Programming and web development are often divided into “back-end” vs. “front-end” development. This is because most software is divided between the data/information being used or sorted and the interface that a person is using to interact with this data. This “separation of concerns” is actually a codified software design pattern and best practice for building maintainable systems.
Back-end programming typically refers to writing code for things like servers and databases. Front-end programming refers to building intuitive, attractive, and easy to use interfaces for people to click on, type into, and mouse around on.
A familiar example of this would be liking a Facebook post. The front-end would deal with making the like button look good and respond to mouse clicks or touches. The back-end would deal with correctly storing and retrieving who liked the post from the database. When you click (or touch) the like button, the front-end sends your ‘like’ across the Internet as JSON (a data format) to a REST Web service (a type of backend interface), which then process the ‘like’ and stores it into a database.
Front-end Programming and Related Technologies
HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) are the core technologies of most web pages. HTML gives a webpage its structure and determines the location and order of text, images, and other elements. CSS gives a web page its appearance or styling. CSS controls things like color, font-size, width/height, and margins/padding. You can think of HTML as the interior structure of a house (the 2×4 wood, the drywall, etc.) and you can think of CSS as the interior (and exterior) design of the house. In the web world, if you want to change the color of your house, you don’t need a new interior structure (HTML), you just need new paint (CSS).
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Back-end programming and related technologies
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PHP is a “server-side scripting language”. It is widely used by both WordPress and Facebook, which collectively power a significant percentage of the web. PHP is commonly embedded into HTML, in order to make websites interactive and data driven. It is the second most popular back-end web language (after Java).
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Python is a general purpose programming language used for a wide array of applications. Python is used for building hardware projects on the Raspberry Pi, analyzing large datasets, scientific computing, 3-D modeling, and web application development. Python has been expanding as a programming language both within corporations and universities. This is partially due to its simplicity to learn, partially due to its strong support in the math and scientific communities, and partially due to its power in automating system administration and configuration management tasks.
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.NET is Microsoft’s solution to Oracle’s Java technology. It is both a back-end technology and a desktop technology. The desktop portion of .NET allows people to easy and quickly create Windows applications like Word, Excel, and Outlook. The web technology allows people to create robust dynamic back-end web applications. .NET is comprised of many different programming languages including: Visual Basic (VB), C++, C#, and ASP.NET.
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Ruby is a popular programming language within the startup world. Known for it’s simplicity, easy of use, and ability to quickly create web applications, Ruby was the fastest growing programming language a few years ago and was popularized by companies like 37Signals and Twitter. While Ruby (and its support Rails framework) are still popular today, most startups and new back-end development is being done in NodeJs.
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Blurring the lines
Indeed job trends shouldn’t be taken as a science but they can give some sense of where the industry is going. More developers are learning both sides of the stack and more companies are looking for them. The major caveat to this, of course, is that with a great breadth of knowledge usually comes less depth. There’s only so much of the ever-change programming landscape that most developers can know.
Thankfully, we can offer both breadth and depth (or combination thereof!) with our training on most major programming languages, frameworks, and libraries. If your team needs help learning any of the technologies listed above (or many others), please contact us.