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Backend vs. Frontend Development

Instructor: Lyna Griffin

Lyna has tutored undergraduate Information Management Systems and Database Development. She has a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering and a Masters degree in Information Technology.

In this lesson, we will be defining the terms frontend and backend development, understanding their meaning and examining their differences as related to application development.


Frontend and backend development refers to the two parts that constitute the entire development process of an application, whether it is web-based or not. Many years ago, the two roles were not distinctly defined, but today they have become individual specialties of their own.

Imagine you walk into Lashibi Supermarket, your favorite local supermarket. You are greeted with bright lights, soft music and a welcoming ambiance. You pass by rows of fresh flowers. You eventually find yourself in the drinks aisle. The smell of freshly-baked croissants drifts from the bakery somewhere within the store to line your nostrils, and those chilled freshly-squeezed orange juice bottles on the shelf just keep staring at you! One phrase formulates in your mind: the perfect breakfast. The supermarket has organized its decor, aisles and products to make your shopping experience simple, pleasurable and hassle-free (frontend).

Somewhere at the back of the store there are certain combination-locked doors marked 'staff access only' or 'restricted access' or 'no unauthorized personnel allowed'. Beyond those doors is a network of activity involving machinery, processes, personnel, delivery trucks, warehouses and storage units (backend) that make your shopping experience a possibility as well as a pleasure.


The frontend of an application refers to that part of the application that is seen, accessed and interacts with the user (supermarket aisles), or targeted audience as the case may be. This means that the frontend development consists of the aesthetics (beauty), user-friendliness as well as web design of the application's user area. Coincidentally, Lashibi Supermarket has an online store! The store's frontend application displays all products on sale and prospective buyers can make their selections, load their virtual carts and process payment from the online checkout system. A shopping experience made equally as simple as well as pleasurable, from the comfort of your home.

The backend of an application normally refers to the server-side of the application. This is the part of the application that the users neither see, nor interact with or have access to (supermarket restricted areas). It consists of the server-side that holds all the pertaining software, the application itself and the supporting database. This is where the store's inventories are uploaded, prices mapped to the products, and payment methods and taxes are configured and made applicable to every sale made. Processing of customer purchases and subsequent deliveries are also carried out from the backend of the application. General web application updates are implemented from the backend. The backend is the backbone that makes the frontend possible.

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