Aspiring coders often ask, should I learn front-end or back-end development? The best coding language to learn and whether you learn front or back-end development depends on what you intend to do. Different languages are used to create webpage layouts, style text, create slideshows, build ecommerce functionality, program search functions, etc. Some software, such as Salesforce, allow you to customize the software to your needs with specific coding languages.
The two primary categories of coding languages for the web are:
- Back-end Languages: PHP, MySQL, and Python are back-end languages that manage data and input from website users. For example, when you type a message into a website contact form and hit send, PHP code can send the data to a recipient’s email, or store it into a database. Data typed into a search engine, contact form, or searchable directory are other types of data that would be managed on the back-end.
Front-end Web Development
HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) formats information including text, images, and links to create websites and emails. The tagging system divides information into sections, paragraphs with headings, lists, and more. You can create a basic web page using HTML alone, though it won’t be visually appealing. That’s where CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) comes in.
CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is how you control the look of HTML elements, specifying color, typography, and creating responsive layouts. A responsive webpage adjusts the appearance based on a user’s screen size (desktop, tablet, or mobile phone). Google ranks mobile-friendly sites higher, so if a website is not responsive, it will not rank as high in search results.
GreenSock: The GreenSock Animation Platform (GSAP) is an industry-standard framework to animate websites, in a post-Flash world. With GreenSock you can create web banners, complex timed animations, interactive animations, and more to a website. To see GreenSock in action, check out Awwwards sites that use GreenSock and the GreenSock Showcase.
Back-end Web Development
PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) is a widely used server-side language that offers powerful backend functionality. PHP can be used to send or validate information like contact forms and emails and much more. It can be embedded in HTML. WordPress is written in PHP.
MySQL (My Structured Queried Language) is a database management language. To store or retrieve data within a website, you use a database. Data stored can range from products in an ecommerce store to images in a photo directory. Together PHP and MySQL form a powerful team for building ecommerce sites, directories, and other types of interactive websites.
Python is not specific to websites, but can be used on them. It's a flexible language that gives you the power of a back-end language while remaining easy to learn. Python can be used for so many things, but currently is being used for machine learning, AI (artificial intelligence), web apps, scientific computing, game development, and much more. Python is used by tech giants such as Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, and YouTube.
Ruby on Rails (just called Rails for short) is a framework for the Ruby coding language. Ruby on Rails is a comprehensive back-end framework offering everything you need to create complex web applications. Rails is powerful because you can develop quickly. Github, AirBnB, and SoundCloud are just a few that use Ruby on Rails.
Should I Be a Front-end or Back-end Developer?
The decision to learn front-end or back-end development depends on your goals for learning to code and the types of tasks that you enjoy. Taking classes in both front and back-end development is the best way to determine which you prefer.
Back-end development requires logical-mathematical intelligence to build data management systems. Back-end developers must conceptualize and write code that controls data efficiently, without sacrificing the speed or functionality of the website. Get started in our Full-Stack Web Development Certificate.