Two typical buzzwords that often pop up while talking about app development are “frontend” and “backend”. They basically divide the job of app developer into two, as a frontend developer requires a different set of skills than a backend developer. In order to shine some light on the topic of app development, we have a look at both frontend and backend development to find out how they differ from each other, and how they work together.
The frontend of a web- or mobile application is the part the user interacts with directly. It is usually referred to as the application's "client side." The frontend consists of everything that the user sees when interacting with the website or app, such as text colors and styles, photos, graphs and tables, buttons, colors, the navigation menu, and much more. Frontend developers provide the structure, appearance, behavior, and content of everything that appears on browser displays when websites, online applications, or mobile apps are opened. The key focus points of frontend development are responsiveness and performance. A frontend developer must make sure that the site is responsive, meaning that it works properly on devices of all sizes. The application’s performance should be stable at all times, no matter the device used to access the application.
Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)
HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. It is a markup language that is used to design the frontend part of web pages. HTML is a markup language that combines hypertext with markup. The term "hypertext" refers to the connecting link between web pages. The markup language is used to create an architecture of text documentations under tags. This way, the contents on a page are structured in a specific way in the form of titles, headings, subheadings, basic text, images, etc.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
CSS is a simple language designed to make the process of adapting the layout of the content on a web page easier. A piece of CSS code can be easily connected to a HTML code, which automatically assigns specific styles and formatted to webpages. CSS allows you to do so without having to worry about the HTML code that makes up each web page. While there is a way to assign styles directly in the HTML code, having a separate code on the side for writing CSS makes sure you don’t accidentally mess up the existing HTML code. Next to that, you can make a formatting change in one CSS style sheet, and it will automatically apply to all the places where that specific style is used throughout the site. This makes it much easier to retain a consistent style on all your web pages.
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Frameworks or libraries in app development provide developers with the right tools to help them in the development process. The most popular libraries in frontend development are ReactJS, AngularJS, and jQuery.
The backend is also known as the server-side of a website or application. It organizes and stores data, as well as ensuring that everything on the client side of the website functions properly. While the backend doesn't interact with users directly, it plays an indispensable role behind the scenes by adding key functionality to a site. Without a clean and proper backend, the frontend won’t work properly. So, even though you don’t directly interact with the backend as you do with the frontend, you are indirectly in contact with all the processes that happen on the backend.
The backend includes activities such as writing APIs, creating libraries, and working with system components without user interfaces. The core functionality of web apps is usually managed by the backend. For example, if you want to purchase something from an online store, the backend manages the actual money transactions when going through the checkout process. While the frontend makes sure the “checkout”-button is positioned properly on the page and sends you to the next page, the backend interacts with services outside of your own app or website, such as your bank app or PayPal. You don’t see the entire process of this transaction happening, as it all happens behind the scenes, in the backend.
The server-side of an application or website has its own programming languages. These languages are made in such a way that they can interact easily with the frontend, creating an optimally functioning piece of software.
C++ is a versatile programming language that may be used for a variety of tasks. It's used to create operating systems, browsers, and games, among other things. C++ supports a variety of programming styles, including procedural, object-oriented, and functional programming. As a result, C++ is both powerful and adaptable.
Swift is a platform-specific programming language developed by Apple that can be used to create native mobile applications for iOS, Mac, Apple TV, and Apple Watch. It's intended to provide developers more freedom than they've ever had before.
Java is the official platform-specific programming language for native Android android apps. Android is mostly developed in Java, and its APIs are designed to be called from Java. Android developers can also choose to develop their app with C and C++, making use of the Android Native Development kit (NDK), but Google doesn’t encourage this, as it can have an effect on the app’s performance.
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How do frontend and backend work together?
Although frontend and backend development are quite different from one another, they are both crucial players in the same game. Without a proper backend architecture, the frontend wouldn’t function properly. And without a frontend, the backend wouldn’t have any function at all. Both the frontend and backend are constantly communicating with each other in order to make sure that the user experience is optimal at all times. While the frontend sends through client requests to the backend, the backend retrieves the needed information through an API, and sends it back to the frontend. For example, you want to pay for your online order by clicking on one of the payment options on the checkout page. You click on, for example, the PayPal option, and by clicking that button, the frontend sends a request to the backend to connect with PayPal. Through an API, the backend connects with the external service of PayPal, and sends back the PayPal login screen to the frontend, where the user can fill in his/her credentials.
This constant back-and-forth communication makes sure that your application works properly and does what it is supposed to do. The frontend and backend have various roles and employ different programming languages, but ultimately they work towards the same goal: solving the needs of a user.
Apart from frontend and backend developers, there are also developers who can do both. This is called “full stack” development. Full stack developers know both their way in the backend of an application as well as the frontend of an application. By being experts in both fields, it’s easier to ensure that both the backend and frontend are aligned with each other at all times. A full stack developer can specialize in either frontend or backend development over time, depending on their preferences. You might switch to frontend development if you're more visually inclined, whereas more detail-oriented developers would probably prefer the backend.
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Did you know that our developers are specialized in both backend and frontend development? Their full stack knowledge makes them experts in all facets of app and web development. Not only do they know exactly what technologies are needed for the development of your solution, their experience in both backend and frontend development ensures a well-functioning, long lasting and highly scalable solution.
Are you still looking for an app development partner for the development of your app idea? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us via our social media channels, the contact form on our website, or WhatsApp!