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Front-end vs. Back-end: What’s the difference?

If we wanted to discover the many and greatly diverse reasons why today's developers decided to enter into this specialist world, all we'd need to do is ask. From those that adore graphic design and want to take their passion a step further, unleashing their visual creations to a webpage's interface, to those who love snooping around in the underbelly of databases, API's or exploring the inner workings of servers; in other words, everything that users don't see.

As such, depending on what they prefer to work on, they'll specialise either in the front-end or back-end. Although technology is continuously evolving and these two fields are becoming increasingly connected, there is still a marked difference that separates them. Although the skills needed for either side are very similar, they still demand certain skills and knowledge that are unique to either back-end or front-end development. Let's go over the main characteristics of each side of the development world.

The most attractive side to front-end development

As its name suggests, front-end development encompasses the configuration and design of everything that web surfers see when they use a website or app. It's the visual aspect of the job that tends to attract those developers with a keen interest for graphic design. These developers' task is to create interfaces that users will find as attractive as they do intuitive, making the user experience a much more gratifying one.

As such, developers use three main tools, which are HTML, CSS and JavaScript. It's true that recently, this latter programming language has been gaining more and more ground in front-end development, displacing other technologies such as JQuery, which has now become obsolete. Other frameworks have even been created within JavaScript, such as React and Angular, which facilitate the job of a developer and can create components that are later replicated in other areas of the platform under construction.

What's more, they need to be proficient in other tools not traditionally used by developers such as image editing programmes (one example might be Photoshop), or platforms such as Figma or Sketch that allow developers to create prototypes, preview navigation through the platform and test different concepts before finalising the development.

As a front-end developer, your job is to use all these technologies and languages to construct the visuals and design of the app or website in question, in order to therefore generate a certain feeling among its users so they want to come back. It's no easy feat.

Why would you opt for back-end development?

Developers that choose to specialise in back-end development are those that prefer to configure databases, that prefer to work out how to optimise server performance so that they can adequately handle the workload, those who take advantage of the resources third party API's can provide to achieve optimum developments... Ultimately, these developers deal with everything that's hidden from view from users that visit a website or app and provide their data to register or make a purchase from that platform.

Back-end developers use many different programming languages in their day-to-day. From PHP to Ruby, Python, Java or JavaScript. Their job is to make sure websites run smoothly and optimise their response time. Also, unlike some years ago when webpages and apps were more static, today, a back-end developer's job is increasingly highly-regarded as these pages have become more dynamic and are in need of constant updates. On top of this, they need to be well-versed in both relational databases, such as MySQL or Oracle, and non-relational databases, such as MongoDB.

Want the best of both worlds?

You wouldn't be the first one. If you enjoy front-end design as much as back-end development, you could steer your career path towards a job in full stack development. Although there's still some scepticism surrounding these profiles, given it's considered better to specialise in one area or another, the truth is that companies are increasingly investing in full stack developers that are able to operate seamlessly designing both the interface to be displayed in the browser and the infrastructure hidden below the surface.

If you possess the skills and abilities, as well as the necessary curiosity, to acquire the professional expertise in both back-end and front-end development, you might choose to sign up for the Web Development bootcamp at Ironhack. You'll learn about state-of-the-art technologies used in both front-end development, such as HTML5 Canvas, JavaScript or React, and back-end development; become familiar with Node.js; learn how to configure servers with Express, or databases with MongoDB. All these skills are highly-sought after by tech companies, giving you an edge when you come to accessing the job market and the world of development.

Which one gets your development juices flowing? Front-end or back-end? Or perhaps you want to have your cake and eat it too; could full stack development be your calling?

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