Web development is the technical aspect of website construction. It consists of a front-end and back-end, which are quite different from each other. But, you need both sides to work together in order to have a properly functioning website. Front-end developers create the user interface and visual styling of a website while back-end developers build its foundation.
A website’s front-end is everything that is visible to visitors. It includes all of the content (pages, posts, media, comments, hyperlinks), navigation menus, sidebars and other widget areas, headers, footers, theme (site design and layout), and behavior. Two main concerns for front-end developers are performance (site speed, image optimization, cache, etc.) and mobile-responsiveness.
When you log into a content-management system site (CMS), like WordPress, you have access to all of the front-end elements via a nice graphical user interface. On static, non-CMS sites, access is gained by opening the actual files in a code editor (such as Visual Studio Code, Sublime Text, or Dreamweaver). Static, non-CMS sites were the original mode of the web world. But, WordPress is now used by approximately 40% of all websites, making it the most prominent CMS in the world.
The front-end of a WordPress site doesn’t necessarily look any different from a non-WordPress site. Yes, you can use it as a blog, and that may visually differentiate it from a non-blog site. But, you can also use WordPress for a full-fledged website (that might also have a blog). Whatever appears on the front-end depends on the settings you choose on the back-end.
Web Designer – Designs websites, using applications like Balsamiq (wireframes), Photoshop (comps), Invision (prototypes), and Figma (mockups). Their overall concerns are the visual aesthetics, continuity in branding, accessibility, UI (User Interface), and UX (User Experience). Some designers hand off their designs to a coder.Designers (like me) who know how to code are also front-end developers.
User Interface (UI) Designer – Visual designer focused on areas where the user interacts with the site or application, such as navigation menus, login screens, and contact forms. They might know some HTML and CSS, but generally hand off their designs to front-end developers.
User Experience (UX) Designer – Analyzes how visitors will use the site through research and testing. Makes recommendations for improvement based on their studies.
The back-end is not visible to visitors. It is only viewable to those who can either log into the site (as in WordPress and other content-management systems) or have access to the files and database used for building the site. The back-end of a website consists of a server (hardware storage of files and applications, security firewalls, ftp, API, etc.), database (for CMS), and applications to deliver the content to the front-end. It is usually accessed by logging into the webhost account and navigating to the cPanel.
My definition of back-end for WordPress sites also includes the administrative areas for creating and managing content, uploading images, configuration settings, users, plugins, themes, comments, and other tools.
The primary tools used in Back-end Development are: Server (Apache, Microsoft, Oracle), Database (MySQL), and Frameworks/Languages to code the applications (scripting languages like PHP, C++, Ruby on Rails, Java, Python, etc.).
Java Developer – Specializes in the development and management of Java applications. Since Java is one of the oldest and most popular programming languages in the world, this is a great option to pursue. Interestingly, many newer languages descended from Java.
Software Engineer – Develops, builds, and trouble-shoots computer systems software and applications software. They have extensive knowledge of programming languages. Areas they work on include: operating systems, business applications, gaming, and networks.
iOS/Android Developer – Focuses on applications for mobile devices. Main languages for this platform are: Objective-C and Swift (iOS); Java, C#, C+, and Python (Android).
Back-end Developer – Has a strong background in programming, usually with in-depth skills in one or more languages. Makes sure the back-end communicates clearly and effectively with the front-end. Analyzes data, codes, and processes. Creates APIs, monitors server functions, and handles databases.
If you are drawn to both sides of the development scene, you should consider becoming a full-stack developer. This role engages you in the visuals as well as the behind-the-scenes engine that run the website. Start-ups and smaller companies tend to prefer the versatility of a full-stack developer who can see the whole picture and can adapt to changing needs.