Front end development or back end development?

Posted by Helen Curry on December 18th 2014

As a digital development company who work largely in back-end web development, we’ve found that quite often people don’t fully understand the differences between front and back-end development.

With thousands of websites launched around the world every day, there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to make these sites look exciting and functioning effectively. This is what keeps front-end and back-end developers busy, but who does what?

Often our clients ask us the difference between the two types of development, so we thought we’d share our thoughts..

Front end

As the name suggests the front end is the part of the site which is visible to the user and the part of the website which the user interacts with. Front-end developers convert designs into code to create the look and feel of the site, they work with tools like InDesign, Photoshop and Fireworks and write HTML, CSS and Javascript code. Everything you see, click or touch on a web site is created by a front-end developer,  whether it’s the font style, the drop-down menus, background or sliders. The front-end developer is the connecting bridge between the web designer and the back-end developer.

Back end

In order to make the website a reality, it needs to be able to do things such as store information, handle forms and send emails; that is where back end web development is needed. The back end is usually built up of three key elements: a server, an application and a database.

The back-end web developer provides the underlying functionality that allows the front-end to work. No matter how beautiful and wizzy the front-end may be, it must be fully functioning and that is the back-end developers job. It allows information to be stored in databases such as bank details, login details and demographic information. If problems such as a slow running site, crashes or errors occur it is likely to be because of back-end problems.

A back-end developer works with technologies like content management systems (such as Wordpress, Drupal or Umbraco) and writes code in languages such as PHP, .NET or Java.


The easiest way to differentiate front-end development and back-end development is to say that front end developers are the ones responsible for a site’s look and feel, they are focused on the sites appearance such as its design, animations, colour schemes and typography. The back-end web developers are focused with how the site works, making sure it serves its purpose and runs smoothly.

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