Front-end vs Back-end Development: Why You Need Some Skills in Both

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, its still important to have good, up-to-date skills on both in order to stay relevant in the current market.

Front-end

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.

More specifically, you will need to know your way around JavaScript  preferably some of the more popular libraries and frameworks for it as well and you should have a good idea of how a code is structured in general and what the organization of the sites internal structure is.

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When you are working with a dynamic site, programming skills can also help you dig deeper into the backend and see whats going on behind the scenes, which is where your back-end development skills will come in handy.

In general, to be competent as a front-end developer, you should have a solid understanding of HTML, CSS and JavaScript, as well as knowledge of good design practices, SEO, content optimization, and possibly more. It all depends on the exact type of site you are running of course, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but dipping your fingers on all fronts can never hurt when the time comes when you actually need to tweak something on the site and you can’t get in touch with the original designer.

Back-end

This is, in most peoples opinion, where things get messy and more serious. Back-end development tends to be more complicated in nature as its 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 are looking to master a specific piece of technology, this is where you should look.

You will need knowledge in at least one server-side scripting language like PHP or ASP, and nowadays, solid JavaScript knowledge is a fundamental requirement for pretty much every back-end developer as well. Many people wrongly see JavaScript as something exclusive to front-end development, but thats quite far from the truth lately, with all the new frameworks that have come out in the last couple of years.

Its also important to have a solid understanding of databases, even if they are not directly involved in your day-to-day work. Its pretty much impossible that your site doesnt use some sort of database to store its data if its dynamic, and it cant 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 its very easy to mess things up on a large scale when tweaking with a databases 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 whats going on.

Finding the right balance

How much you are 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 are 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 youd like to learn. In the end, thats the most important point to make here  never stop learning and always strive for new knowledge, and you should go far.