Web developer vs. front-end developer: differences and similarities

Even though web development and front-end development are two very closely related fields, they are definitely not the same role within the company. Both jobs involve building and maintaining websites, but the skills and responsibilities of each position differ, same as with UI and web developers, for example.

In this article, we'll explore the similarities and differences between web developers and front-end developers and help you understand what each role entails by listing key tasks and focuses. Be sure to also check out what our frontend developer agency has in store for you and your next project.

Role of a web developer

In general, as an all-around broad field, web development encompasses several different roles and responsibilities. Two of the most common positions within web development are web developers and front-end developers. By the way, we also have a web developer vs. app developer comparison article for you to check out as well.

So, as we have established, while these two roles may only seem similar at first glance, they have distinct differences in terms of the skills and tasks they perform. Let's start with web developers.

Web developers are responsible for creating and managing a website's back-end, which includes server-side logic and database management, as well as handling client-side development.

What a web developer does
What a web developer does

They work with languages such as PHP, Ruby, and Python to create and manage the database, as well as write server-side code to handle HTTP requests and responses. Web frameworks are then utilized to build the backend of a website.

Web developer skills

In order for web developers to deal with all aspects of web development, they need to have a firm understanding of several programming languages, web frameworks, and databases.

First and foremost, one of the most crucial skills for a web developer is proficiency in server-side programming languages. As mentioned earlier, languages like PHP, Python, and Ruby are used to create and manage the database and handle HTTP requests and responses.

Web developers should also be familiar with web frameworks in the likes of Ruby on Rails, Django, and Express.js, which provide a structure for building web applications and make it easier to manage the back-end logic.

Another essential skill for web developers is database knowledge - how to create and manage databases, as well as having a great understanding of SQL (Structured Query Language) to be able to write queries to extract data from those databases. This can be done using technologies such as MySQL, MongoDB, or PostgreSQL.

Another essential skill is understanding web development concepts and protocols, such as HTTP, REST, and API design, how to make HTTP requests and handle responses, and also knowing how to design and implement RESTful web services.

In addition to the technical skills, there are several other skills that a web developer should have:

  • Familiarity with version control systems: Web developers should be familiar with tools such as Git, which allows them to track code changes and collaborate with others.
  • Experience with web security: Web developers should be aware of common security threats and vulnerabilities, such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and cross-site request forgery (CSRF). They should also know how to implement security measures, such as input validation and password hashing, to protect the website and its users.
  • Understanding of web performance: Web developers should know how to optimize the performance of a website, such as by reducing page load times, minimizing the use of resources, and using caching techniques.
  • Knowledge of web development trends and best practices: Web developers should stay up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices in web development, such as responsive design, mobile optimization, and accessibility.
  • Strong analytical skills: Web developers should be able to gather and analyze data to understand user behavior and improve the website's performance. They should be able to use tools like Google Analytics to track website traffic and user engagement.

Web developer salaries and job outlook

The job outlook for web developers is currently remarkably positive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in this field will grow by 23% over the next decade, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. This is due to the increasing demand for websites and web-based applications for both businesses and individuals.

Additionally, as more companies move their operations online, the need for web developers will continue to grow. As a result, web developers with relevant skills and experience can expect to have many job opportunities available to them.

The exact salary of a web developer will depend on several factors, including location, experience, and specific skills. In the US, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2022, the median annual salary for web developers was $78,300.

In Europe, the salary can vary depending on the country, but web developers generally expect to earn similar or slightly lower wages than in the US. It's also important to note that the cost of living and the overall economy of a country will also play a role in determining the salary of a web developer.

What is a front-end developer?

On the other hand, front-end developers focus mainly just on the client side of web development, which is the part of the website that users interact with.

They work with languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to create the layout and design of a website, and they also use JavaScript libraries and frameworks to develop interactive and dynamic user interfaces. Check out the definition of front-end frameworks in our previous piece.

What a front-end developer does
What a front-end developer does

In general, front-end developers are responsible for ensuring that the website is visually appealing, user-friendly, and responsive across different devices and screen sizes.

Front-end developer skills

One of the key skills for a front-end developer is proficiency in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. These core technologies are used to create a website's layout, design, and functionality.

Front-end developers should be able to write clean, semantic, and valid HTML and CSS code and be able to use CSS preprocessors such as Sass or Less. Additionally, they should have a good understanding of JavaScript and be able to write code that is efficient, reusable, and maintainable.

Another vital skill for front-end developers is knowledge of JavaScript libraries and frameworks. These tools, such as React, Angular, and Vue.js, are used to create interactive and dynamic user interfaces. Front-end developers should be able to use these tools to create complex and responsive web applications.

Similarly to web developers, front-end developers should also have a good understanding of web development concepts and protocols. Plus, they should also be familiar with user experience and interaction design principles and be able to create user-friendly and visually appealing interfaces.

Another couple of necessary skills of front-end professionals include:

  • Experience with browser compatibility: Front-end developers should be aware of the various browser compatibility issues and know how to write cross-browser-compatible code.
  • Experience with design software: Front-end developers should have a basic understanding of design software, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, or Sketch, in order to create and edit visual elements and understand design specifications.

User experience focus

One of the critical aspects of every front-end developer's job is user experience focus. Having a user experience focus helps front-end developers in their day-to-day tasks by guiding them in making design and development decisions centered on the end user's needs and goals.

Focusing on user experience and understanding the user's perspective allows front-end specialists to:

  • Develop user-friendly, intuitive, and aesthetically pleasing interfaces;
  • Boost user engagement;
  • Create responsive designs by understanding the needs of users with different devices and screen sizes;
  • Cater to all types of users, including those with disabilities, by understanding accessibility principles;
  • Build interactive and dynamic user interfaces with user needs in mind;
  • Test and validate their designs by creating testing plans more in tune with the actual user's journey with your product.

Lastly, a user experience focus helps front-end developers in making data-driven decisions. By understanding user behavior and needs, front-end developers can use data to make informed decisions about the design and development of a website, which can lead to a better user experience.

Graphic design focus

Having a graphic design focus helps front-end developers by providing them with the skills and knowledge to create visually appealing and engaging designs for websites and web applications.

For example, front-end developers can create visually appealing and engaging designs by understanding design principles, such as color theory, typography, and layout. This can lead to a better user experience and higher user engagement.

The graphic design focus is also crucial for designs that are more consistent with a brand's visual identity, leading to a better user experience and a more professional image for the brand.

In addition, by understanding the principles of visual communication and information design, front-end developers can create designs that effectively communicate information and ideas.

Moreover, a graphic design focus helps front-end developers build interactive and dynamic user interfaces through animation and motion design principles.

Lastly, it helps front-end developers stay up-to-date with design trends and best practices and, in the end, produce current and relevant designs, which is important for the industry.

What is a full-stack developer?

A full-stack developer is a type of web developer proficient in both front-end and back-end development. This means they have a strong understanding of all the technologies and tools needed to build a complete web application and all the programming languages and frameworks associated with it.

What a full-stack developer does
What a full-stack developer does

Full-stack developers better understand the entire web development process by handling all aspects of a web project, from designing the user interface and implementing interactive features to managing the database and handling server-side logic. They can ultimately make more informed decisions about the design and implementation of a web application than, for example, their front-end colleagues.

Similarities between web development and front-end development

Knowing the key differences between these jobs, such as the overall focus, responsibilities, and a few specific skills and types of technical expertise, let's go over the similarities. There are quite a few.

First, both web development and front-end development, in one way or the other, involve the use of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to create the layout, design, and functionality of a website. Another similarity involves the use of web development concepts and protocols.

Both web development and front-end development require the developer to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices in web development, such as responsive design, mobile optimization, and accessibility.

In addition, both positions require a decent familiarity with web development tools and technologies. Both need to know how to use text editors, version control systems, and development tools.

Lastly, both these types of professionals should also know how to work well in a team and communicate their ideas effectively. They should know how to troubleshoot problems and debug code and be able to work with other developers, as well as designers and project managers, to ensure that the final product meets the client's requirements.

Ultimately, these jobs also require adaptability, willingness to learn, and problem-solving, and we know just where to find professionals that meet every one of these criteria.

Serhii Hyliuk

Head of Growth

Head of Growth and Customer Success. I'm interested in design, new tech, fashion, exploring new places and languages. My mission is to make our clients happy.

Head of Growth and Customer Success. I'm interested in design, new tech, fashion, exploring new places and languages. My mission is to make our clients happy.

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