Specializations within web-development

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So, you’ve decided to take the plunge into web development.

You recognize that websites are here to stay and that every business will be putting more and more resources into their web presence.

You’ve picked an exciting programming field, setting you up for an exciting career. Web developers come in many varieties. Some build simple websites, others create complex web-based applications, and there are even options to work in security, the Internet of Things, and other developing technologies.

I focus primarily on teaching you how to become a web developer, and the reason is pretty simple.

It’s the easiest way to break into the field of programming, and websites are increasingly essential to the function of every business, non-profit, and organization in the world that wants to connect with people, sell products and services, or get their message out.

Developing websites also helps you build a broad base of different skills to determine what you want to focus on as you hone your craft.

There are three basic types of web developers who occupy different roles, and each requires a slightly different skill set.

In this article, I’ll go over them, explaining the differences and helping you figure out which might appeal to you.


Front-end developer

Do you have an artistic streak inside of you? Do you enjoy creating something that is aesthetically pleasing or simplifies a complicated task? You may be the perfect candidate to become a front-end developer.

Just like the name says, a front-end developer works on the side of a website that people will see. We refer to it as the “client-side” of the website.

As a front-end developer, you’ll work with common programming languages like HTML, Javascript, and CSS to create a website that looks good and is easy to use.

A front-end developer is obsessed with optimizing the visitor’s experience in every way they can.

As more and more web traffic happens on mobile devices like phones, tablets, watches, and other things, accessibility becomes more important. A front-end developer ensures that the website loads and functions correctly no matter what device is accessing it.

Also, because people are impatient, a front-end developer maximizes the website’s performance. The very things that make a website interesting, like videos, photos, links, sales copy, and other things, also impact its performance. The frontend developer straddles the line between maximizing performance and creating an engaging experience.


Back-end developer

Every website, like the one where you are reading this article, requires three things to function, a server, an application, and a database.

The back-end developer takes care of these things to ensure that the website functions properly. We call this “server-side” development.

It all begins with understanding what the website needs to accomplish. Is this website going to require password-protected areas, collect sensitive financial information, or be required to stream a lot of videos?

The backend developer works with key people to identify what the website needs to accomplish and then creates the platform for the website to perform at its best.

A back-end developer will use server-side languages like JavaScript, Python, Go, or PHP. Notice that on the server side you have more options as to which programming language you can use.

As a back-end developer, you’ll also connect websites to the broader web, creating safe connection protocols through APIs and other secure data-transfer methods.

A back-end developer isn’t concerned about the aesthetics or beauty of the website but rather its functionality.

As such, you’ll be working with databases, manipulating and managing data, working with algorithms, and creating digital architecture that seamlessly integrates everything.

If you like creating systems and building things, being a back-end developer may be your cup of tea.


Full-stack developer

In the modern world of websites, it’s often hard to draw a hard and clear distinction between form and function.

The design and functionality of the website’s client-side (visible side) will determine how the website’s server-side (invisible side) is constructed.

A full-stack developer brings these two sides together and can work on both sides of a website.

They have a strong command of client-side programming languages like HTML and CSS while integrating systems with Python and JavaScript and building server code with PHP.

A full-stack developer doesn’t need to be an expert on both sides, nor do they have to do everything themselves.

Instead, one of the best things they bring to the table is their ability to determine how decisions on the website’s server-side will impact the client-side and vice versa.

A full-stack developer needs to know more and command a broader range of skills.

However, they also get to have more variety and do more things.

So, if you love constantly learning new skills or don’t want to get bogged down doing the same sorts of things over and over, you may want to be a full-stack developer.


Which one is right for you?

Very few people start as full-stack developers. They grow into it after mastering front-end or back-end development.

The question is, what appeals more to you? Does the thought of fine-tuning the aesthetics of a website get you excited, or are you already yawning just thinking about it?

Does the idea of creating protocols, designing systems for capturing and storing information, and connecting a website to the broader world make you excited?

If you consistently notice visual details like color, font, and spacing, gushing at a beautiful website, and getting frustrated when things don’t work quite right, you may make a great front-end developer.

But, if you find yourself surfing the web for an extended time, never noticing the aesthetic details of a website, you may make a great back-end developer.


There’s no one correct answer.

If you are good at your craft, there’s always work for web developers. Both front-end and back-end developers can make great money and have exciting opportunities.

Both front-end and back-end developers learn critical skills, programming languages, and knowledge that can propel them almost anywhere in the programming world.

And both front-end and back-end developers can become full-stack developers as well.

Thanks for reading!