May 31, 2023
min read

What’s the Difference Between Frontend and Backend Development?

Kaleb McKelvey

“To frontend or backend — that is the question.”

Are you torn between pursuing a career in frontend or backend development? It’s a common dilemma that many aspiring software engineers face, and the decision can feel overwhelming.

First off, it’s important to note that both frontend and backend development require different skill sets and have different levels of complexity. While it’s true that the most commonly used languages for frontend development may be considered easier to learn and use compared to backend development, it doesn’t necessarily mean that frontend development is an easier career path than backend development.

Regarding salaries, as per the Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2020, developers who identified as “full stack” (i.e., proficient in both frontend and backend development) had the highest salaries, followed by those in backend-specific roles and then frontend-specific roles.

It’s worth noting that backend development generally involves working with sensitive company data and requires more security measures and regulations. This means that backend development often requires more experience and expertise compared to frontend development.

Regarding career opportunities, both frontend and backend development offer a variety of roles and opportunities for growth. Ultimately, the choice between frontend and backend will depend on personal skills, interests, and goals.

As a full stack engineer with experience in both the frontend and backend, I can tell you that both fields bring their own unique joys and challenges. For instance, working on the backend requires more in-depth knowledge of databases and APIs, while frontend development involves using CSS and JavaScript to create appealing user interfaces. In addition, the 2020 HackerRank survey found that 24% of developers preferred working on the backend, while only 9.9% preferred frontend development, and 37.6% preferred working as a full stack developer.

So, whether you’re more interested in the creative aspects of frontend development or the complex logic of backend development, I’m here to help guide you through your decision. With experience in technologies such as Angular, Node, Spring Boot, and SQL, and a team-based approach to development, I’m excited to explore the wonderful world of software engineering with you. Let’s dive in!

Frontend vs. Backend Development

As a seasoned dev in both frontend and backend development, let me shed some light on the key distinctions between these two areas — and hopefully give you some clarity if you’re on the fence. We’ll dive into some popular languages, frameworks, and libraries that are frequently used on each side. 

Moreover, I’ll also give my two cents on the hot topic — can one really be a full stack engineer (developing on both sides of the stack)?

💡 Learn more about tech roles in our DevLexicon

1. Frontend Development

Frontend developers are the visionary architects of the web. They bring to life the visual aspects of web applications that captivate users from the moment they land on a website. Did you know that 38% of website visitors will stop engaging with a site if the content or layout is unattractive? That’s where our frontend magicians come in. They manage the different states of users’ journeys, guiding them through a magical experience that connects the frontend to the backend systems that manage the data.

At the heart of the frontend lies the code, which loads these experiences onto various platforms like gaming consoles, TVs, and browsers. Speaking of browsers, 50% of users will abandon a page and move on to another website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Frontend developers ensure that doesn’t happen by leveraging the power of popular languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and harnessing the power of dynamic libraries and frameworks. 

There are a few popular languages on the web that most frontend developers use and are enhanced with the libraries and frameworks of the day. There are a few main browsers like Chrome, Safari, and Firefox that continually improve the way the web works. They introduce new features that help us organise layouts of the page better (CSS Grid) and make sure sites using older features don’t break. The web is wondrous because of the nature of anyone being able to carve out their own space, create a new game, or start blogging about something that interests them — it’s why frontend devs enjoy their roles so much! 

Frontend Frameworks and Libraries 

In frontend development, frameworks and libraries serve as powerful tools to help developers build complex web applications with speed and efficiency. In 2023, frameworks still provide a fundamental structure and set of guidelines for building applications, whereas libraries offer pre-existing modules that developers can use to enhance their applications. 

RELATED: The Best JavaScript Framework to Learn

The great thing about frontend development is that there are a variety of frameworks and libraries to choose from, each with their own strengths and unique features that cater to different needs and preferences. These powerful tools enable frontend developers to build dynamic and complex applications with ease, allowing them to focus on creativity and innovation.

  1. React: React is a popular UI library that’s widely used by frontend developers for building web applications. One of its standout features is the use of something called a “virtual DOM”. This allows developers to make updates to the UI more efficiently, resulting in faster performance and smoother user experiences. In addition, React.js is known for being easy to learn and use, with a vast array of pre-built libraries and components available to developers. It’s also considered a highly in-demand skill in the job market, which makes it a great choice for developers looking to expand their skill set and increase their job prospects.

  2. Vue.js: Vue.js is a user-friendly and widely popular framework for developing web applications. It uses a declarative programming style which makes learning to use it a breeze. Vue.js comes with numerous libraries and a sleek design, which has garnered a lot of popularity in the developer community. It is being widely adopted by many companies, leading to high job opportunities and potential for a high salary for those proficient in it.

  3. Svelte: Svelte is a unique library that is growing in popularity for its ability to reduce the amount of code needed to develop web applications. Unlike other frameworks, Svelte doesn’t rely on a virtual DOM, leading to improved performance. It also comes with a declarative code model and built-in reactivity, which has garnered a lot of interest within the developer community.

  4. Solid.js: Solid.js is a web development library that is becoming increasingly popular among developers. It follows similar patterns as React with hooks and functional components but doesn’t utilise a virtual DOM, making sure that the DOM stays updated efficiently and effectively while working with the state in our apps.

  5. Qwik: A fairly new framework that is innovating the way we deliver code to HTML, Qwik does this by using fine-grained code splitting and caching to create performant web pages with short load times. Qwik uses a server-side rendering architecture with JavaScript Streaming, allowing interactivity as needed. Its advanced features and innovation have grabbed the attention of many developers, leading to a growing popularity and potential for a high salary in the web development industry.

  6. Alpine: A lightweight framework for adding interactivity to HTML, which means it can enhance static web pages with dynamic behaviour and logic. Alpine.js is useful for building simple and declarative web applications that do not need complex state management or routing.

  7. Angular: Helping build dynamic, responsive, single-page applications with TypeScript, HTML, and CSS, Angular uses a component-based architecture and dependency injection to allow developers to create applications. It helps manage data, build your UI, and keep code simplified with strong features that enable re-usability.

  8. Astro JS: Zeroing in on content-focused websites with blazing-fast performance, Astro JS sets you up for success. Through its island architecture, you can still have interactivity on your site. For everything else, Astro optimises loading assets fast by sending mostly static content to websites, then loading the JS as needed to make interactive experiences happen. It’s a unique approach to reducing bundle size and creating a great developer experience for content-oriented websites.

  9. Gatsby: Gatsby is a lightning-fast static site generator that uses React, GraphQL, and a plugin ecosystem to build modern websites quickly. Its static site generation capability makes it easy to load and SEO-friendly. Gatsby has gained a lot of popularity among developers due to its vast library of plugins, making it easy to develop advanced features. Proficiency in Gatsby can be a gateway to a high-paying job in the web development field.

RELATED: Highest Paying Programming Languages 2023

Frontend salary

Determining what types of salaries one can achieve depends on your years of experience, your location, and your company, and certain amicable anonymous users share industry insights that you can break down per location. Once you have done so, click on the “table filter” to look for various ranges based on the different options. Secondly, if you type in “Front End” you can see salaries specific to those positions.

But let’s tackle the real question: can you earn more as a frontend or backend developer? The answer is not so straightforward, as backend developers generally earn slightly more on average. However, it’s important to consider that salary ranges vary widely based on several factors, including experience and qualifications. And when it comes to frontend development, there are various frameworks to consider, with different earning potentials. For example, popular frameworks like React and AngularJS primarily offer higher salaries than other frontend frameworks such as Vue.js or Ember.js.

Keep in mind, your worth as a developer extends beyond just salary. So, don’t forget to consider other factors, such as company culture and growth potential, when evaluating job opportunities.

RELATED:  Breakdown of frontend Salary in Germany

2. Backend Development

Let’s dive into the world of backend development! Backend engineers are the masterminds behind the systems that power our favourite frontend features. Their work includes building APIs, interfacing with databases, and architecting microservices.

One crucial area where backend engineers shine is building APIs. The popular RESTful APIs enable frontend engineers to easily interact with backend systems via network calls. However, managing different versions of APIs can create challenges, especially in real-world scenarios. Nonetheless, following standards that better communicate what an API does can make this easier. Furthermore, backend languages and frameworks can make managing large systems with multiple API routes a breeze.

Another area where backend engineers excel is interfacing with databases and writing performant queries. As frontend applications scale, the amount of data and network calls can increase rapidly, leading to bottleneck queries. Thankfully, backend engineers are there to ensure that data race conditions are accounted for and continually monitor metrics to optimise system performance.

All in all, we must appreciate the unsung heroes of the tech world, backend engineers. Their expertise and skills ensure that our technology runs smoothly, making our lives easier. So next time you’re enjoying a seamlessly running app, take a moment to appreciate the work of backend developers.

Backend Frameworks and Libraries 

When it comes to frameworks and libraries, frontend and backend developers both have plenty to choose from. But which is easier to use, and which brings more joy to your development experience?

Let’s start with the numbers: frontend frameworks dominate the market. It’s no surprise, considering how vital the user interface is to a website’s success. But don’t be fooled — backend frameworks are no slouch either. They bring plenty of options to the table, all with the goal of making development less of a chore and more of a creative outlet.

So, which is better? That depends entirely on your preferences. If you lean more towards design aesthetics and visual elements, frontend frameworks may be more up your alley. But if your passion lies in the nitty-gritty details, like data management and optimisation, then the backend is where you’ll excel. Ultimately, both areas offer exciting opportunities to satisfy your creative itch and build great things.

Like frontend frameworks and libraries, backend developers have many to choose from as well — all aiming to simplify everyday tasks, follow quality design patterns, and increase developer productivity.

  1. Spring, Spring Boot, and its other modules: Spring is a comprehensive Java framework that simplifies the development and deployment of enterprise applications. Spring itself has many different modules, like Spring Security, Spring Cloud, and other pre-built solutions for common development activities. Spring Boot is a subproject of Spring, that comes with default configurations and less boilerplate to create standalone production apps. Spring-related jobs have high demand, with an average salary of roughly €97,000 in the US.

  2. Node.js: A JavaScript-based runtime environment that allows server-side development and is known for its large ecosystem of libraries, Node.js is commonly used for creating powerful REST APIs and microservices. It’s a good choice for web development and has a lot of job opportunities with an average salary of €65,000, according to the 2022 Stack Overflow Survey.

  3. ASP.NET core: A .NET-based framework that allows cross-platform development of web applications, ASP.NET Core uses the MVC architecture for creating web APIs, making them easily modifiable and testable. It has good integration with common databases and is popular among developers due to its clean code approach. ASP.NET Core jobs are in high demand with an average salary of €65,050. Although I’ve listed this as a backend framework, I believe this framework is used to make both sides of the stack and integrates the two nicely.

  4. Laravel: An open-source PHP-based framework used for creating APIs using the MVC pattern, Laravel is popular among developers for its expressive syntax and built-in functionality for caching, databases, and authentication. Laravel-related jobs, according to the 2022 Stack Overflow Survey, are on the lower end of the pay scale, averaging an annual salary of €35,000.

  5. Fiber framework: A Go-based web framework that creates applications with zero memory allocation by default, offering strong performance for APIs, Fiber is built on top of Fasthttp and offers easy API routing, making it popular among Go developers. Creating API routing is made easy, so give it a try!

  6. Flask: Creating web applications and APIs without overhead with this lightweight Python framework is why devs look to Flask. It’s a micro-framework, which means it starts with the basics and can be extended via extensions for features your apps need. For small and medium-sized projects, Flask is your friend.

  7. Ruby on Rails: Ruby on Rails is a server-side web application framework built on the Ruby programming language. It follows the Model-View-Controller (MVC) architectural pattern and emphasises “convention over configuration” and “Don’t Repeat Yourself” (DRY) principles. These principles help developers reduce boilerplate code and be more productive. That’s not all — in the 2022 Stack Overflow survey, Ruby on Rails ranked as the second highest-paying technology!
  8. Django: Django is a user-friendly Python framework that follows the Model-View-Template (MVT) architectural pattern for building web applications. It provides developers with everything they need to streamline their coding process and develop outstanding websites quickly. Django’s comprehensive set of tools makes it a popular choice among developers, thus opening doors to many job opportunities.

Backend salary

Did you know that the average salary for a backend developer is around €63,000 per year? This is quite higher than what frontend developers make on average — €55,000. So, if you have the skills and passion for backend development, the rewards can be handsome!

In the EU, the salary difference can vary depending on the country and location. Still, it’s not uncommon to see a difference of around €10,000 per year or more between backend and frontend developers. One reason for this is that backend development can require a more specialised skill set and, in some cases, more experience, which can command a higher salary. Additionally, backend development is often critical to the functioning of a business or application, meaning that companies are willing to pay a premium for skilled backend developers who can help ensure the reliability and scalability of their systems.

However, the salary gap between frontend and backend developers is not always clear-cut, and many factors can influence salary levels, including the size of the company, the industry sector, and the particular skills and experience of individual developers.

RELATED: Breakdown of backend salaries in Germany

Would it be possible to do both? 

Looking at roadmaps for either frontend or backend, the way ahead is long. That begs the question, can full stack developers do the job of both well?

My personal take is…it depends 😀.

Some roles really do require strong expertise for a specific tech stack, with the expectation of an expert filling it. A generalist full stack skill set might not work out well in such a role. 

In other teams, everyone might be “full stack” but have more robust expertise in the backend or frontend. The backend team members can help make sure those with more expertise in the frontend space follow best practices and vice versa.

In my experience, learning both sides of the stack has been useful. It can help you debug issues faster when you’re on-call, estimate stories during backlog refinement, and design the APIs you will eventually call. It helps you learn the struggles of the other side, and by doing so, you can help alleviate them too. I also believe that learning different programming languages or the same language in another paradigm is extremely useful. It all boils down to knowledge having power, and what better way to gain more knowledge than through the experience of applying it?

And that, my friends, is why I believe it’s possible to do both, but the role must be set up in a way that enables — rather than hinders — your success.

Where to start…?

Has your interest peaked for either frontend or backend dev? They are both exciting spaces to be in with many challenges, learning opportunities, and fun!  To get started, we recommend checking out the roadmap for either: frontend or backend.

Is it too late to get started? Based on analyses put together by officials in the United States, the job market for web development continues to grow. It’s projected to grow by 23% from 2021 to 2031, which is a massive opportunity for those joining the field; we can well expect that growth to be global and not localised.

Programming, on either side of the stack, has been a remarkable journey for me these last 10 years. I’ve enjoyed learning all the ins and outs of projects and code bases, while continuing to keep up with new and exciting features from the web dev world!

What’s the Difference Between Frontend and Backend Development?

May 31, 2023
min read

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