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What is the difference between front-end and backend development

We tell you what a front-end and a backend are, how they differ and how they interact with each other. We understand and choose the appropriate direction.

Front-end and backend are like the scene and backstage of a web app. Frontenders develop interfaces by studying and taking into account user experience (UX), and backend programmers create an "internal" service that works without user intervention.

Let's take a closer look at what experts on both sides of the "web scene" are doing.

What is front-end development

Front-end development is the creation of a user interface on the client side of a website or application. This is all that the user sees when he opens a web page, and what he interacts with: buttons, banners and animations. The front-end is associated with the business logic of the product (the client part constantly "communicates" with the server part), but backend programmers are engaged in its development.

In the process of work, the front-ender interacts with designers, backend developers and UX analysts.

To understand what the front-end is, open the page of any site - you will see the interface. Right-click on the page, select "Page Source", and you will see... its source code :)

This is an example of the work of a front-end developer. The browser runs code that describes the colors, layout, fonts and arrangement of graphic elements, and we see such beauty.

Front-end development components

A front-end site or web application can be divided into three large parts:

  • HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is a document markup language in which the structure of the page is created: headings, paragraphs, lists, and so on.
  • CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is a language for describing and styling the appearance of a document. Thanks to the CSS code, the browser understands exactly how to display elements. For example, CSS sets the colors and parameters of fonts, determines how different blocks of the site will be arranged. It also allows you to play the document in different forms: for printing (regular or Braille), displaying on the screen or for reading with a screen reader.
  • JavaScript is the language that brings web pages to life. Its task is to respond to user actions, process mouse clicks, cursor movements, keystrokes. It also sends requests to the server and downloads data without reloading the page, allows you to enter messages and much more.

What is backend development

A backend is the development of the business logic of a product (website or web application).

The backend is responsible for user interaction with internal data, which is then displayed by the front-end. Simply put, it is something that is hidden from the user's eyes and happens outside his browser and computer.

EXAMPLE

When the driver gets into the car, he sees a "user interface" in front of him: the control panel, the steering wheel, the gas and brake pedals. When you press the gas pedal, the car begins to move forward. So, the front-end is the same pedals: the driver knows what will happen when he presses them. And the backend is the internal processes that occur in the car after pressing the pedal. The user does not see how the engine starts, and does not know how it is arranged.

Now let's see how the backend of the site works.

When you type a query on the search engine page and press the Enter key, you go from the front-end area to the backend. The request is sent to the server of Google or Yandex, on which complex search algorithms are located - there all the "magic" happens. As soon as the information you were looking for appears on the monitor, you return to the front-end area.

By and large, the server is the same computer, only remote and more powerful. It stores data and responds to user requests.

Backend Development Components

The backend developer uses the tools that are available on his server. He has the right to choose any of the universal programming languages – for example, Ruby, PHP, Python or Java. It all depends on the specific project and the task of the customer.

Also, database management systems are used for backend development:

  • MySQL;
  • PostgreSQL;
  • SQLite;
  • MongoDB.

Download (deployment) tools are also used:

  • CI/CD;
  • Kubernetes (K8s);
  • Docker.

A backend is not only about writing code, but also about creating an application architecture. The architecture in development determines the structure and order in which databases are used. It is important that the database correctly interacts with the application code and is continuously delivered to the server - the backend developer is responsible for this.

Depending on the product, the responsibilities of the backend developer may vary. On some projects, it creates and integrates databases, on others it provides security or configures backup and recovery technologies.

How front-end and backend interact

The interaction of the frontend and the backend occurs in a circle:

  • the client part of the application (front-end) sends user information to the server (backend);
  • the program on the server processes the information;
  • the information is returned to the client side in a user-friendly form.

Despite the fact that different specialists are engaged in backending and front-end, it is desirable for each of them to understand the principles by which colleagues work. Even an interface designer is useful to know at least in general terms how the backend of the project he is engaged in is arranged. This will help to adequately assess the technical capabilities of the site or application.

There are several options for the interaction of the frontend and the backend:

  • The HTTP request is sent directly to the server, the server looks for information, embeds it in the template and returns it as an HTML page.
  • Option using AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML). In this case, the request is sent by JavaScript loaded into the browser, and the response is in XML or JSON format.
  • Single-page applications load data without refreshing the page. This is also done using AJAX or the Angular and Ember frameworks.
  • The React library helps to use the application both on the server and on the client side. The website turns into a full-fledged application that receives the information necessary for the user without updating the pages.

EXAMPLE

When you enter text in Google Docs, you immediately receive feedback from the server: the program highlights syntax errors and offers corrections. You do not need to reload the page. Front-end and backend interact via AJAX and HTML code, which is processed on the server.

The responsibilities of front-end and backend developers are usually separated, but sometimes the programmer solves problems both on the server side and on the client side. Such specialists are called full-stack developers.

Programmers who feel confident both in the frontend and in the backend are often found on the market. Most often, these are Senior developers who have gone through a difficult path in one of the areas - frontend or backend - and have experience in another.