is something you have to figure out for yourself, and you’ll find there are a large number of online guides and resources available to help you gain the skills and experience necessary to succeed in any position.

Other Tutorials (Sponsors)