What Is the Difference Between Front-End and Back-End Development?

Originally published February 9, 2017, updated Feb. 27, 2019.

Front-end developers work on what the user can see while back-end developers build the infrastructure that supports it.

Both are necessary components for a high-functioning application or website.

It’s not uncommon for companies to get tripped up by the “front-end versus back-end” divide when trying to navigate the development of new software.

After all, there are a growing number of tools on the market aimed at helping developers become more “full stack” oriented, so it’s easy for non-technicians to assume there isn’t a big difference between front-end and back-end specialists.

Front-end and back-end developers do work in tandem to create the systems necessary for an application or website to function properly. However, they have opposite concerns.

The term “front-end” refers to the user interface, while “back-end” means the server, application and database that work behind the scenes to deliver information to the user.

The user enters a request through the interface.

It’s then verified and communicated to the server, which pulls the necessary data from the database and sends it back to the user.

Here’s a closer look at the difference between front-end and back-end development.

What is Front-End Development?

The front-end is built using a combination of technologies such as Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), JavaScript and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).

Front-end developers design and construct the user experience elements on the web page or app including buttons, menus, pages, links, graphics and more.

HTML

Hypertext Markup Language is the core of a website, providing the overall design and functionality.

The most recent version was released in late 2017 and is known as HTML5.2.

The updated version includes more tools aimed at web application developers as well as adjustments made to improve interoperability.

CSS

Cascading style sheets give developers a flexible, precise way to create attractive, interactive website designs.

JavaScript

This event-based language is useful for creating dynamic elements on static HTML web pages.

It allows developers to access elements separate from the main HTML page, as well as respond to server-side events.

Front-end frameworks such as Angular, Ember, Backbone, and React are also popular.

These frameworks let developers keep up with the growing demand for enterprise software without sacrificing quality, so they’re earning their place as standard development tools.

One of the main challenges of front-end development – which also goes by the name “client-side development” – is the rapid pace of change in the tools, techniques and technologies used to create the user experience for applications and websites.

The seemingly simple goal of creating a clear, easy-to-follow user interface is difficult due to sometimes widely different mobile device and computer screen resolutions and sizes.

Things get even more complicated when the Internet of Things (IoT) is considered.

Screen size and network connection now have a wider variety, so developers have to balance those concerns when working on their user interfaces.

What is Back-End Development?

The back-end, also called the server side, consists of the server which provides data on request, the application which channels it, and the database which organizes the information.

For example, when a customer browses shoes on a website, they are interacting with the front end.

After they select the item they want, put it in the shopping cart, and authorize the purchase, the information is kept inside the database which resides on the server.

A few days later when the client checks on the status of their delivery, the server pulls the relevant information, updates it with tracking data, and presents it through the front-end.

Back-end Tools

The core concern of back-end developers is creating applications that can find and deliver data to the front end.

Many of them use reliable enterprise-level databases like Oracle, Teradata, Microsoft SQL Server, IBM DB2, EnterpriseDB and SAP Sybase ASE.

There’s also a number of other popular databases including MySQL, NoSQL and PostgreSQL.

There are a wide variety of frameworks and languages used to code the application, such as Ruby on Rails, Java, C++/C/C#, Python and PHP.

Over the last several years Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) providers have been maturing into a viable alternative.

They’re especially useful when developing mobile apps and working within a tight schedule.

What is Full-Stack Development?

The development of both the back- and front-end systems has become so specialized, it’s most common for a developer to specialize in only one.

As a general rule, full-stack development by a single programmer isn’t a practical solution.

However, at times a custom software development company will have developers who are proficient with both sides, known as a full stack developer.

They powerful team players because they have the breadth of knowledge to see the big picture, letting them suggest ways to optimize the process or remove roadblocks that might be slowing down the system.

To find out which database and framework to use on your next project, read our article “What is the Best Front-End/Back-End Combo for an Enterprise App.”

If you’re ready to see how we can put our knowledge to work for you, set up a free consultation today!

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What Is the Best Front-End/Back-End Combo for an Enterprise App?

frontend-backend-combo
Originally published Feb. 20, 2017, updated Aug. 15, 2018. Choosing the best front-end and back-end combination is probably the most complicated part of building an enterprise app. There are so many exciting languages, frameworks and databases to consider, and no single combo works in every situation. It’s easy for options paralysis to set in. To navigate through the maze of choices, let’s take a closer look at the popular databases and front-end framework solutions in enterprise computing today.

Databases

Oracle

The longtime king of the hill in enterprise databases is Oracle. For large government agencies, international corporations and high-value data centers, Oracle’s reliability is hard to beat.

IBM DB2

IBM’s DB2 is one of the highest quality, most cost-effective RDBMS platforms on the market. It’s easy to install and supported on Unix, Linux, and Windows. DB2 is ideal for companies running high-volume, high transaction workloads. It’s most popular in industries like insurance.

Microsoft SQL Server

This versatile database platform offers enterprise companies complete data management and powerful business intelligence (BI) capability.

SAP Sybase ASE

This stable, cost-effective, high-performance, low-risk database has seen better days. Under its previous name Sybase, it was part of the database power trio: Sybase, Oracle and IBM. It lost market share and was eventually sold to SAP. The database still sees wide usage in industries like banking, but its star is falling. Newer databases continue to edge it further into obscurity.

Teradata

For enterprise organizations with huge data warehouses, Teradata database fits the bill. This self-described Very Large Database System (VLDB) was the first database focused on handling terabytes of data. It features intelligent optimization which responds rapidly to requests. Popular users include telecom companies and large retailers who handle enormous amounts of transactions every day.

EnterpriseDB

Based on the open-source PostgreSQL database, EnterpriseDB (EDB) adds performance and security features suited for enterprise-level workloads.

Front-End Frameworks

The field of top-quality front-end frameworks is constantly evolving. JavaScript solutions like Angular and Ember have grown into an important element in many enterprise stacks.

Bootstrap

Since its release in 2011 Bootstrap has become the most widely-used open source framework in the world. It’s a popular tool for HTML, CSS and JS development. Bootstrap scales easily on websites and apps off a single code base across desktops and mobile devices. Its documentation is incredibly thorough, though the variety of styles included makes the file size a little large.

Foundation

This enterprise level front-end platform used by eBay and Facebook is useful for creating highly responsive sites. Foundation is a collection of frameworks for the front-end that creates attractive, fast sites, email messages and mobile apps. The tradeoff is that it’s too complex for beginner; it takes a skilled developer to build with Foundation.

Angular.js

Angular has rapidly become one of the most popular JavaScript frameworks for enterprise computing. It emphasizes simplicity, testability, and ease of construction, letting developers get more functionality from less code. The framework is rigorously maintained by Google. Two versions are planned for 2018. Version 6, which was released in early 2018, adds more tools for cross-compatibility going forward, and Version 7 is already in beta for a Fall 2018 release.

React.js

Like Angular, React has grown in popularity over the last couple of years, offering a series of new releases and development tools and enjoying increasing adoption for new projects. Unlike Angular it’s not a fully-fleshed front-end. Instead, it’s a simplified way to create dynamic view layers for apps. React got a serious boost in popularity from Facebook’s release of React Native for creating mobile apps.

Ember.js

Ember offers easy migration between versions and rock-solid stability. It’s been trending downwards in popularity lately, but not because of quality. Instead, the problem seems to be that Ember is highly structured and standardized, and most newer developers like JavaScript for flexibility and freedom of style. Ember is useful for building highly scalable Single Page web apps.

Backbone.js

Backbone provides structure to enterprise front-ends, with features like key-value binding, collections with a robust API and views complete with declarative event handling. Some developers regard Backbone as too light for modern apps, but it still has a loyal base of users.

Conclusion

These are just a few of the many dynamic tools available for building modern apps. Choosing between them- that’s better done on a case-by-case basis. There are some helpful guidelines when weighing the options. For example, a solid MVC framework like Angular or Backbone is a reasonable choice. Also, worth considering is that while the database and front-end are the core of enterprise installation, more tools are needed to optimize the system. These could include components like API middleware, jQuery, underscore templates, and custom fonts. The best way to create the perfect front-end and back-end combination is to outline the specific project at hands requirements and assemble the stack that fits those.

Looking for direction on your next enterprise app? Sit down with one of Concepta’s experienced developers for a free consultation on what’s best for your business.  

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