Front End, Back End, and Full Stack Developers: A Comparison


Are you redesigning your website or adding an eCommerce platform? You already know that you need help with a web development project. Unfortunately, your current IT team doesn’t have all the skills you need for the job. More than that, you may not be certain what kind of talent you want to hire.

The truth is that not all web developers are created equal. Some specialize in certain programming languages. Others have expert knowledge in mobile devices or databases. In general, however, there are three categories by which to classify web developers. These are front end, back end, and full stack developers. Each are responsible for running the different parts of a website, specific software, or application. Below, you’ll find a description of what each one does, so that you can choose the right kind for your needs.

Front End Developers

As the name implies, front end developers work on the “front end” of a website. This is also known as the “client side”. It refers to the actual look, feel and presentation of the website as it appears in your browser. It includes the colors and fonts, the drop-down menus, and the transitions and animations. Front end development prioritizes the user experience, and how to make the website functional and visually appealing for your audience. Front end developers possess technical skills in languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. They may also be familiar with front end frameworks such as Bootstrap, jQuery, Angular, and Backbone.

A particularly talented front end developer understands the specific goals of your software and identifies potential problems in user experience. They should also be able to execute their own recommendations to solve the issue.


Before moving on, it’s important to note that front end developers aren’t the same thing as web designers. Although, both roles closely collaborate and web designers often have knowledge of HTML and CSS. The main point of distinction is that web design is focused on aesthetics and usability. Web development is focused on turning these designs into reality. Despite this difference, it’s not uncommon to hear people use the phrase “web design” for the front end development work on a website.

Back End Developers

Front end developers focus on the website’s actual appearance and behavior for the user. Back end developers focus on the website’s internal logic. The back end of a website is composed of three things: a server, an application and a database. The goal of a back end developer is to get these three components to communicate. This is because the web browser must be able to receive and display the right information.

Still aren’t sure of the difference between front and back end? Think about what happens on Google’s website when you search for something. Simply put, back end developers are responsible for taking your search query and running it through the Google database in order to find the most relevant results. Meanwhile, front end developers are responsible for taking those results and displaying them in the web browser in a way that’s attractive and meaningful for the end user.

Front end developers must know HTML, CSS, and JavaScript at a minimum. Back end developers aren’t required to know any particular language or framework. Instead, they typically specialize in a given back end programming language, such as Ruby, .NET, PHP, Python or Java. They also use tools such as MySQL and Oracle to find and store important data.

Full Stack Developers

Full stack developers represent the best of both worlds, uniting the front and the back end. These people are comfortable wearing both hats, and they have expertise in all layers of a website’s development. This includes, but is by no means limited to, topics such as servers, hosting, databases and user interfaces. Facebook popularized the idea of a full stack programmer in 2010. They explain, “People who develop broad skills also tend to develop a good mental model of how different layers of a system behave. This turns out to be especially valuable for performance & optimization work.”

Beyond the front end trifecta of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, full stack developers must be familiar with at least one back end programming language. This gives them the ability to build a fully functional, mature web application from scratch. Most full stack developers tend to focus on one or two aspects of the website during a project. They just have the ability to contribute to any part of the code base if need be.

In recent years, the lines between websites’ front end and back end have become more blurred, as much of the computation from the back end is being moved into the browser. This means that full stack developers have never been in more demand, as their flexibility and versatility is finally coming in handy.

Which Developer Should You Choose?

Although we’ve discussed the three main types of web developers. However, there are really only two choices for your situation: a specialist or a full stack developer. Businesses might choose a front end or back end developer if they need a particular area of expertise, or they have a specific project to accomplish without the right resources.

On the other hand, full stack developers are the right choice if you need someone who’s a “jack of all trades” and you want to keep costs low. Using a full stack developer will probably be more costly than either a front end or back end developer. However, it’s less costly than hiring two specialists, one for each end of the stack. For example, if you just want to spruce up your website’s design to make it look more modern, a front end developer will be all you need. If you want to add an eCommerce store, you’ll need a full stack developer, since this will involve both front end design and back end logic. No matter what, a full stack programmer should identify the responsibilities of the front and back end and solve problems efficiently.

Whether you decide to go with a specialist or a full stack developer, there’s someone out there who’s the perfect fit for your situation. Specific-Group provides talent matching services based on your unique needs, so that you can always be sure you’ll get a quality product.


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