Front-End vs. Back-End: What’s the Difference?

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Knowing the difference between front-end vs. back-end development plays a crucial part in building your software development team. These concepts ultimately define what is necessary for the completion of your project.
Not only will they be a discerning factor in choosing your tech stack for your next project, but it will also help you better understand how to hire the right developers.

Front-end vs. back-end — these two ends of development are not enemies, but friends. Tune in to see what exactly brings them together.

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Front-End vs. Back-End: What Are the Differences?

The primary differences between front-end and back-end development lie in their function. Like the names of these development approaches suggest, front-end and back-end development comprise two distinct sides of development.

One side, the front-end, represents the visual interface that users interact with when accessing a website or application.

On the other hand, the back-end consists of structures that power the internal mechanisms of any software system.

A front-end without a back-end might be visually stimulating, but unresponsive. Without any back-end code instructing your machine to respond to user interaction, navigating any software would be futile.

Likewise, a back-end without a front-end would be just a data hub. There would be no presentation layer to display any information relevant to interacting with a given software.

Given the particularity of each side of development, the composition of front-end vs. back-end development is unique as well.
Front-end and back-end development typically involve distinctive code anatomies, frameworks, and even programming languages.

What Is Front-End Development?

Front-end development encompasses the side of the development which is clearly visible to the user. Therefore, front-end development is responsible for what’s called client-side software.

This very web page owes front-end development for its creation. The structure, styling, and overall visual makeup of this website are all the work of front-end development.

The grounding components of front-end development generally include three principle technologies: JavaScript, CSS, and HTML. 

JavaScript is a scripting language for programming dynamic content. Clicking buttons, scrolling up and down using sidebars, and other interactive modules tend to rely on JavaScript.

HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are two technologies that determine the design of a web page. HTML specifies the structure and placement of text, images, and whatever else you might see on a web page; CSS specifies style as in fonts, layout, colors, etc.

A stylized representation of a front-end user interface with a window containing a placeholder for text and an image, alongside a code editor window symbolizing back-end development.

What Does a Front-End Developer Do?

Front-end developers utilize the aforementioned technologies to build user interfaces (UIs). Of course, their understanding of these technologies is deeper than just surface level.

For example, professional JavaScript developers have expert proficiency with the JavaScript frameworks that ease the process of web development.
Such frameworks render a blueprint for your web development project. Other JavaScript frameworks, namely React, permit the use of JavaScript for mobile app development.

ECMAScript is an advanced and enhanced interpretation of JavaScript. This JavaScript standard provides a utilitarian syntax for building complex applications.

JavaScript developers should be well-acquainted with the latest version of ECMAScript, dubbed ECMAScript 2020.

Front-end developers will also be familiar with the latest iterations of HTML and CSS. HTML5 was released in 2014, extending features for playing audio and video that — when combined with CSS3 — effectively replace Adobe Flash Player. CSS3 is the latest version of CSS, and lends new styling features.

Responsive web design (RWD) is another common skill of front-end developers. RWD refers to an approach to web design that accounts for user behavior, screen size, platform, and orientation. 

In other words, RWD prioritizes user experience (UX), and this an important skill for any front-end developer to have.

What Are the Most Common Front-End Languages?

When it comes to front-end development vs. back-end development, there are few languages involved on the front-end. JavaScript is a powerful language and its juxtaposition with HTML and CSS is basically all you need for successful front-end development.

An open box labeled


As far as a history lesson, you should know that JavaScript has been around since the mid-1990s. When the internet first came to fruition, online users could only look forward to static, fixed content full of text.

In 1993, Netscape released the first web browser with a graphical user interface, approximately a decade after the World Wide Web’s big debut. The invention of JavaScript came shortly after in 1995.

Microsoft tried its hand at the same idea, creating a browser of their own and a similar language named JScript.

But at this point, whoever won the browser wars was of little significance. Whether you use Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, or something else entirely, you can bet that JavaScript is there. JavaScript has been steadfastly holding its position since day one.


Just like Netscape, 1993 is the birth year of HTML. But Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the computer scientist behind the World Wide Web, had been working on HTML years before then.

The main function of HTML is to tell the browser how to display content. Tags of HTML elements describe whether certain content is reserved for the header, subheadings, body, and more.


Håkon Wium Lie was working with Tim-Berners Lee at the time he proposed CSS in 1994The objective of CSS is to distinguish the presentation of a website from a website’s content. 

If you wanted to increase the font of a web page from 10pt to 12pt or change the color and thickness of an outline bordering a table, CSS has your back.

How To Hire a Front-End Developer

In order to hire a front-end developer, you must hone in on the skills that are integral to front-end development. 

As an illustration, since all front-end developers should be JavaScript developers you should be keen on looking for expert JavaScript developers. These developers will surely have expertise with CSS and HTML as well.

It’s important to be descriptive about these skill sets rather than limiting a job posting to simply “front-end developer”.

More than just the technologies themselves, front-end developers should have experience with version control systems so they can collaborate with other developers. They should also have apt testing and debugging skills, as this is paramount to any software development project.

Ultimately, to hire a front-end developer you will need to have some solid context for the skills you want on your software development team in the first place if only to determine if your potential hire has the skills themselves.

What Is Back-End Development?

Back-end development covers the part of development you can’t see. This is mostly comprised of what happens on the server, thus back-end developers develop what is known as server-side software. 

The server in a client-server model controls what happens behind the scenes, storing, sending, and receiving data for and from the client. For instance, when you enter a web address into a browser, that request is sent to the server which retrieves the website from the internet so you can access the information.

Back-end development consists of the many processes that go into making that and other similar interactions happen. Usually, this involves the server, a database, a programming language, and application programming interfaces (APIs).

To review, a server manages several clients on the web. A server hosts this very website.

On the other hand, a database is a repository of stored information. Your current browser probably uses a database to save some or all of your login information for the various websites that you use.

An API is an intermediary connecting software together. One example of an API is PayPal. With the use of APIs, you can use PayPal through different websites without needing to visit the PayPal website itself.

Programming languages are self-explanatory but the languages used for front-end development vs. back-end development differ. For the latter, languages should have high networking capabilities.

A simplified diagram showing a user interface linked to gears, databases, and cloud storage, representing the back-end systems that power web applications.
Back-end development covers the part of development you can’t see. 

What Does a Back-End Developer Do?

Back-end developers use the technologies described above to build server-side software. Development at this end requires a diverse set of skills that professional back-end developers should be nimble at.

To elaborate, to program databases back-end developers must have a comprehension of query languages. SQL, or Structured Query Language, is the go-to query language for managing data. Several management systems work with SQL, such as MySQL or Oracle.

Knowledge of caching mechanisms is similarly useful. Software like Varnish, Redis, and Memcached should be easily recognizable to experienced back-end developers.

For dealing with servers, back-end developers have the option of picking from a variety of web servers like Apache, Nginx, or Microsoft IIS. Network uptime and backup restoration are some of the more important factors in choosing a server.

APIs also have a fundamental role in the back-end developer’s screenplay. Representational State Transfer (REST) and Simple Object Access Patrol (SOAP) are two of the principle design models for web services, the server-side constituent of an API.

Back-end developers should have familiarity with both these models, although software projects will ultimately lean towards one.

Last but not least, back-end developers must have fluency in a few of the back-end programming languages that will contribute to the major development of your software. This will be discussed in more detail just below.

What Are the Most Common Back-End Languages?

Back-end languages handle the functionality of a website. These languages execute on the server-side, affecting the speed and responsiveness of a user’s navigation through the web. Here’s an overview of the most common back-end languages.

A cardboard box labeled


PHP is a recursive initialism for Hypertext Preprocessor; it is also a general-purpose programming language for web development. Built-in 1994 by Ramus Lerfdorfthe language can be embedded into HTML.

Laravel is PHP’s stand-out web framework. Using elegant and expressive syntax, the framework will lay the foundation for your next web development project.


Python has been a long-standing favorite in the software development world. Created in 1991 by Guido van Rossum, the language prioritizes simplicity and code readability. 

Its accompanying web framework, Django, employs a model-template-views (MTV) architectural pattern to simplify the development of complex web apps.


Publicly released in 1995, Ruby is a popular programming language emphasizing ‘convention over configuration (CoC). Creator Yukihiro “Matz” Matsumoto borrowed his favorite things from a plethora of languages, including Perl, Smalltalk, Eiffel, Ada, and Lisp.

Because of CoC, Ruby’s domineering web framework Ruby on Rails comes with a set of conventions that jumpstart the development process, offering your software development team speed and convenience.

How To Hire a Back-End Developer

As far as hiring a back-end developer, this doesn’t differ widely from hiring a front-end developer. Admittedly, the technologies involved in back-end development are a bit more heterogeneous than those involved in front-end development.
Given this, you will need to think carefully about the web servers, web services, query languages, and programming/scripting languages you designate for development.

For job listings, you will need to be able to describe what specific technologies you’ll be using for your project and the level of expertise you want your potential hire to have.

Of course, to do all this, you will need to be somewhat acquainted with the software yourself. This will help you assess your job candidate’s ability.

Front-End & Back-End: What Is Full Stack Development?

Both front-end development and back-end development contribute to full stack development, which describes the development of client and server software altogether. 

At the completion of a software development project, you can pretty much guarantee that full stack development has taken place, as both front-end and back-end development will need to have been accounted for.

Some technologies, in particular, make full stack web development notably accessible. One example of this is Node.js, a runtime environment for JavaScript which allows developers to code JavaScript on the back-end. By this methodology, JavaScript can exist on both the front-end and back-end, paving the way for full stack development in strides.

There are also full stack developers. Full stack developers have the experience and expertise to work on both sides of development.

They can write optimized front-end code in HTML, CSS, or JavaScript as well as create APIs and write back-end code in languages like Ruby, Python, or PHP.

Hiring a full stack developer or a team of full stack developers assures more effective communication from one end of development to the other, meaning more successful development overall. 

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For those who prefer visual learning, front-end development is what happens above surface level or above the water. And back-end development is what happens below the surface or below the visible water line.

Full stack development is everything that’s going on, no matter if you can see it. 

If you want to learn more about hiring a front-end, back-end, or full stack developer, you’ve come to the right place.

Trio knows all about it and will gladly take you through the steps. Check out this article for more information on hiring developers.

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With over 10 years of experience in software outsourcing, Alex has assisted in building high-performance teams before co-founding Trio with his partner Daniel. Today he enjoys helping people hire the best software developers from Latin America and writing great content on how to do that!
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