Frontend vs Backend: What's the Difference? (2022)

Frontend vs Backend: What's the Difference? (2022)

Web development is usually divided into two components: front-end (front-end) and back-end (back-end). Front-end developers are engaged in the development of the graphical interface - the part of the application that the user sees.

They turn a web designer's layout into a functional and user-friendly user interface. Correct display of fields and blocks, working buttons and data entry forms - everything that a user encounters in a browser is the responsibility of front-end developers.

Back-end developers describe the logic for working with the data that the application uses or generates. They create a system that works beyond the graphical interface: so that the search finds what the user needs, and people can enter their personal accounts.

Also in web development there are specialists who combine both of these roles - full-stack developers. However, they usually go deeper into one thing.

The universal knowledge that any web developer should have is Git and working with a Linux environment. It is also important for him to understand the general principles of the Internet. In addition, there are many specific tools that need to be mastered depending on the specialization - we will talk about them below.

What do frontend developers do

The front-end developer turns the design layout into a page that opens and runs in the browser. He also programs the logic of the behavior of visual elements, receives data from the backend, organizes their provision to the user. The frontender can collect data from the user, program the data to be easily processed or sent to the backend for further processing.

What you need to know as a front-end developer:

  1. Languages: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, TypeScript is increasingly required.
  2. Frameworks: React, Vue or Angular. You need to be able to work with one of them.
  3. Additional tools: working with external extensions via NPM or Yarn, setting up front-end builds (for example, Webpack).

Consider the typical task of a junior front-end developer.

Let's say the team has a React and TypeScript project. You need to add a component to it that displays an icon on the page. The icon can be of different colors depending on the situation in which it appears:

  • 'primary' — primary color;
  • 'secondary' — secondary color;
  • 'error' — color in case of an error;
  • 'success' — color in case of successful operation;

In the icon.tsx file, we create the icon itself so that when embedding this component anywhere in the application, we can set its state.

This is just a small sample of the task, but it clearly demonstrates the need to understand additional technologies beyond HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, such as React and TypeScript. What technologies will be required on a particular project determines the stack adopted within the team or company. You need to either know it, or be ready to quickly dive into it.

What do backend developers do

The back-end developer forms and creates models for storing and managing data in databases. He also develops functionality that other systems can use to interact with application data: get, modify, add, and delete them. It ensures the stable operation of these systems in different situations, for example, under loads or unexpected behavior of third-party applications.

Let's say you pay for an order on the website of an online store. The form that collects payment information from you is the front-end; it sends data to the server, where the backend application starts running. It contacts the server of the payment system or bank, sends requests to it containing the payer's data and the amount, and then receives a response from the payment system that the transfer of funds has been completed. After that, the application saves the time of purchase, the buyer's data and the amount in the database. Then the following stages of order processing are launched: writing off the goods from the warehouse, transferring them for delivery, and so on.

It is more difficult to form uniform requirements for backend knowledge, because the backend can be written in different languages. The most common are Python, Java, Go, Rust, C++, Ruby, PHP, JavaScript, and TypeScript (NodeJS technology). Each language has its own frameworks: Python is Django, Java is Spring, Ruby is Ruby on Rails, and JavaScript is Express. They also need to know. In addition, a specialist needs experience with at least one relational (Postgress, MySQL) and one non-relational database (MongoDB, Redis).

Differences between frontend and backend development

Since the frontend and backend are closely related, at first glance it may seem that they are almost the same. However, people in these two professions use completely different tools.

For example, frontend specialists need to understand what is:

  • JavaScript is a programming language whose main task is to “animate” the pages of the site and process various actions coming from users: for example, it can be a search on the page (that is, in this case, hot key presses are processed).
  • CSS is a language for describing the appearance of an HTML document. For example, it is necessary for the correct display of elements on a web page, as well as for determining the style and color of the font.
  • HTML is a markup language for web pages: it helps to place headings, paragraphs, sentences in appropriate places.

Backend developers use completely different tools. To develop the software and hardware part of the site, they need to:

  • Be able to work with different database management systems (SQLite, MySQL, MongoDB, etc.);
  • Understand at least one programming language (Java, PHP, Python, etc.);
  • Know what an API is (the ways in which one program can interact with another);
  • Understand how different servers work (for example, NGINX, IIS and Apache);
  • Be familiar with Frontend basics and more.

How does frontend and backend interact?

The interaction between the frontend and backend takes place in several stages: first, the frontend sends a request to the backend, then it is processed and returned back to the frontend, only taking a specific form.

It is important to understand all these processes even for web designers who work with the visual shell of the site. After all, they also need to imagine how the site will look as a result, which features should be added, and which ones should not.

And there are some more interactions between frontend and backend:

  1. HTTP Requests: A user using a browser sends an HTTP request to a server that parses the request and returns the desired HTML page as a result.
  2. Using AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML): That is, the request comes from the JavaScript functions built into the browser, and the response comes in either XML or JSON format.
  3. With the help of AJAX and the Angular and Ember frameworks, you can update the data on the page without reloading it.
  4. Libraries and frameworks like Ember or React allow you to use applications both on the server and on the client. Here Frontend and Backend communicate with each other using AJAX and HTML code processed on the server.

As you can see, frontend and backend cannot exist without each other. Therefore, it is important for people in these professions to be well versed in both areas. By the way, full-stack developers are especially valued in the labor market - specialists who are able to implement both the client and server side of a site or web application.