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Understanding Front-end & Back-end in Web Development

Understanding Front-end & Back-end
in Web Development

In website development, there are generally two main areas of development: front-end and back-end. These two areas also represent two areas of expertise. Some web developers specialize in front-end development, some focus on back-end web development, and some can do both front-end and back-end development (which we call a full-stack web developer). If you’ve been looking around the world of web development, you will have come across those terms (front-end developer, back-end developer, full-stack developer). In this article, we will explore in brief the differences between front-end and back-end in web development.

Front-end development refers to the part of web development that deals with user interface and user experience. Front-end developers with client-side codes and scripts – HTML, CSS, and JavaScript – to create the website’s visual layout. In his book “HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites”, Jon Duckett explains that front-end developers are responsible for “creating a website’s look and feel by using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript”. The technologies for front-end development are referred to as client-side codes and scripts because the codes are executed at the client’s (the user browsing the website) computer, by the web browser. To put it in simpler terms, front-end development deals with whatever the users can see and interact with on their web browser when they go to a website.

Back-end development, on the other hand, deals with the logic and functionality that powers a website on the server. Back-end developers work with server-side programming languages such as PHP, Python, Ruby, and many others, to build the logic and algorithms that enhances the functionality of a website. They also work with databases to store and retrieve data for the website. In his book “Ruby on Rails Tutorial”, Michael Hartl explains that back-end developers “build the database, write the code that runs on the server, and develop APIs that allow front-end developers to communicate with the server”. The codes that back-end developers work with are called server-side codes because they are executed at the server. The codes are processed at the server before the results are being sent to the client computer for users’ viewing.

As an analogy, imagine a website as a restaurant. The tables where people eat, the ambience, the food being served, are all the “front-end” part. The kitchen, the office, the electric room, are all the “back-end” part. Hence, in a website, the back-end part is the more crucial, important, and complicated part of the website. However, a website can exist as a front-end only, without back-end development. Back-end development on the other hand, needs front-end development to display the results from the back-end processes.

So, if you’re looking to build a static website to simply display information and establish an online presence, then front-end development is all you need. But if you’re looking to build a complete web application, then both front-end and back-end development are required. Now that you already know the differences between front-end and back-end development, you can start looking for the specific skill sets for your next project.

Naim Zulkipli
13 April 2023

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