If you’ve just read our report on technology careers in demand, you no doubt followed up by doing a bunch of research on your own. If so, you’ve probably encountered the terms ‘front end’ and ‘back end’ development. Conceptualizing the two major, distinct kinds of work will be difficult for those unfamiliar with software engineering or web development. Don’t worry, we’re here to help you sort things out.
What Is Front End Development?
As long as we assume you didn’t print this article out–on paper!–then it’s safe to say you’re reading it on a website. Someone had to design the website, including its layout, how it responds to your clicking around, among other things.
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What Is Back End Development?
Though reading this article may seem as straightforward as reading a book, there’s actually a lot happening behind the scenes. In addition to displaying the text, websites must communicate with a server, communicate with a database, and update in real time. To keep things running smoothly, someone has to monitor the website and troubleshoot issues.
When you leave a comment on a Career Karma article, a suite of tools are deployed to store that comment somewhere and make sure future visitors see the updated version. All of this falls within the purview of the back end developer, who must use languages like Python or .NET to get the job done.
How Are They Different?
Front end and back end developers work together to make sure their slice of the Internet looks pretty, loads quickly, and responds appropriately. They differ in whether they are client-facing or server-facing, and in the tools that they use. While there is overlap in their responsibilities, and plenty of people are competent at both, they aren’t the same thing.
So, Which Is Harder?
There really isn’t a clear-cut answer to this question. In some ways, front end work is surely harder, as a developer must deal with user tastes. Being subjective, design is a tough thing to do well, and that’s not counting the added complexity of API calls, state management, and the like. Plus, the suite of commonly-used tools changes a lot.
This is less of a problem in back end development, which users rarely see and which changes far less often. But it also suffers from the same difficulties that regular software engineering must contend with. Bugs can be far deeper and harder to find because you don’t get as much immediate, visual feedback, and you have to contend with databases, systems monitoring, caching, and related technical problems.
As you can see, it really depends on your experience, the kinds of projects you’re working on, and the kinds of problems you want to solve.
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