Are You a Front End Web Developer

Just ran across this link explaining the difference between developing the front end and the back end of a website. The “back end” is the “engine”: PHP, SQL, file storage, server interaction. The “front end” is the “body”: XHTML, CSS, Javascript, and Flash. It gets scary when you have to mix the two, but that’s exactly what AJAX is all about.

It’s worth pointing out that, as the article states in discussing Dreamweaver, Frontpage, and Adobe Pagemill, “As soon as you need the site to fulfill a specific task, these WYSIWYG editors stop being that handy.” And yes, your worst nightmare is to have to take a website done in a visual editor and hack on the code. Glory be, what a mess! As long as a web page’s only job is to sit there and look pretty, a WYSIWYG editor is the way to go… but then, why not just use Photoshop? Freelance web designers see this all the time: the client has drawn up a page in Photoshop, and now wants it sliced-and-diced into a working web page. Experience shows that this doesn’t always have the desired results. It’s like trying to make a banquet out of frozen instant dinners. At some point, those plastic trays and sectioned compartments really start to get in the way.

How much more valuable, and rare, the talent is to create a website from scratch! You don’t see that as often anymore, but you can tell one when you see it. The code is cleaner, the page loads faster because the web browser has to do less work parsing it, and the web designer sometimes brags about the fact by sticking a button on the page: “powered by Emacs!” or “this site created in Notepad!”.

The front end is certainly what people see, but ironically, thinking more like a back end developer can help you be a more efficient front end developer.