Frontend Web Development vs. Backend Web Development

In order to develop a website you must go through multiple stages. These stages include planning (sitemap, functionality, etc…), design, development, search engine optimization (SEO) and finally site launch. Of these stages, one stage that isn’t always fully understood is the development stage. You’d be correct to say that this is the stage that brings your website to life, but there is so much more to it than that. Development alone can actually be broken up into two stages, Frontend Web Development and Backend Web Development. Together, these two stages bring life to your website.

Frontend Web Development

Frontend Web Development is the development of the interface that you can physically see and notice on a website. Essentially, a Frontend Developer would take Photoshop, Fireworks or Illustrator files from a Web Designer and code out the design using HTML (HyperText Markup Language), CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), and JavaScript to communicate with your web browser (Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Firefox, etc…) in order to make your website a living application on the world wide web. All of the fancy elements of your website from fonts, drop-down menus, image sliders, buttons, etc…, are all controlled by frontend development.

Backend Web Development

Backend Web Development is aspects of a website that you the user cannot see. In fact, they’re elements of a website that most people wouldn’t even think about, things like form submission, uploading files, database entry, etc… In order for these elements to work Backend Developers need to write code using server-side scripts such as PHP (PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor), Ruby, Python, etc. You can use these languages to not only run scripts that submit forms and upload files but to also connect to a database.

Connecting to a database to run a website is a perfect example of how frontend development and backend development work together. You can use the database to store content and other information in order to populate the website that you have so beautifully styled. This gives the owner of the website the ability to change the content on their website without having to know any code. Sites that are setup this way are known as Content Management Systems or CMS for short. An example of a CMS would be WordPress or NetGain’s very own TRACE. These types of sites become very useful for clients as they no longer have to contact their developer to make small content changes on their website.


Hopefully this helped clear up any confusion between frontend web development and backend web development. If you’re looking for additional resources to help explain this in further detail, please refer to “I Don’t Speak Your Language: Frontend vs Backend” and “What Is: Front-End Web Development”.

Now get to those water coolers and let your co-workers know about the difference between these two wonderful stages of development and get your website rolling.