Front-End versus Back-End Development for the Non-Coder

by Jeremy Lord on March 10, 2016

Back-end and front-end web development are two, very different, yet cohesive parts that make up the internet we know and love. In a world of developers, even mentioning which web language may be more dominant is likely to start a war than have a positive outcome. The important thing is to recognize that each language was created for different reasons, but ultimately can be put into two categories, front-end or back-end. Simply put, back-end developers can be compared to the mechanical aspects of the car like the engine, transmission, and the brake lines, while front-end developers are more like the visual aspects that the driver interacts with, such as the steering wheel, gas pedals, and dashboard.

Another example? The user opens up the internet, goes to hulu or netflix, chooses a favorite show and click; before they know it, are immersed in the phenomenon of online streaming. This is all packaged up in a simple to use, hassle free, and mostly a commercial free application for the user at minimum cost. As easy as it gets right? That’s after the front-end developers have worked with designers to create an easy to use interface (UI) for a quality user experience (UX), and the back-end developers have optimized the code to grab this stream from a database hosted on a separate server. Both are essential to effectively capture and utilize a web application. This should help to show that there are varying uses for each web language, and each was designed for a specific purpose.

Front-end development is generally made up three languages: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. These languages are used to code aspects of a webpage that include font, colors, and general layouts of every site. After collaborating with designers on how they want the site to look, it is the front-end developers that go to work and build the layout with buttons, pictures, videos, and empty forms that are interacted with by the users. However, there still has to be code written to give these different aspects a function. That is where a back-end developer comes in and writes the code that gathers the information from the user and transmits it to a server that would then run the application and shoot it back to the user’s device or computer.

Ruby on Rails (RoR) is an example of a back-end web language that doesn’t affect the look of the application, but rather is a framework to build the application itself. This code or data is used to store information that was entered in the different fields on the website, and interacts with the various server or “service” of the application being used. The basis for an application like hulu or netflix is that, the user signs up for a subscription with a credit card, that information is then stored in a secured database, and then the user is free to choose a program. It is the back-end developer that gives the user the power to do so by connecting the interface that the user is interacting with and the database that holds all of the programs.

Hopefully this basic distinction has cleared up some questions. If not, don’t hesitate to email back and lets start a conversation! Do you have an idea for an application? Feel free to contact us and we can get your idea into the hands of our skilled developers.

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