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By Noah Britton on 29 September 2021

Pre-packaged website sites like SquareSpace and Wix can make website development seem like a drag-and-drop affair. The reality is that there’s a lot that goes into ensuring websites deliver the best user experience possible.

The best websites have designs and programming that are touched by both a back-end and front-end developer. For those not in website development, the difference between these two jobs can be confusing.

Let us help clear things up.

What is front-end web development?

The front-end of a website is also known as the user interface. It’s what you, the user, sees and experiences when they visit a website. This covers everything from the color of the website to dropdown menus and photo sliders. Front-end developers are most familiar with coding frameworks like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Front-end developers are the ones responsible for building and coding this visual aspect of a website and making sure these aspects are functional. Think of front-end development as the “client-side” of an application. When you work with a developer on the style sheet for your website, that’s a front-end developer.

These are the developers that bring websites to life for the user. They use their programming expertise to create websites that are easy to interact with and run smoothly. Elements that these developers are responsible for include:

  • Buttons
  • Navigation menus
  • Color schemes
  • Website layouts.

Featured Reading: How JavaScript is Used in Web Design


What is back-end web development?

Back-end developers focus on what users can’t see. Their specialty codes and frameworks are concerned with making the website actually interactive, rather than just a pretty, static picture. Think of back-end development as the “server-side” of an application.

The information displayed on your website needs a place to be stored. That place is a database like Oracle, SQL Server, or MySQL. These databases are run from a server and a back-end developer is the person that helps run and manage this server and database, ensuring that your website’s information is safe, secure, and easily accessible.

If all goes well, users will never actually interact with the back-end elements that make up your website. The way you know that back-end developers are doing their job right is if, well, nothing goes wrong. Their work is crucial to the internet running the way you are used to it running.

So what else do these developers work on?

  • Troubleshooting and debugging web applications
  • Building codes
  • Database management

Featured Reading: How to Choose the Right Web Designer


Still wondering about the difference between front-end development and back-in development?

Put together, these two development professions are responsible for the internet you interact with every day. The best way to think about how these two areas work together is to think about the internet like a restaurant.

Front-end developers are, well, the front-of-house staff. In a restaurant, the servers, hosts, and bussers are responsible for ensuring your experience is what you expect from their restaurant. They give you the menu, explain the specials, and keep everything looking great.

Back-end developers are the cooks, dishwashers, management, and security. They ensure that everything is running smoothly, customers stay safe, and that everything is in place to allow the front-of-house staff to create the seamless and enjoyable experience you’re looking for when you visit.

It’s important to note that both of these areas are essential for a properly functioning website. Neither is more important than the other.

Final Word

Thrive designers are what’s known as “full-stack developers.” A full-stack developer is someone that is familiar with both sides of website development. Our designs are built with best practices from front-end and back-end development and with a team small enough that you and your project get one-on-one attention from our team.

Are you looking for help with your web design, branding, or marketing?

Noah Britton

Hi, I'm Noah Britton, the founder of Thrive. I have 19 years experience running my own website agency, 11 of those years with WordPress. This post may contain affiliate links that give me a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase a recommended product.