Developing a website involves multiple unique aspects nowadays, to the point where web designers and developers have started to branch off into relatively unique, tightly specialized niche positions in order to satisfy an ever-growing market demand.
The main distinction to make is between a front-end and back-end developer, and there are some specific differences in both camps that you will need to familiarize yourself with if you are working in this field. It doesn’t matter if you focus on just one of those two aspects, it’s still important to have good, up-to-date skills on both in order to stay relevant in the current market.
The front end is arguably the simpler half, and it involves the actual design portion of making a website. This is where you come up with the layout, the structure of each page, linking, you think about the SEO and so on. This is where designer skills tend to shine and are more valuable than programming, but keep in mind that there is still a healthy dose of programming involved in front-end development nowadays too. Even if you use well known frameworks.
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When you’re working with a dynamic site, programming skills can also help you dig deeper into the backend and see what’s going on behind the scenes, which is where your back-end development skills will come in handy.
This is, in most people’s opinion, where things get messy and more serious. Back-end development tends to be more complicated in nature as it’s more closely related to raw programming, and it also involves a broader range of skills that you will need to acquire and maintain. On the bright side, this is also an area that allows you to specialize more tightly, so if you’re looking to master a specific piece of technology, this is where you should look.
It’s also important to have a solid understanding of databases, even if they are not directly involved in your day-to-day work. It’s pretty much impossible that your site doesn’t use some sort of database to store its data if it’s dynamic, and it can’t hurt to know your way around its command line and general use practices.
Make sure you actually pay attention to the security practices in this area though, as it’s very easy to mess things up on a large scale when tweaking with a database’s settings, and there may not even be an easy way to recover from that situation afterward. When in doubt, of course, leave it to someone more directly experienced with the topic than you, but you should still have a good understanding of what’s going on.
Finding the right balance
How much you’re going to focus on either of those two sides will depend mostly on the types of sites you want to build and support, and your own alignment towards learning and technology as well. Some people find themselves more naturally predisposed to design tasks and coming up with the visual layout of a site, while others feel more comfortable hacking away at their scripts that nobody ever sees directly, but everyone benefits from a lot.
There are plenty of good reasons to acquire skills on both sides, and if you’re serious about being a webmaster, you should also keep strengthening your knowledge in both areas on a regular basis. Keep up with current trends, follow the development of modern technologies, and see if there is something new on the horizon that strikes your fancy and seems like something you’d like to learn. In the end, that’s the most important point to make here – never stop learning and always strive for new knowledge, and you should go far.