Frontend vs Backend Development: A 2024 Perspective 

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Web development. Even people far removed from software engineering and information technology are probably somewhat familiar with this concept. Certainly, many people have also heard about two main components of web development: frontend and backend development. But only a few know what is hidden behind these concepts and what they consist of. What does what, and what magic happens in the background that lets you click and interact with your favorite websites? How do the visuals and layouts on your screen make your digital journey so seamlessly intuitive and engaging? Let’s demystify the technical wizardry that powers the Web and try to look at front-end vs. back-end development in layman’s terms.

What is front-end development?

For a better understanding, let’s look at both concepts separately. As a front-end development services provider with almost a decade of experience, we decided to start with what we are proficient at. Front-end development (also known as client-side development) is all about creating the visual parts of websites and apps you can see and interact with. It’s like creating the facade of a website. Front-end developers use various tools and programming languages to build everything from the layout to the fonts and buttons you click. Imagine painting a picture or arranging your room to look just right; that’s what front-end developers do, but they do it for digital spaces.

Front-end developers make sure everything on the screen looks good on different devices, like your phone, tablet, or laptop. It’s not just about visual appeal, though. They also make websites easy and fun to use. If you’ve ever used a website that felt intuitive, where everything seemed right where you expected it to be, that’s good front-end development at work.

Visual components you see and interact with, together with the logic of how everything works and what users’ digital journeys look like, are commonly referred to as user interfaces and user experiences. Although user interface and user experience are also viewed from the perspective of web and UI/UX designs, it can’t be done without a decent front-end development team. In this sense, front-end development is the bridge between the design of a website and the technology needed to make it work. Front-end developers take the design and turn it into functioning web applications you see on the Internet. This process involves coding but with a sense of design and user experience. It’s a crucial part of making websites accessible and enjoyable for everyone.

What is front-end development?

Front-end programming languages

Now, let’s see what stands at the very heart of front-end development: programming languages. These languages are what bring websites to life. The main ones are HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. 

First of all, we need to check HTML and CSS, which are the very basis of the modern web. HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. Think of it as the supporting structure of any website. This language allows front-end developers to create basic structures, like pages, headings, paragraphs, and links. HTML is the foundation of any front-end development and the Internet in general. Without it, sites would be just plain text with no organization. CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, in turn, is all about style. It dresses up the supporting structure or, let’s say, the skeleton we got with HTML. CSS decides the colors, fonts, sizes, and layout. It makes the website look good, adding beauty and style to the basic structure.

JavaScript in front-end web development

JavaScript is a bit more complicated story. First of all, we need to clarify that JavaScript is not just about the front end. Any front-end and back-end developer can use it for their purpose; therefore, it can be seen from the perspective of full-stack development. However, for right now, let’s focus on the front-end capacities of this language. So, JavaScript is the main part of any front-end development project. JavaScript adds action to websites; with JavaScript, you can create any kind of interactive features like menus that drop down, images that slide, and forms that check your information before you submit them. This language truly animates websites, making them dynamic, interactive, and easy to use. Most modern web platforms, be they Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, or any other big social media, e-commerce website, news portal, or even educational platform, use JavaScript as their principal front-end development language. We have previously written a detailed review of this programming language and the most popular JavaScript frameworks, describing how this language can be used and what it means in the key of front-end vs. back-end development comparison. 

Although the combination of languages may vary slightly, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are the front-end programming languages that you will find in 99% of web products. Together, these languages work to create the user-friendly, attractive websites we use every day. They are the building blocks of the Web. To be more accurate, in those parts of the Web, users interact with every day. Each of these languages has its own role, but the modern Web became possible only with all of them used together.

What is back-end development?

So now, after defining front-end development, let’s dive into the back-end. The back end is often regarded as a storage room of any web application. Back-end development (also known as server-side development) is what allows all the behind-the-scenes magic to happen. This allows back-end developers to make sure everything on the front end works as it should. Back-end engineers use their own specific tools and technologies to build and maintain the part of the website or applications that power the front end. This is what being the storage room of any web app essentially means. Although you don’t see this part of the job as an end user, it’s of utmost importance for the overall functionality of almost ANY web product.

Back-end developers handle databases, servers, and specific server-side applications. They ensure that data flows smoothly between the server and the users through the front end. It’s not just about making things work, though. Back-end developers also optimize performance and security, ensuring the website or app can handle the traffic and keep users’ information safe. If you, for instance, ever submitted a form on a website or made an online purchase, the back end processes those requests and returns the correct information without you seeing what’s happening.

While the front end is what users interact with directly, the back end is what users indirectly interact with through the front end. In some way, it can be compared to the brain of the whole system as it makes decisions and carries out tasks that enable user experience. So, this illustrates the main difference between front-end and back-end development. The back end stands for creating apps or their specific parts that store, process, and manage data. It ensures the front end has everything it needs to function properly. 

What is back-end development

Back-end programming languages

Compared to the front end, things are much more complicated when it comes to back-end languages. For instance, Medium, in their guide for front-end and back-end web development, names four main backend languages: JavaScript, Java, C++, and C#. However, we might add Python, another up-and-coming programming language that has become more and more popular among professional developers, and also PHP. Let’s briefly check each of them.

C++, known for its top speed (probably the fastest option), is a top choice for software requiring high performance, like real-time financial trading systems. Its ability to handle complex tasks with speed keeps it relevant in performance-demanding areas. C#, in turn, is similar to C++ but is specifically tailored to developing Windows-based applications. These two languages are usually used in “heavy” tasks when it comes to computation capabilities; however, they require longer development time, so you would not expect to see them often in web development.

Java and Kotlin, with their “write once, run anywhere” philosophy, is a staple in large-scale enterprise environments, both in web and mobile development. Its robustness, scalability, and widespread use in financial services, e-commerce platforms, and even more make it a reliable choice for businesses for long-term growth. PHP, a popular language in the past, is still widely used in the web; however, it seems like the language has taken its niche and hasn’t shown a big growth during the last few years.  

And lastly, we have two favorite languages of back-end web development. We have written a detailed Python vs JavaScript comparison, where we compared two languages mostly from the perspective of back-end development. Python, shining for its simplicity and readability, is a decent choice for web development. Especially with libraries, such as Django and Flask, which simplify development, making it accessible for startups and giants alike. JavaScript, in turn, traditionally a front-end language, has crossed into the back-end with opportunities of Node.js, enabling full-stack developers to use the same language. So, yes, that’s why it can be a bit more complex, as plenty of languages can be used for handling various tasks, and the choice will definitely impact the development process.

Trends and technologies in front-end and back-end development

Staying ahead of web development, regardless of whether you are looking from a developer perspective or a startup founder, means keeping an eye on the trends and technologies that shape the industry. Here are some of them:

Single-page applications (SPAs)

SPAs are web applications that load a single HTML page and dynamically update that page as the user interacts with the app. Basically, it means that a seamless online experience can be delivered without refreshing the page. Such a solution is perfect for creating responsive websites and applications enhancing user engagement.

Progressive web apps (PWAs)

PWAs blend the best of web and mobile apps, offering offline capabilities, fast loading times, and app-like experiences. They’re increasingly popular for delivering high-quality user experiences with the reliability and reach of the Web. PWAs allow web developers to build applications that work seamlessly across all platforms and conditions.

API-first development

With the rise of mobile and web apps, adopting an API-first approach helps developers ensure that applications are flexible and can easily integrate with other services. This trend underscores the importance of creating robust APIs for seamless front-end to back-end communication.

Cloud-native technologies

Leveraging cloud services like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud enables scalable, reliable back-end solutions. Cloud-native development facilitates easy deployment, scalability, and flexibility, reducing infrastructure concerts and focusing on innovation. Together with front-end-as-a-services solutions, cloud-native services allow front-end developers to deploy features and applications rapidly, knowing that the backend can scale as needed without direct intervention.

Serverless architecture

Serverless computing, where the cloud provider manages server provisioning and scaling, allows developers to focus on code rather than server management. It’s ideal for businesses looking for cost-efficiency and scalability. This means quicker development cycles for front-end development teams and less operational overheads for back-end teams, making scaling applications based on user demands easier.

Containerization and microservices

Docker and Kubernetes are leading the charge in containerization, allowing applications to be packaged and run in isolated environments. Microservices architecture breaks down applications into smaller, manageable pieces, improving modularity and making continuous deployment easier. For front-end developers, this translates to more focused, independent development of features, while back-end developers benefit from easier management, deployment, and scaling of services.

Challenges and solutions in front-end and back-end development

Responsive designUse CSS frameworks like Bootstrap or Foundation for consistent, responsive design across different screen sizes.
Speeding up websitesCompress and optimize images and use techniques like lazy loading, where content is loaded only when needed, making pages load faster without sacrificing quality.
Keeping websites safeImplement secure protocols like HTTPS and regularly update software to protect against the latest security threats, ensuring user data remains safe.
Organizing informationEmploy state management tools like Redux for React apps, which help in tracking user interactions and data changes systematically, making the website more reliable.
API integrationsDesign RESTful services or use GraphQL for efficient data retrieval and manipulation between front-end and back-end systems.
Scalability of websitesMicroservices architecture and containerization (e.g., with Docker and Kubernetes, as mentioned above) allow back-end systems to be more scalable and maintainable.
Cross-browser compatibilityUse tools like Babel to compile modern JavaScript into compatible versions and perform thorough testing with tools like BrowserStack.

Real-world examples of effective front-end and back-end collaboration

Well, most of the websites on the Internet that both look well and function well are examples of such a collaboration. However, here are several specific examples to see what does what in practice, comparing front-end vs. back-end development parts:

Google Maps’ interfaces

Google Maps combines complex back-end data processing with a highly interactive front-end (one of the most notable front-end React examples), allowing users to search for places, get directions, and explore maps effortlessly. The back end handles vast amounts of geographic data, while the front end presents it intuitively and easy-to-navigate.

Amazon’s dynamic pricing and product display

Amazon’s back-end systems constantly update prices and product availability based on demand, competition, and inventory. The front end then dynamically adjusts these details in real-time for the shopper. This collaboration allows for a highly responsive and personalized shopping experience, encouraging more sales.

Uber’s ride matching and tracking

Uber app matches riders with nearby drivers using sophisticated algorithms on the back end, which also calculates the fare and estimated arrival times. The front end displays this information in a user-friendly interface, allowing users to track their ride in real-time and manage their trip details easily.

Predicting the tech future is always an interesting question. In this way, you definitely shouldn’t unquestioningly trust any kind of predictions regarding the future, as we still neither use flying cars nor read annual weather forecasts. However, we will try to say what kind of existing technologies will probably become increasingly popular:

  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI and ML). AI is probably the word of the last few years. Who among us has not heard about OpenAI or Midjourney?! However, we can easily expect a massive growth of AI and ML in web technologies too: from AI-powered chatbots to enhanced user experiences by predictive analytics and personalized content.
  • Low-code/No-code development. Specific platforms that provide developers and non-technical users with a set of tools to build the application or its certain element without code will grow rapidly too, we suppose. 
  • Quantum computing impact: Well, not tomorrow; however, quantum computing will begin influencing web security and data processing — all because of their computing power. Whether it comes to the back-end developers or full-stack developers, the development process will change significantly.
  • Further IoT integration: Websites will increasingly interact with plenty of IoT devices, offering new services and user interactions. That means that we will see more work for the web developers.
  • Micro frontends: Breaking down front-end applications into smaller, more manageable pieces for faster development and deployment is another future tech trend in web development we would expect.

However, as always said on this website, “predicting is a form of magic,” and, unfortunately, we don’t know this kind of magic. Although we aren’t sorcerers, there is still one kind of magic ELTEX can offer — tech magic blended with the culture of trust and honesty. Whether you have any further questions regarding front-end vs. back-end development comparison, choosing the right development technologies, or seeking the proper tech skills for your in-house team, don’t hesitate to contact ELITEX. We’re here to help guide you through the intricacies of web development to ensure your project’s success beyond your expectations.


Back-end vs. front-end development FAQs

What is front-end and back-end development?

Both usually refer to parts of software development. The front end makes the website parts you see and use, while the back end works on the server and database stuff hidden from the user but functioning somewhere on the server side.

What is the difference between a back-end developer and a front-end developer?

Comparing front-end developer vs. back-end developer, the first usually works on visual components, interface, and certain elements of user experience, while the second works on server-side code.

How do front-end and back-end developers collaborate on a project?

They work together to connect the site’s looks with its technical functions (visual elements of the website seamlessly interact with server-side processes). 

Which programming languages are used for back-end development?

Python, Java, Node.js, Ruby, PHP, and C++/C# are traditionally used as server-side languages for building back ends. The choice will largely depend on the project’s specific needs.

Can a single development team work on both front-end and back-end parts of a project?

Yes, especially when it comes to full-stack developers. However, full-stack teams require even a higher tech skills level.

Which development area usually requires higher development cost, comparing backend vs. front-end development?

It depends on what you want from your side. If you want to create a visually appealing facade – the front end will cost more. However, the back-end may cost a lot more if your web application works with large databases or heavy computation.

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