Choosing Your Path in Tech: A Personal Guide to Frontend vs Backend


Before going into software development I was like a pendulum swing. First I would learn Java then I saw HTML & CSS, and then I went ahead and tried to learn the Spring framework.

All within the timeframe of 2 months. It's laughable now that I think about it because of this back and forth I kept going for about a year until I learned something more important than the tutorials I was watching online.

That is to focus.

It's a bit cliché but harder to do than what it sounds. And by focus, I mean tunnel vision. Finish what you start.

Before I go into whether you should choose to focus on the front-end or back-end when it comes to software development, I want to briefly explain fullstack development. The fullstack let's just say is being able to delve into the two but you should still have a specialization.

Know this. At your job, for the most part, you won't be the only developer there so you don't have to know everything, but you should be open to being aware of technologies, tools, and languages.

So with that being said let's dive into the front-end.

Frontend Development Through My Eyes

What is front-end development?

I am a bit biased here because this is my focus where I currently work. Front-end development builds the front-end part of applications and sites or better said the part users see and interact with.

As simple as it sounds, there is a lot that it involves. You are to know and use so many pieces working together that you could drive yourself insane trying to figure out what the right choice is.

But for the most part, your foundation will always be the following:

Everything else is tools, technologies, and frameworks that help you create the front-end along with these 3 important pieces. In technical terms, you build what we call user interfaces (UI). UI is multiple components placed together to create what you see on the screen, like a button or a menu on a web page.

You also should take into account that you'll be working with product managers, back-end developers, and QA testers.

Expected Pay

This would depend on your location, the type of industry, and your experience but this is what your national average looks like:

Not bad at all. The more you display what you know, the more potential for more pay exists. And on top of that, you can get more depending on the factors I mentioned above.

To focus on the front-end, I recommend this roadmap site which is a great visual map for you to track your progress.

Backend Development

What is back-end development?

Back-end development deals more with servers, databases, and external or internal APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). They receive what the front end has received from the user or some other system and gives back a response.

There are a lot of routes you can go here when it comes to learning a language. According to Stack Overflow, as of 2023, some of the most popular languages to learn and work with are:

  • Python

  • Java

  • C#

Those would be fundamental of course as you move on to using frameworks for each language depending on what you're building and/or interested in.

Just like the front end, here is a roadmap for you to follow if you want to learn any back-end languages and technologies.

Expected Pay

Again your salary would depend on your location, the type of industry, and your experience:

To build apps, back-end developers work with other product managers, software architects, QA testers, and of course front-end developers.

Comparison Through Personal Lens

From a personal perspective, I think the scope of the two is shifting a bit.

For example, at my job, we focus on the front-end but also do back-end work. This means we work within the server that feeds the data to the app we work on, we also work with containers, as well as different APIs. While the back-end team focuses more on the databases and a bit DevOps work.

As I mentioned before, full-stack development is a mix of the two but it seems they are slightly shifting to different broader scopes. So by what full-stack development means, it seems like every developer trying to learn coding now should focus more on one but have an awareness of the components of the other.

Personalized Advice for Beginners

I had a hard time choosing what to focus on. Ultimately I went with focusing on the front-end because I am a visual learner and I like to picture things in my head as I work through it. The quick feedback on seeing what the result gets from writing your code is what attracted me to the front-end.

But it doesn't mean I am not learning backend concepts, language, and tools. If you like working with data and building its trajectory to the frontend and back then go with a focus on the backend.

The more you know about the full request-response cycle of an app, the more valuable you are.

Hope this helps and gives you an idea of what to look forward to. This is an extensive topic and is spoken about a lot online.

Choosing one or the other won't break you but swaying back and forth between the two will delay your progress.