Web [Front|Back]-Endians

So you want to become a web developer ? One of the questions I get asked routinely when talking to recruiters is ‘Are you more interested in Front end or Back End development ?’ Whereas I’m not sure that the typical recruitment consultant truly knows or even cares what this means, I thought I would share some insight here on what I have come to understand in recent months.

 

Back End

In terms of contemporary web development ‘Back End’ typically means ‘Server Side skills’ which I guess sort of starts at the HTTP server level and ends with expertise in some sort of high level scripting language such as PHP or maybe Java. Backend development can also encompass system configuration , data backups and migrations, Content Management System (WordPress themes development for example) . For Back End development you are more likely to need to know about databases ( SQL) and maybe even some system admin. type tasks as well as an understanding of the associated server hardware platforms and their respective operating systems.

 

Front End

Some would argue that this is where all the really cool stuff is happening today.  As computers and browser software have become more capable , much more data crunching,  and clever/ bandwidth intensive activity can be handed off to the users own computer.  Browser software can use AJAX calls to retrieve data directly from the server with out reloading an entire page, which means that in-browser Javascript code does a lot of the heavy lifting that used to required high power server resources.

As a front end developer, your tasks might typically involve, creating HTML and CSS code from provided designs, working with server side API ‘s ( e.g. google maps, social media) , using frameworks such as Twitter Bootstrap and writing code to interact with the user ( checking input before sending to server etc) . You may perhaps also be interested in graphic design , usability etc

 

Summary

As a backend developer I think you are more likely to be working autonomously and from an agreed specification document, you are likely not to be motivated by see all your hard work appear on screen as pretty web pages. As a fronted developer you are more likely to be working in close contact with Project Management or the end users client in an iterative process ( Clients always change their minds after you have done all the hard work !)

Technically speaking the two main languages used namely PHP and Javascript differ in that PHP is slightly more based on functions and procedural style of programming ( although it does comprehensively support Object Oriented Programming as well. ) Javascript is the most ubiquitous language on the planet and is Object Oriented from its core. It is more like Java and Swift ( despite the names baring no relevance) that PHP is.  Javascript is now making its way into server side programming ( node.js)

Personally I like the way that JavaScript endows the visual elements of the page with the technical capabilities for manipulating them in an infinite number of ways. I like to be able to see the results of my work appear as the project progresses and I even don’t mind getting regular feedback and updates from clients ! ( I mean I did spend 10 years as a customer facing support engineer LOL )

 

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