Comparing Front-End and Back-End Coding

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Because of how sophisticated the coding has become, most companies look for specialists in specific areas of development, be it on the server side, in the storage and design of data, or on the other side of the spectrum: the aesthetics of a webpage and its layout.

This dichotomy differentiates front-end coding —including JavaScript, HTML, CSS and more—from the back-end—those like Python, PHP, and SQL. Because of the always-shifting levels of complexity in the technological climate, the need for more specialists in each direction is omnipresent. This pushes the differentiation of the two types even further.

Some become full-stack developers and cross the boundary that separates the two realms, while others choose to stick to one side to master their domain. And sometimes, someone is just more suited to deal with designing an interface over a database; it’s all a matter of skillset and desire.

Now, in order to properly explain some of the nuances that separate the front- and back-ends, we will start with a couple of analogies to illustrate the delicate tango that each side dances in order to keep applications and websites running optimally.

Coding Front- and Back-End: Human Beings, Phenotypes, and Genotypes

There are a lot of brilliant examples given by instructors to explain how the front-end and the back-end differ. And sometimes, analogies work best when trying to grapple the difference between these two very different aspects of web development.

Briefly, if we are equating both sides of development to that of a human being, the front-end coding would be the skeletal system, as well as everything that has to do with the outward appearance. This fits well with HTML because it is often seen as the skeletal system for most code. In turn, CSS would be the hair, the structure of the face, the eye color—basically everything aesthetic.

JavaScript would be represented by facial expressions—your face would be the interface, as well as your movements, the words you speak in response, and the actions you take. This is comparable to your phenotype, which in genetics, is the term that describes every observable characteristic you have: eye color, hair color, nose shape, etc. The back-end, on the other hand, is a much different story, but both are so linked to the point that they share a symbiotic relationship with one another.

When comparing to the human body, the back-end is both the central and peripheral nervous system, as well as the heart. In essence, the back-end is the lifeblood of your entire application or webpage. Without getting a little too “on the nose,” the brain could be the database as well as all of the logic and structure that goes into making such a complex machine. The peripheral nervous system, whose job it is to connect the center to the rest of the body, could be the server, and so on and so forth. And as far as genetics goes, the genotype is the embedded part of your genome that drives the overall health and functionality of your body—much like the back-end does for any application or website.

Applying These Analogies to How a Website Works

To apply all of this to a website, the same principle goes. To continue with the human body example, let’s say that your best friend comes up and asks you to once again tell that funny story you told her last year, the one about the skunk that terrorized your campsite a couple of years prior.

He sends a request that you plan to deliver on. While the words travel up your ear canal and into your brain, the command isn’t completed until the information homes in on the memory you have stored of that particular story; you then get the information that was requested and deliver it back, with the dramatic facial expressions and interactivity that makes the story so funny to retell.

Understanding HTTP Requests

Essentially, this is how a website works. A Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) request is sent via the URL address: skunk-story.com. This is then sent to a HTTP server where either you are instantaneously directed to a webpage or you are hit with one of those infamous 404 errors. If successful, you have traversed the path necessary to interact with a designed interface of dropdown menus, forms, animations, pictures, or whatever the front-end web developer implemented to make the website less static and more enjoyable for the user. You have access to all of the stored data, and (or) funny stories about skunks.

How the Front-End and Back-End Communicate With Each Other

There are generally two ways that the front-end and back-end communicate with each other. The first: through a HTTP request to the server which responds back with browser-ready code like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Once the website has loaded, any CRUD (create, read, update, destroy) methods used for querying data will then be updated on the back-end, and either displayed via front-end coding or not at all if it isn’t relevant for the user experience.

And the second is through the use of AJAX: This is the more modern, popular choice for communication between each side. This done by using REST (Representational State Transfer) and asynchronous communication. HTTP requests are sent in JSON form (JavaScript Object Notation), and the entire webpage does not have to refresh in order to update small components of the site.

The Skills and Technologies Necessary for Each Side

Now that we have talked a little about the basics of each side, we can analyze some of the skills required to be successful in each type of web development.

Languages (including markups) that Front-End Website Developers Should Learn:

  • HTML5
  • JavaScript
  • CSS3
  • jQuery
  • JSON

Cool Technologies for the Front-End

  • Angular- A JavaScript framework that includes aspects of HTML, JavaScript, and CSS all in one. It is also very useful for making highly-scalable applications.
  • Vue.js- This is quickly becoming a popular and easy to learn tool for any developer. It was actually designed with amateur coders in mind.
  • React- A small-view JavaScript library. React is used by a lot of big-name corporations and companies like Walmart, PayPal, and Udemy to name a few. It is essentially only JavaScript, so those who have considerable skills in JS can easily implement React.
  • Bootstrap- An invaluable for CSS designs. Easy to use for quick design fixes and for menus, buttons, icons, and more.
  • AJAX- This asynchronously updates information. It is written in JavaScript and allows for seamless communication between front-end code and back-end code.

Languages that Back-End Developers Should Learn

  • Java
  • PHP
  • Python
  • SQL

Cool Technologies for the Back-End

    • MongoDb- Is a schema-less, NoSQL database management system for your backend DB needs. It is highly scalable and flexible.
    • MySQL- Another database option that is relational in design, which means more consistency and security. It is more logical to use with large amounts of data that need to be prioritized and stored according to a relational structure.
    • Node.js- Is flexible enough to use for both front- and back-ends. It allows you to write server-side applications in JavaScript and comes with the ability to work with a lot of different APIs.

Roles and Careers of Front and Back-End Developers

Get Some Basic Know-How Online

If you haven’t had any connection with the IT field in the past, you will need to start from the ground up. It is best to gain some basic knowledge, and your research should help you find answers to the following questions:

      • What is software engineering?
      • What are the different types of programming you can do?
      • What is the scope of software engineering?
      • What languages should you start with?
      • What are some ways to learn about software engineering?

Roles and Careers of Front- and Back-End Developers

Front-End Web Developer Role

A front-end web developer traditionally works on the client-side. This means that those on the front-end coding are going to be designing user interfaces, as well as making web pages more dynamic and interactive through JavaScript. The most modern standards have to be met when coding, so staying up-to-date is important.

Front-end Web Developer Common Responsibilities:

      • Building Interfaces
      • Knowing enough about design to understand layout visions of designers or clients
      • Enhancing the user-experience whenever they visit a site
      • Developing code that works well with the back-end

*Estimated Annual Income Per Glassdoor

  • $88,680* Salary estimates can vary based on many factors including experience, job title, and geographical location.

Skillset Required

  • Know the ‘big three’ of the front-end: CSS, HTML, and JavaScript.
  • Be well-versed in jQuery, Node.js, libraries, frameworks, and other essential technologies
  • Know the basics of website functionality
  • Know the ins and outs of designing a user interface.

Back-End Developer Role

The back-end developer works on the business/server side and essentially writes code for the management of data and the server-side applications, APIs, or operating systems that work in the background. Querying data is also a big part, as well as maintaining security standards for valuable data and records that are stored in databases.

Back-End Developer Common Responsibilities

  • Creation or management of databases
  • Setting up APIs and making sure they are communicating with front end
  • Utilization of server-side language to add depth to front end
  • Works to provide security to the overall application or website

*Estimated Annual Income Per Glassdoor

  • $70, 676

*Salary estimates can vary based on many factors including experience, job title, and geographical location.

Skillset Required:

  • Know relational and non-relational databases and their implementation
  • Know how to manage APIs
  • Be familiar with many of the technologies available like MongoDB, Node.js, and Mongoose
  • Have a working knowledge (if applicable to your role) of setting up RESTful API developments.
  • Know Java, PHP, Python, or another server-side language

In Conclusion

Coding is very symbiotic; the processes involved require a balanced interaction between both sides for the smooth functionality of a webpage or application. Although the role for each is different, they both come together into the same function: providing a valuable service and experience for the end user.

There are many languages and technologies you can learn for the successful implementation of both, and the constant technological advancements will bolster the industry for many years to come. Both can be great career choices, so choose the side that best suits your strengths. And after becoming familiar enough with the entire process, you might discover that becoming a full-stack developer is more in line with your future goals.

Whatever your choice, front-end and back-end sides of development both offer great opportunities for bettering your future.

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