Frontend Developer vs Backend Developer: Key Differences

| Updated on March 26, 2024

Programming has changed the way we live our lives and conduct business.

But for a layperson, it can be mighty hard to figure out the peculiar lingo that gets thrown around.

You have just figured out that Java has no relationship with JavaScript and now you are caught up in the front-end versus backend enigma.

But knowing the distinction is essential before hiring a remote front-end developer for building your new online shopping store.


Worry not, since it is easy to understand.

What is Web Development?

Let’s backtrack slightly and begin at the beginning.

Web development is a subset of programming. It consists of creating a website and its database.

Is it any different from other forms of programming? Well, yes. Web development uses technologies that are quite unique.

General programming languages such as C++ or Python can be used for a variety of purposes, e.g. game development, data analytics, machine learning. 

However, languages used by web developers, such as HTML and JavaScript, have a narrower focus and are exclusively used for the web.

What is Front-end Web Development?

You must have done it a zillion times—powered up your laptop, opened Chrome, and typed in a web address.


In less than a few seconds, a web page appears for you to order pizza or browse through the day’s news.

What you are engaged with is the front end.

Put simply, it consists of all the visual elements of a website. The front end is responsible for rendering a web page.

Look closely and you will find the following on almost any webpage:

  • Navigation that allows you to move to another section or layer of the site
  • Buttons that let you share a webpage on social media or buy a product or service
  • Content with main heading and possibly several subheadings
  • Hyperlinks that, when clicked, take you to an internal or external webpage
  • Easy to read fonts and use of suitable background colors

None of it happened without a fair bit of engineering. It was the front-end developer who handled it.

There is another way to think of front-end development. It is the client-side and responsible for setting up a UX and UI that is easy to understand and use.

Let’s say you want to buy a plane ticket at rock-bottom prices and visit online travel sites such as Agoda or Kayak.

You would like to know:

  • The price of tickets
  • If the travel is non-stop
  • Duration of travel
  • Time of departure and local time of arrival
  • A complete list of every flight inside the travel window

The front-end developer has to arrange this information in a way that is easy to discover and navigate.

Of course, he does not work in isolation.

A web designer decides the layout and visual appearance, which is brought to life by the front-end developer by employing HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Front End Languages Every Developer Must Know

In-depth knowledge of the “big three” is a must.

  1. HTML: Known as the language of the internet, it is currently in its fifth iteration. HyperText Markup Language is not a programming language but used for properly displaying content. It is a set of instructions for the browser to display the elements of a webpage (text, paragraphs, headings, links, and images) as intended.
  2. CSS: Of course, a web page is much more than text, paragraphs, links, and images. Each webpage has a style that determines how the HTML elements are to be displayed. Cascading Style Sheets or CSS controls the layout of a webpage.
  3. JavaScript: A simple static web page can be created from HTML and CSS alone. But modern websites have a lot of dynamic elements. Think of suggested product tiles when you buy something from Amazon. It is tailored for you based on your browsing history. Front-end programmers use JavaScript for manipulating data on a webpage.

What else do they need to know? Understanding how a few front-end frameworks have to be a part of their skill set.

Frameworks are a bundle of code that can be used across sites. They cut down on development time and are ready-made modules.

  1. React: Developed by Facebook in 2011, it is versatile and flexible enough for a wide range of uses. A GitHub survey of thousands of developers showed it to be the most popular front-end JavaScript framework in use. Its USP is the use of virtual DOM that makes it remarkably responsive.
  2. Angular: Developed by Google as the successor to the older AngularJS framework, it allows two-way data flow. This makes it easy for the developer to view in real-time the changes being made. Moreover, Angular allows a webpage to be broken into modules and loaded as needed.
  3. Vue: It is a modification of Laravel used by developers for creating online stores. Vue combines the best of both worlds from React and Angular and might become the most used JavaScript library in a few years.

What is Back-end Web Development?

A website resides on a server. This is the backend, so-called since it is invisible to the end-user.

For the uninitiated, a website is, after all, a massive collection of files that hold data, text, images, HTML, and CSS files.

It’s crucial to hire back-end developers who can work behind the scenes and in tandem with the front end to keep a site functional. When you checkout at Amazon it is the backend that records the order, maintains track of abandoned carts, processes the payment, and ensures a seamless user experience.

Unlike the front end, it does not concern itself with UI and UX but databases and integrity of the data. It also has the task of fetching the required data as soon as the user asks. Facebook hosts a petabyte of images (a million gigabytes) and fetches 300,000 images every second. That is the backend at work for you. 

Backend Languages Every Developer Must Know

Unlike the front end, the backend has no special languages for use with a web application. Server-side languages are the same, whether you are running a newspaper website or maintaining accounts of a bank.

The most used backend languages are:

  1. PHP: PHP is a scripting language used for developing web applications. It is used to interact with databases, such as MySQL, and generate dynamic page content. It can also create, open, close, and modify files on the server.
  2. Python: Python is an open-source programming language that can be used for a variety of purposes. When used by a web developer, it is mostly for data analytics and integrating systems to work closely together.
  3. Java: Not to be confused with JavaScript, Java is an object-oriented programming language and provides run times that are platform agnostic. It is similar to C++ but less complex to use.

Difference Between Front End and Back End

If you are still confused, it’s best to think of it as visual versus non-visual parts of a site.

You never get to see the engine of your SUV churning out torque, nor see the differential kick in around the bend or the anti-lock braking system preventing a skid.  

Similarly, parts of the website are out of your sight but hard at working to keep it rolling smoothly.

The dash, the steering, and the infotainment panel are comparable with the front end. You can touch, feel, see, and interact with these elements, and make them do one thing or the other. 

It’s not that one set of developers is more able or intellectually gifted. They have completely different tasks altogether.

The Smart Way to Hire Skilled Front End Developers

If you are looking to hire an experienced front-end developer but unsure about the next step, there is an easy way out.

Get access to top-notch talent who possess the know-how and experience to build and maintain any type of site.

From creating responsive designs to testing and debugging they would get your site up and running in no time at all.

Also Read: Job Outlook for React Developers

Leena Ray

Digital Marketing Writer and Editor

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