Front-end vs Back-end

The easiest way to differentiate front-end and back-end development is to say that web designers are more focused on the front-end (design, typography, colors, etc), and web programmers are more concerned about back-end development using specific languages (MySQL, PHP, other database languages, etc). Front-end is what you see; back-end is how it works.


These days, front-end development refers to the part of the web users interact with. In the past, web development consisted of people who worked with Photoshop and those who could code HTML and CSS. Now, developers need a handle of programs like Photoshop and be able to code not only in HTML and CSS, but also JavaScript or jQuery, which is a compiled library of JavaScript.

Most of everything you see on any website is a mixture of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, which are all controlled by the browser. For example, if you’re using Google Chrome or Firefox, the browser is what translates all of the code in a manner for you to see and with which to interact, such as fonts, colors, drop-down menus, sliders, forms, etc. In order for all of this to work, though, there has to be something to support the front-end; this is where the backend comes into play.


In a previous blog, we talked about how web programmers are concerned with launching websites, updates, and maintenance, among other things. All of that works to support the front-end of the website. The back-end has three parts to it: server, application, and database.

To better explain how all of this works, let’s use the example of a customer trying to purchase a plane ticket using a website. Everything that the customer sees on the webpage is the front-end, as we have explained before, but once that customer enters all of his or her information, such as their name, billing address, destination, etc, the web application stores the information in a database that was created previously on the server in which the website is calling for information.

The web application creates, deletes, changes, renames, etc items in the database. For example, when a customer purchases a ticket, that creates an item in the database, but when they have a change in their order or they wish to cancel, the item in the database is changed.

A server, in the simplest form, is a computer accessed remotely that runs software to fulfill requests from clients. In our example, the server the customer’s browser is communicating with is where the database is stored and modified.

In short, when a customer wants to buy a ticket, the backend operation is the web application communicating with the server to make a change in a database stored on said server. Technologies like PHP, Ruby, Python, and others are the ones backend programmers use to make this communication work smoothly, allowing the customer to purchase his or her ticket with ease.

What’s your preference?

In the end, a lot of these technologies are related. They all work together to make something work. Some developers can program for both front-end and back-end, although it does take much more time to design while programming the back-end. It all depends on the project and what technologies and skills are needed where.

Which do you prefer? Are you more into front-end development with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, or are you a back-end champion tackling on technologies like PHP, Python, and Ruby? Whichever your choice is, you can learn how to use these programming languages in Codeup. Our first and second classes will be focused on PHP and client-side JavaScript, so once our students graduate from the program, they will be able to show employers that they have the skills to do either front-end and back-end development.

For the next blog, we will be talking about being a full stack developer and what that entails. Until then, happy programming!