Frontend & Backend Web & Mobile Development: Explained in Simple Terms

March 7th, 2017

Wiki // Zee

"Do you need both the frontend and backend, or just the backend web development, or just the frontend?"

"Huh?"

In case you thought these terms - frontend and backend - usually relate to the parts of a human body rather than to the web and mobile development terms, we have news for you. 

When you need a website or a mobile app developed, there is a 99% probability that you will hear these terms and will need to understand what they mean (because your project depends on it). Therefore, before your project manager (or developer) throws all those quirky words at you, let's figure out what is fronend and backend... in simple terms. 

Let's set the scene. It's a wonderful evening and you've booked a table at your favorite restaurant. You invited someone special to join you and you're looking at the menu together, choosing a meal.

Ready? 

What does frontend mean?

This is the part of the development that people (clients & users) actually see. It can be sometimes called client-side development.

If you are a client at a restaurant, this is what you’re served – the actual dish in front of you, with all the garnishes.

Things to remember when developing it:

  • Think of UX (user experience), not just UI (actual design). If the customer has to look through the entire page to find “Search” field, chances are you haven’t tested the UX well.
  • Offer the utensils (tools) your customers actually need. Don't try to offer everything you have right away. If you have four forks on one side of the plate, and a couple of knives on the other side (and you have ordered a simple burger with fries), chances are that you will wonder what on earth to do with all those extra utensils. Same with the web and mobile projects - often having more than you need at the moment creates confusion. (Same applies to ads on your website / mobile app. There's nothing wrong with wanting to earn some additional income using those but think about your users, too.) 

Julia Roberts Pretty Woman Restaurant Scene with Utensils

Standard frontend tools:

  • HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript are a staple.
  • Other useful things for your developer to know: Bootstrap, Foundation, Backbone, AngularJS, EmberJS and many other.

What is backend development?

Backend mobile development sometimes is also called server-side development and you can guess from the name that it’s the part of the “behind the scenes” magic that makes the front-end work.

The backend structure usually consists of a server, an application, and a database. 

This is what happens in the kitchen. Data from databases is transformed into usable information and prepared for being displayed in the front-end.

Things to remember when developing it:

  • Think of the requirements for the project. Depending on that, the tech stack of your project would be defined.
  • Find an IT consultant if you're not sure what you want/need to avoid the mistake of having to rewrite your entire project because of a wrongly chosen language. (And invest in QA engineers - they don't only check the code for errors, but make sure that your website or mobile app will withstand the worst of times.)

Standard tools: 

  • PHP. Besides pure PHP, there are frameworks that are used like Symfony2, the framework that we use and promote at Grossum because we think it is a very good one. (Check out our previous blog post about the reasons to use Symfony here.)
  • Other popular alternatives are Java, Python, and numerous others. 

Databases

Technically a part of your backend. This is where all your data hides (easy to guess from the name, isn’t it?) For example if you’re planning an e-commerce website, this is where your products and information about them would be stored. 

In relation to our restaurant analogy, this is the fridge, where all your ingredients are stored to be used by cooks later to prepare wonderful dishes.

Things to remember when developing it:

  • Find that balance between going too big "just in case" and too tiny "we won’t have much data anyway." The basic rule is to assess the amount of data you have at the moment and multiply it by 2. 
  • Don’t do it yourself (unless you’re a good developer – then you wouldn’t need the information described in this blog post). 

Standard tools:

  • MySQL, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, and other.

 

We have both frontend and backend developers in the team.

Author: Zee

Zee is in charge of the Marketing at the APP Solutions/Grossum. Her areas of interest include quantum physics, astronomy, new trends in the web & mobile development (especially in the areas of AI and machine learning) and digital marketing instruments.

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