Front and Back to the Job title?

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A confusion about Job titles begins with Front-end and Back-and ends with End..

When we discuss the “front-end” of the web, what we’re really talking about is the part of the web that you can see and interact with. The front-end usually consists of two parts: the web design and front-end web development.

In the past when someone discussed development it usually referred to the back-end, but in recent years there has been a real need to differentiate between designers that worked strictly in Photoshop and those that could code HTML and CSS. It went even further when designers crossed the lines to working with JavaScript and jQuery.

So now when we discuss the term “web design”, we’re really talking about those that work with Photoshop and Fireworks, and those that code using HTML, CSS, JavaScript or jQuery (it might be important here to state that jQuery is a compiled library of Javascript).

Everything that you see when using the web is a combination of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript all being controlled by your computer’s browser. These include things like fonts, drop-down menus, buttons, transitions, sliders, contact forms, etc.

On the other side …

To make all of Front-end become a reality and to store the information that you put in the front-end elements, we need technology to make it happen. Here we enter the Back-end … Literally.

The back-end usually consists of three parts: a server, an application, and a database. If you book a flight or buy concert tickets, you usually open a website and interact with the frontend. Once you’ve entered that information, the application stores it in a database that was created on a server. For sake of ease, just think about a database as a giant Excel spreadsheet on your computer, but your computer (server) is stored somewhere in Arizona.

All of that information stays on the server so when you log back into the application to print your tickets, all of the information is still there in your account.

We call a person that builds all of this technology to work together a back-end developer. Back-end technologies usually consist of languages like PHP, Ruby, Python, etc. To make them even easier to use they’re usually enhanced by frameworks like Ruby on Rails, Cake PHP, and Code Igniter that all make development faster and easier to collaborate on.

What is Front-end, what Back-end, and what determines the difference?

What is in the Job title and what is in the Job? Let’s start with an example of a Web Designer.

Semantically if ‘Designer’ is in the title of the Job, the job is designing. Literally deciding and implementing how websites look and work. “Web” is in the title because the job is specifically focused on the web. Specific skills would be design-tools-of-choice, HTML, CSS, and light JavaScript. If the job is also designing for print, apps, signage, products, clothing, etc., the title would be widened to ‘Designer’.

UI Designer & Interaction Designer

This job is more about designing and less about implementation. Really good at design-tools-of-choice with perhaps only light HTML and CSS skill. A synonym might be a Visual Designer. Interaction Designer’s job is to primarily design, just like a UI Designer, but with specific focus on how things are used and movement.

UX Designer

A specific focus on studying and researching how people use a web site. Then ushering changes for the better through the system and testing the results. May not have or need any design or implementation skill. All jobs should care about user experience, but this job lives it.

Content Strategist

Rather than working directly on implementation, this job is about the structural design of websites. Things like the taxonomies, metadata, scheduling, and analysis of content. A synonym might be Information Architect. They might work with people who work with content in a more general way like a Writer, Copywriter, or Editor.

SEO Specialist

This is a big enough sub industry that it can be its own job. Search Engine Optimisation covers everything from analytics, visitor statistics, tracking, advertising, content delivery networks, networking, social interactions and more ..

Front-End Developer

Front-end Developer’s job is focused on HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and light back-end work. Not design. The lack of ‘Designer’ in the title is intentional. Because the job doesn’t require design, deeper skill in the other technologies is implied. You likely have a grasp on some concepts beyond the core technologies, for instance regression testing or performance as well as the notion of a basic architecture might be present. A synonym might be Front-End Engineer. I tend to think of that as a requiring a deeper and more specific skill-set, possibly with more narrow focus or at a higher level. Technology specific job titles may be also be appropriate here, like ‘JavaScript Developer’ or ‘JavaScript Engineer’ for a job where that is primarily what needs to be done. Although, none of the front end technologies live in a bubble so I generally prefer Front End Developer.

Web Developer

This job is focused on back end work and working with languages specific to the web, like PHP, ASP, Ruby, Python, etc. Medium skill in database/server work, medium skill in JavaScript, light skill in HTML. This is very different from a Front End Developer as there is little working with the design and heavier on programming concepts and concerns, like security and structure. Synonyms could be ‘Web Programmer’ or ‘Web Application Developer’.

Full Stack Developer

This job is a combination of front and back end work. Seriously though, not mostly one and a little of the other. Good crossover people are needed at organizations and this is a high end job.

Dev Ops

The job bridges the gap between IT and Developers. They handle things like server software, version control, deployment, build processes, and testing servers/processes. I wish this had a more job-title-y feeling to it. As it stands it sounds like what you would call the whole team of people with this job.

If a website were a house, front-end web development would be ______?

The pretty exterior that gives the house character, or the host that invites guests in and makes them feel at home. A mix of programming and layout that powers the visuals and interactions of the web.

They say the favorite part of programming/coding is that there are almost always multiple ways to solve a single problem, or achieve any specific functionality. On the outside I think programming can seem like a very prescriptive, direct, binary kind of job. But there’s actually a lot of creativity and ingenuity involved.

How would you explain the difference between front-end and back-end web development to a 5-year-old?

Pretend a website is a car. There are a lot of things inside of a car that help it run – make it speed up, slow down, even keep on the lights. All of these things you can’t really see – but are really important – that’s the back-end.

But then there are items that you directly use in the car to make it go: your gas and brake pedals, the steering wheel. And there are also a lot of things on that car that make it fun to drive and cool to look at: a racing stripe, a slick leather interior. All the stuff you can directly touch, see or hear? That’s the front-end.

If a website were a plant, back-end web development would be ______?

If a website were a plant, back-end web development would be the root system. It’s the component that provides the energy (food and water, in this instance) that powers the plant and enables it to grow.

Back-end web developers do business consulting, because they understand how businesses are technically structured and Back-end developers reposition their skills and become data scientists as well. Back-end development is the structure that allows information to be shared across accounts or people. It’s the glue that binds the internet together.

Also Back-end web developers apply their skills to everyday tasks. For example, if wanting to find the best knish in town, and the Web directory site isn’t categorized to allow you to search by food. What if the best knish is actually at a pizza joint? You’d never find that. So Back-end developer would flipped it — Would pull the entire database from Web directory site, and reformatted it so it could become searchable by food item instead.

An advice from a Back-end developer: Don’t be afraid to fail. That can stop you from trying a lot of things, and that’s what it’s all about – trial and error. The best way to become a developer is to continuously be doing something.