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Front-End vs. Back-End Development: Which is More Painful?

Web development requires a wide variety of skills that heavily depend on the requirements of the software project. This process can be divided into two parts, front-end development, and back-end development.

Furthermore, web developers have to utilize a wide variety of methodologies, development tools, and programming languages both in the front-end and the back-end to achieve business goals.

Front-end developers typically work on the visual aspects of the website that visitors see. They utilize programming languages, frameworks, and skills like the following to ensure that websites work properly across a wide range of devices:

  • CSS framework
  • CSS preprocessing
  • HTML5
  • JavaScript
  • JavaScript framework
  • jQuery
  • Responsive design

You can say that they’re responsible for all we see on the client side of the internet today. As modern websites require constant updates, you can also expect the demand for front-end developers to continue to grow on an upward trajectory.

Back-end development, on the other hand, focuses on the code that makes systems possible and makes entities much more efficient. This means that back-end developers will work mostly with systems like the following:

Back-end development is usually project focused and takes months to wrap up. Coders within this space tend to work on a minimal amount of projects that are comprised of many moving parts that focused on the server-side of things.

Back-end development teams are often much smaller than their front-end counterparts and, as a result, their value tends to be higher. But which part of web development is more cumbersome? Front-end or back-end?

To get the inside scoop, I've talked to some of our in-house developers at Intersog and here’s what a couple of them had to say about it.

Back-end development is free of pseudo coders, so it’s a lot better than front-end development

Sometimes, you have to work with some third-parties to complete the project. This can get complicated if the client started out with a design studio and then partnered with us later for the back-end.

For example, traditional web development would normally involve someone coding the server application and generating some rough HTML. Then the JavaScript expert will step in and add some necessary interaction into the rough HTML code (more often than not, they’re just forms) along with some simple DOM manipulation (before the emergence of AJAX).

Once the server and JavaScript code is finished, the designer will come in and add some illustrations and designs based on the rough HTML code and send it back with instructions on how the code should be added.

Normally, we would implement it, send it for approval, and have the designer flag any faults. This process will continue until the design has been implemented properly. This method worked for the most part until recently when web pages became more responsive and designs became more complex.

As a result, AJAX and JavaScript became commonplace and more designers jumped on the coding bandwagon (I am also guilty of this!). But what makes a major difference here is the amount of effort that’s put into learning it.

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Sometimes, our back-end developers have come across designers who think they’re JavaScript developers. But while they’re great at graphic design, they lack the required knowledge and experience to actually match the skill set of fully fledged JavaScript developers.

As a result, you encounter some people who take shortcuts like hiring developers to write some plugins, frameworks, and libraries or utilize some simple toolkits to try and finish up. In this scenario, the potential for a big mess becomes enormous because now you have a random individual involved externally that wasn’t part of the project.

When this happens, it can quickly turn into a painful experience for developers as they will have to spend the majority of their time cleaning up the mess. Sometimes, even the developers who normally work on the server at the back-end have also had to come in just to try and rescue a failed project.

Having said that, not all designers who turn into front-end developers are bad. In fact, there are many who have truly held their own within the development space. But there are also many designers who haven’t put in enough time to learn programming that are just in it for the money. So you have to be on the lookout for that!

Columns can quickly turn into a nightmare

Moving beyond the human factor, here’s another story. One of our front-end developers was entrusted with writing the code for a web page that had a large table. The table was made up of over 25 columns and was a major component of an analytics application.

The client required some customization that mirrored the functions of Microsoft Excel (like hiding functionality or displaying summary columns). While it was easy to pull the data from the database and forward it to the page in JSON, it took more than 48 hours to complete.

This is because when you fix one column, a heading can disappear. Then once you’re done fixing that problem, you find that the alignments are all off. This can quickly drive even the best front-end developer straight to a psychiatric ward!

As a result, front-end developers can command a lot of respect because they have to deal with some annoying situations as well. While back-end development can also be difficult, it’s still perceived to be less painful as you will know where to start and how to analyze it. This also makes it easier for back-end developers to seamlessly debug and reevaluate assumptions.

These are just two examples of front-end development turning into a difficult experience. Do you have any examples that you can add? Or do you find front-end development less painful? Feel free to share our experience in the comments below!

Featured image courtesy of Intersog.

IT Storyteller and Copywriter
Andrew's current undertaking is big data analytics and AI as well as digital design and branding. He is a contributor to various publications with the focus on emerging technology and digital marketing.