As a web developer at some point in your career, when you reach more senior levels, you should start branching out and learning both sides of development. This is especially useful because a full-stack developer can look at a product or solution and map it out from start to finish. But what route should you take first? Is front end development or back end development better? Personally I do not think either route is better, but rather you should consider doing the one that is going to keep you interested and encourage you to reach your goals as a web developer.
Front end development is focused more on building and developing how something looks. You will receive some sort of design file and it is your job to create the website to a pixel perfect version of the design. Not all designs are created equal. Good designers will do their design with development in mind, while others may try to go out of the scope of what is possible without knowing what they are doing. Front end development is very build and manipulate centric. There is also a lot of debugging involved, as is with any programming job, so be prepared for unknown situations to occur. As you grow within your real of front end development, you will start to work in and out of back end files, and get comfortable on how web development works depending on what your job requires of you.
At the end of the day, you are going to be working with the web design hand in hand. It is up to you two to create the front end experience for the user. As deadlines get closer, you will be making revisions with the web designer. This is a very visual based job but can be very rewarding. If you want more on the differences between a web designer and web developer, I write more on that here.
This will focus more on the how the server handles your information. You will work on different stacks and technologies depending on the client or companies’s needs. Maybe you are working for a standard agency that mostly deals with WordPress. Or maybe you work on linux servers, it really depends on what the needs of the company are. I would look around your area and see what stacks and technologies are within the job posts to get a better idea of what you would be working with. With this in mind you could potentially be working with:
And a host of other back end technologies. I would try to find one that you like that is currently being used within your area. Back end development is more information-centric. It focuses on how to call and send information to the server. While front end development will create what the intended user will see, the back end development focuses on transferring and populating the information for the user.
Back end developers typically are more logical thinkers. They do not deal with a lot of styling, creation, or things of that nature as that is more of the front end developer’s job. Back end will take the creation of the front end developer and plug it into the server. So there is still a small visual aspect to the job, but it is mostly information-centric and logical thinking. They handle all of the code that will populate information within website. They handle how to call and write information to the server. This aspect of development is more complex than the front end developers job, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
This really comes down to personal preference. In my eyes, I really want to expand my knowledge to master both, but in other peoples view they may prefer a visual or nonvisual experience.
Do you like logical thinking and complex problem-solving? Then back end development may be for you. If you are someone who prefers a more visual experience, then front end should be something you consider. It is worth noting that back end development typically does pay a bit more. This is because it is the less preferred path. It requires a lot of complex knowledge and the stacks involved are usually not something a first-time learner would try to tackle. You should take some time to figure out who you are as a person and what you would find the most enjoyment out of. That way you are more likely to stick through it during all of the hard times.
Everyones development path will vary, but deciding which path is best for you should be determined on what inspires you more. Visually speaking a lot of people start on this path within web development. A lot of people, including myself, really enjoy the visual aspect of web development. But that is not to say there are not people who enjoy logical thinking and complex problem-solving. I personally enjoy solving problems as well, but I found more consistent success with visual development.
Back end developers require a lot of server-side knowledge and this is really where the complex algorithms and computer science background will help. I personally think forget about the money, and focus on what you will stick with in the long term. Whatever brings you more happiness and fulfillment will bring you the most success; and in the end, long-term, web developers from both paths typically tend to make about the same amount of money in their senior roles.
If you are interested in becoming a web developer, I break that down here step by step in this post!