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How to decide if you're a front-end or a back-end programmer

Posted by Sandi Lin on June 19, 2013

Do you want to learn to build websites, but you're not sure which programming language to pick?

One of the exercises that will make it easier is figuring out whether you're more interested in front-end or back-end programming. Most people naturally gravitate towards one or the other, and it can help you narrow down your choices as a beginning programmer. In fact, these are usually separate roles at a company.

(Note: this post is relevant to websites, not to mobile apps or video games.)

The "Front-End"

The front-end of a website refers to the parts that the user sees, such as the colors, layout, and buttons. The key languages to know are HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It's easiest to start with HTML and CSS, but most likely you'll get to know all 3, since they are all used together in front-end web development.

Beginners often like to start with HTML and CSS since it's very easy to see the visual results of your changes. You can also create simple websites that display static information. Looking to get started? Try Codecademy's Web Fundamentals track.

You're probably a front-end person if:

  • You appreciate art and design
  • You consider yourself more of a visual person
  • You notice website styling details, fonts, and color choices

The "Back-End"

The back-end of a website refers to the functionality that's behind the scenes, such as placing an order, creating an account, and returning search results. There are many back-end programming languages including Python, Ruby, PHP, Java, C, C++, and C#. (We'll cover the differences in a future blog post.) Unlike front-end development, you only need to learn 1 of these languages in order to get started.

Python is often recommended for beginners since it is flexible, friendly, and powerful. Looking to get started? Try LearnStreet's Python track.

You're probably a back-end person if:

  • You like figuring out complex problems
  • You appreciate making things 'work', even if it doesn't look beautiful
  • You're comfortable with math and logic

Still not sure?

The best thing to do is get started and try it out! It's particularly easy to try out a few different languages at Codecademy.

Are you more of a front-end or a back-end person? Let us know in the comments!

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