Sr. Software Engineer, Technologist, Agile follower, Tech solution provider
I looked at archive.org and found a website I put live in 2001, which means I have been writing some code for 20 years. Of course, I am not going to give a link to that website still it will be safe to mention 20 years back in Kathmandu when people didn’t have an email I had built websites. I uploaded it over a 33.8k modem with a dial-up connection. Kids these days will not even know the sound of that modem (yes I am old).
Coming back to the topic, this is an “oversimplified” guide to showing the difference between backend, frontend, full-stack, and (in my own terms) super stack development of course, with a web development focus. Let’s get started.
Software engineering is a hot topic these days and hearing random people like a minister urging people to learn to code is amusing at times. They make it look as if learning to code is easy and getting a high paid job after you know how to code is a piece of cake. Simple common sense, it is not. Anyways, the most common things software engineers build are websites and web applications. This post highlight the paths you can take in the web development aspect of software engineering.
Yes, there is going to be a lot of oversimplification for this blog post. If I go into a lot of detail it will confuse many people and I want this piece to be beginner-friendly. So to start with below is my understanding of backend, frontend, full-stack, and super stack development:
From the above image, it is pretty clear, blue thing (light and dark both) are frontend, green (+ some yellow the DB) is backend stuff. Orange is representing full stack and the bottom yellow line indicates super stack development. Let’s go into more details for each of them below:
It is clear that this is a comparison between ends and non-ends, backEND, frontEnd, full-stack, and super stack. A quick distinction is what you see rendered on the web browser is usually frontend, the languages that talks to the datastore are mostly backend. If the software work consists of both backend and frontend it can be termed full-stack. So what is the super stack work, read on…
Rather than segmenting yourself as a backend or frontend developer, let’s look at it from the work point of view. Generally, as software engineers, we are solution providers so sometimes doing some work that is not your specialty would be good. It is in our best interest to develop T shaped skills. Let’s jump to an overview of the types of development work.
I would recommend having a look at this popular roadmap for technologies you might want to be aware of to become a proficient frontend, backend or DevOps engineer.
I will write only points for each of the web development work categories and keep it high level. Let’s zoom in.
Some of my observations about backend development:
There are many things I am skipping here like knowledge of data structure and algorithms, HTTP, operating system knowledge, NoSQL database, Message Brokers, etc but that is intentional as this is an oversimplified high-level summary.
Following are my views on Frontend development:
I would consider Mobile App development as a special category of Frontend development, that might be a discussion for another blog post.
Following is my understanding of full-stack development work:
The term “full-stack developer” seems over demanding to me, I have met a couple of people who are real full-stack developers, they are mythical. Still, most of the software engineers I know “can” do full-stack tasks but identify themselves more as a backend or frontend engineer.
Super stack development
Let’s unfold my views about the “super stack” development work:
Super stack development work focuses on real end to end delivery of the task or project. It might encompass creating and updating a CI/CD pipeline to help everyone in the team. It can also include setting up servers or Kubernetes pods dependent on where and how the company you work for deploys its web applications.
This post is not about backend, frontend, full-stack, and super stack “developer”, it’s about the development work and skills a software engineer would need to carry out that task.
Rather than saying I am x-end or y-stack, as software engineers if we strive to add more value to the business without overstepping responsibilities, everyone wins including our customers.