Frontend vs Backend Web Development: What’s the difference?

Creating a fully functional website or application involves different phases and activities. The web development activities are generally categorized into frontend and backend. Even if you are a non-tech person, you have probably heard or come across these phrases. 

We understand that you may have several questions flashing through your mind. What is the difference between frontend and backend development? Is PHP frontend or backend? Is JavaScript a frontend or backend programming language? When developing your own WordPress theme, or website you need to keep track of these things.

We will answer those and other similar questions in this post. 

A quick Overview of Front End Development vs Backend Development

A website relies on both backend and frontend functionality, a WordPress site uses CSS, Javascript, and HTML for the frontend and PHP and MySQL for the backend and database.

Related reading: PHP 8 compatibility with WordPress

When we talk about frontend development, we mean the part that deals with the design and implementation of an application interface. In other words, it is the website elements users see or interact with directly on their browser screens.

These elements include:

  • Text
  • Buttons
  • Images
  • Tables
  • Graphs
  • Charts
  • Colors
  • Styles
  • Navigation bars and menus 

Backend development, on the other hand, deals with everything on the server-side setup, which relays data on request. A website database facilitates storing, organizing, editing, and retrieving data.

At the basic level, backend development is what happens behind the scenes. Frontend and backend parts work harmoniously, ensuring an application or website fulfills its purpose. 

For example, when a potential customer is on your site, they will with the front end. If they are interested in a particular product, they type it into the search box. Then, the software application scans the database, retrieves the relevant product, and displays it back to the user on the front end. 

Please note the backend application will still have a frontend code. However, developers use a programming language that the database recognizes. 

Speaking of programming languages, backend developers use languages like JAVA, PHP, Python, and Ruby on Rails to code applications. As for the frontend developer, they mainly use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

The frameworks and libraries also vary between the two types of web development (we’ll discuss this shortly). 

Front End Languages Explained 

At the heart of every frontend development, we have the following three programming languages: 

1. Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)

HTML is the standard code for implementing the structure of web pages and content. It consists of multiple elements, enabling developers to organize and format content as desired. For example, you can structure text with paragraphs, italic words, bullet points, images, hyperlinks, and data tables. The content you’re reading here is laid out in HTML. 

2. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)

The CSS language makes the HTML elements presentable. For example, the spacing, layouts, fonts, colors, and styles on this page are defined by CSS. For clarification, you can implement CSS independent of the HTML 


With this coding language, developers can program the behavior of web pages with interactive elements like audio, videos, animations, and games. Is JavaScript a frontend or backend programming language? JavaScript is a cross-web development language. As such, it applies to frontend and backend development. 

Front End Frameworks and Libraries 

Coding everything from scratch is a time-consuming process for web developers. Luckily, the frontend frameworks and libraries simplify their job. They can access standardized frontend technologies and prewritten or reusable code, and user interfaces (UIs). 

Here are the most popular frontend frameworks and libraries. 

a) ReactJS: ReactJS is an open-source product of Facebook. It is a JavaScript library, not a framework. It contains reusable code for building interactive user interfaces. The library helps programmers to update and render the components of the view layer of their web applications. It is easy to use. Also, it supports nesting components in between others, enabling you to introduce complex functions to your application. 

b) AngularJs: First released in 2012 by Google engineers, AngularJs is a JavaScript front-end framework for creating dynamic pages. This open-source software features the Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture. It enables developers to present a web application through a responsive single HTML page rather than a static page. In a single-page application (SPA), a page never refreshes. 

c) JQueryOver 90% of websites use jQuery, one of the oldest open-source JavaScript cross-platform libraries. Programmers use it for browser event handling, creating custom animations, developing a responsive website with AJAX, and modification of HTML elements with the Document Object Model (DOM) manipulation function. 

d) Bootstrap: Bootstrap comes with HTML, CSS, and JS scripts that simplify the process of developing responsive, mobile-optimized websites and applications. It is an open-source JS framework. Depending on your skills and customization requirements, you can use the source code or precompiled version of Bootstrap. 

e) Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets (SASS): Boasting over 15 years of continuous support, SASS is hands down the most feature-rich, mature, and reliable CSS extension language. You can use SASS with any CSS. 

It can improve the functionality of your current CSS. SASS comes with multiple frameworks, including Compass, Susy, and Bourbon. 

The other well-known frameworks and libraries include:

  • Flutter 
  • Backbone.js
  • Semantic-UI
  • Foundation
  • Ember.js
  • Svelte
  • Vue.js
  • Materialize 

Backend Coding Languages for Web Development Explained 

Programmers use several backend languages to develop the internal systems that work in the application background. Some of the popular coding languages include:

1. Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP)

Is PHP frontend or backend? PHP code is a server-side scripting language. It provides links to the database and other services according to commands and sends the output to the frontend. 


Most programmers use this free open-source backend programming language because the Java code has few implementation dependencies. Simply put, you write once, run anywhere (WORA). You can reuse it on different platforms, including Windows, Mac, and Linux. It is close to C# and C++. 


High-performance application developers often turn to C++ when they need a general-purpose programming language. It is a robust extension of the C coding language. Backend programmers use it to create browsers, databases, operating systems, games, compilers, and more. 

4. C#

C-Sharp enables programmers to write applications for mobile devices, desktops, websites, games, and more. It is a free, open-source project. The coding language runs on the unified .NET platform. 

5. Python

Another popular server-side web application programming language is Python, which runs on an interpreter system, facilitating quick prototyping. It is not only easy to connect Python with database systems but also to make modifications to files. 

6. Node.js

Is Node.js a programming language or framework? It is none of that. It is a server-side JS runtime environment, allowing programmers to execute JS code outside of browsers. Backend developers usually use it for writing APIs. 

Other backend programming languages include:

  • Ruby on Rails
  • Structured Query Language (SQL)
  • Golang
  • JavaScript (cross-web development language)

Back end Frameworks 

The most popular backend frameworks for web applications include:

a) Django: You’ll notice each server-side programming language has a corresponding framework. The coding language can have more than one framework. In this case, the framework for Python is Django. Programmers find it highly reliable when dealing with large and complex applications. It is feature-rich and promotes optimal security and high scalability. 

b) Express.js: The framework is based on Node.js. It utilizes Full-stack JS features and improves execution speed in building single-page, multi-page, and hybrid applications. Website applications can handle several HTTP requests. Express.js is user-friendly and easy to learn. 

c) Laravel: The Laravel framework is for PHP programmers. Based on the Model-View-Controller architecture, this robust and secure framework contains a huge library and great API support. 

d) Spring boot: The Spring Framework and Boot provide infrastructure to support Java applications. You will access various tools and many extensions to build applications and websites. Spring boot is more user-friendly with numerous modules. Its Spring core container, through the Spring sub-project, renders configurable security methods to support protocols, practices, standards, and tools. 

e) Ruby on Rails: The framework is based on the MVC architecture pattern. Backend programmers love it because it is user-friendly and quick to learn. It helps developers with default structures they need to create web pages, web services, and databases. 

Other backend frameworks include: 

  • ASP.NET core for .NET developers 
  • Fiber for Golang developers 
  • Flask for Python developers 
  • CakePHP for PHP developers 
  • Play for Scala developers 
  • Phoenix for Elixir developers 

Salary of Frontend Vs Backend Developers

Salary estimations show that frontend developers earn an average of $105,491 per year. When it comes to backend developers, they make about $120,500 per year. The salaries vary depending on the experience, location, and industry. 

Frontend Vs Backend Development Summary

Frontend development:

  • Deals with user-facing elements that visitors see or interact with when on a website
  • Uses programming languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Uses frameworks and libraries like ReactJS, AngularJs, JQuery, Bootstrap, SASS, Flutter, Backbone.Js, and Semantic-UI
  • Frontend programming jobs include frontend developer, frontend engineer, web designer, and UX/UI designer
  • Earns an average salary of $105,491 per year (In the US, depending on your location)

Backend development:

  • Deals with everything in the background of the application (servers and databases) 
  • Uses programming languages like Java, PHP, Python, Ruby, C++, and .Net 
  • Uses frameworks like Django, Express.js, Laravel, Ruby on Rails, Spring boot, Fiber, and Flask
  • Backend programming jobs include backend developer, Java developer, software developer, and full-stack developer
  • Earns an average salary of $120,500 per year (In the US, depending on your location) 

There you have it!

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