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Spoilt for choice: backend, frontend or full stack developer?

The world of IT is vast, so specialization in certain areas is the norm. If you decide to work in web development, there are, for example, specialists for the frontend as well as for the backend and you often read about the so-called fullstack developers. What are the differences and what motivation and skills should one have for the respective job? We asked our developers about this:

Simon, what does a backend developer actually do?

A backend developer writes programs that run in the background and are not directly visible. However, this does not mean that these programs are less important – quite the opposite: backend applications bundle the logic, which the user interface can then easily access. In addition, depending on the project and the task, there is also the setting up and querying of databases, which also run in the backend. Often there is also a pinch of system administration involved, since to a certain extent you also manage the servers on which the written applications then run. The functionalities in the backend can be realized with a variety of programming languages. Examples here are Java, C#, Python, PHP or also more and more Golang. Thereby these programs offer API interfaces for the frontend and can be used for a variety of frontend solutions if programmed well. For example, an app can use the same backend functionality as a website without investing the huge effort of full logic programming.

Why are you focusing on backend development?

Designing algorithms has something of puzzle-solving to me. I enjoy thinking my way into a problem and designing a logic for it. Then, after hours of puzzling, when you start the program and everything finally runs smoothly, it feels great. Because the individual projects are always different and the languages used also vary, there is a lot of variety and there is never a chance of boredom.

For whom is specialization in the back end suitable?

As a backend developer, you should have a certain affinity for mathematics, even if you are rather seldom calculating. However, the algorithmic thinking you learn is very important for backend programming. Enjoying solving complex, logical problems is also a plus. From time to time, a certain amount of resistance to frustration also helps, since problems can’t always be solved quickly and right away. Having an interest in computers is certainly beneficial as well. While it is not essential to be familiar with the latest hardware, you should at least know and understand how the machine you are working on functions.

“Designing algorithms has something of puzzle-solving to me. I enjoy thinking my way into a problem and designing a logic for it.”

Simon Brunner

And what does a frontend developer deal with, Johannes?

The frontend is, in simple terms, the visible part of a website or web application – in contrast to the backend, which focuses on the server-side part. The frontend developer programs the user interface and the connection to the backend, which then enables the frontend to retrieve required data from the server. Since websites or web apps are also frequently accessed by smartphones and tablets, a responsive design is also often expected, which displays the application optimized for the respective devices. Technologies such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript are used, including popular extensions to the JavaScript programming language such as the React library or the Angular framework. In general, web development requires quite a broad knowledge from different technologies.

Why did you specialize in the frontend?

My motivation for studying computer science stemmed from a passion for UI, design, and technology. I’m fascinated by providing users with the best possible and intuitive solutions that, in the best case scenario, are also fun to use, based on the motto “Don’t make me think”. The result from the frontend development is mostly visible for the developer himself, but also for the user, so you mostly get feedback for your work. Whether it’s design or code, it’s incredibly fun to build a project from the ground up, pay attention to architecture, maintainability, and a clean implementation, or expand the site with new pages/views or features within the context of the designed UI.

What skills and interests should you have to work as a frontend developer?

Frontend development requires a range of creativity and analytical thinking. It is also very important to have good communication skills and interpersonal empathy in order to put yourself in the position of the customer or user. After all, a good frontend should be easily accessible to everyone, not just the developer who juggles ones and zeros on a daily basis. In addition, you should have a willingness to learn and an interest in technologies, because they are constantly evolving.

“My motivation for studying computer science stemmed from a passion for UI, design, and technology. I am fascinated by offering users the best possible and intuitive solutions.”

Johannes Pfleghar

What are the responsibilities of a fullstack developer then, Tillman?

The fullstack developer combines both backend and frontend expertise. He is virtually the Swiss army knife among developers. As the person who understands both sides, he also usually moves somewhere between backend and frontend in development. He designs and develops interfaces between backend and frontend, exchanging ideas with the respective developers on how best to conceptually resolve any conflicts that arise. In case of shortages, he can be a jumper and help out any team.

Why did you decide to become a fullstack developer?

As a fullstack developer, you get to see a lot. I can follow the development of the whole application and work not only for me in my small area. It motivates me to always keep the big picture in mind. In addition, the tasks are very diverse and you always have something different to do.

For whom is the profession of full stack developer suitable?

Since you work in the backend as well as in the frontend, you should also have the skills of the respective fields of activity. This means logical and analytical thinking as well as a sense for design and usability. Conceptual skills should also be present. More than other developers, you need to be able to rely on your soft skills to communicate and mediate.

“As a fullstack developer, you get to see a lot. I can follow the development of the whole application and work not only for me in my small area.”

Tillman Rossa

Backend good, all is well?

As we now know, a good website or web app is composed of the various puzzle pieces of the frontend and backend, whose smooth interaction is essential. The frontend can be as intuitive and beautiful as it is, if the right data is not displayed, a backend can be as sophisticated as it is, if the user cannot find the data. Since the boundaries between the two worlds are often fluid, it is advantageous to bring knowledge from both areas. Many thanks to our developers for the insights into their areas of expertise.

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