The front end of a website is everything the user either sees or interacts with when they visit the website. It is responsible for the total look and feel of an online experience.
While the term may sound a little technical, website front ends are really an everyday encounter for almost all of us. If you’ve opened an app to check the weather, or scrolled through today’s headlines on a website, you’ve interacted with a front end.
Creating a front end experience isn’t a one-person job. In fact, it takes a group of people to create a website that looks as good as it feels to use.
Most often, this group will be comprised of a front end developer — whose job it is to actually write the code for the functions of the website — and a UX or UI developer, who will work on the visuals of the website.
The front end experience usually goes through a few different stages of development, including the creation of wireframes (rough outlines of the user flow), prototypes (working examples of the site), and finally user testing.
The backend, also called server-side, is the infrastructure that supports the front end and is made up of parts of a piece of software regular users can’t see. The backend is basically a website’s brain.
The backend includes the server that provides data whenever requested, the database where that data is organized, and the application that delivers that information.
To turn a new website into a dynamic web application (a website whose content may change depending on what is in its database and that can be changed by user input), you will need to add more backend components. This is different from a static website, where the content often remains the same and doesn't need a database.
The backend developers handle everything that doesn't involve providing a user interface. This can include writing APIs, building libraries, and utilities. They make it easier to communicate the presentation layer and business layer. Compared to frontend web designers, they play a key and highly collaborative role in web development.
To put it simply, backend developers create code to ensure everything functions correctly in the frontend. To ensure the website operates effectively, they typically spend more time than web designers figuring out logistics and putting algorithms into place.
Although they are very different, the frontend and backend are come together to create a functional website.
Frontend development focuses on the graphical aspects of a website or app, AKA the client or user-side. Backend development concentrates on the server-side. Together, they develop a dynamic website that lets users make purchases, use contact forms, and engage in interactive activities. Examples of dynamic websites are Facebook, Netflix, and PayPal.
Backend and frontend developers also use different frameworks. Frontend developers use frameworks and libraries like AngularJS, React.js, jQuery, and Sass. Meanwhile, backend developers work with Express, Django, Rails, Spring, and Laravel.
If you’re considering a job in web development, it’s good to know that backend and frontend developers often have different salary ranges. The median US salary for frontend developers is around $120,000, with a range of $106,000 - $130,000. Backend developers are paid a little less, making about $105,000, with a range of $91,000 - $120,000.