Front-End vs Back-End vs Full-Stack: How to hire these developers

By Robert Half on 23 May 2022
Estimated Read Time: 4 minutes

With close to two billion websites on the Internet as of June 2022, the demand for web developers is continually growing.

However, not all employers realise that web development is broken down into three fields: front-end, back-end, and full-stack.

Before hiring for these roles, it’s important to understand the key differences between each field and what’s currently driving the demand for web developers in Australia.

Firstly, let’s cover the basics.

Front-end vs back-end vs full-stack web developers – what’s the difference?

The ‘front-end’, or ‘client-side’, typically refers to part of a website that audiences see in the browser and interact with.

Everything from the content layout to dropdown menus, search bars, and other user interface elements are created by a Front-end Developer. They also ensure a website has a responsive design that functions well on all devices.

The ‘back-end’ of a website, or ‘server-side’, refers to where the data is stored and the technology development that makes the front-end of a website function.

A Back-end Developer brings together the components for an operational website, such as the server, application, and database. This behind-the-scenes logic of a site means information is processed correctly between the server and browser.

In reality, there’s crossover between front-end and back-end development, which is how the role of Full-stack Developer came about – essentially a hybrid of both disciplines.

By offering a complete package of skills, full-stack developers can work comfortably across an entire website project.

What’s driving demand for web developer roles in Australia?

In today’s competitive marketplace, websites are now a crucial component for any business. Which means the demand for all web development roles – front-end, back-end, and full-stack – is at an all-time high.

According to The National Skills Commission's Labour Market Insights, the number of jobs for web developers is expected to continue growing strongly, with a nationally projected growth of over 13% between 2021-2026.

However, there’s more to the story behind these figures.

Although COVID-19 led to job losses across many industries, it had almost the opposite effect on IT sectors. As lockdowns forced millions to isolate, there was a corresponding rise in social connectedness around the globe, which resulted in the development of new web technologies to deliver social services.

In many ways, the pandemic highlighted the need for change in the digital space and has fast-tracked transformations in many companies.

Web development is now one of the most in-demand roles in Australia, yet there’s a comparatively low supply of talent.

As a result, there’s fierce competition amongst businesses to recruit skilled developers to facilitate ambitious transformation and ecommerce projects.

Because of this tight labour market, Australian employers need to be intentional with their prospective hiring plans.

What skills and qualifications should you look for when hiring these roles?

A Front-end Developer requires sound knowledge of the scripting languages that bring a website to life – controlling the layout and formatting how the elements present to a user. Examples include:

  • HTML
  • JavaScript
  • CSS
  • TypeScript (Angular/React)

In addition to programming skills, a front-end developer must also be adept at understanding content management systems, APIs, and frameworks such as:

  • AngularJS
  • EmberJS
  • Foundation
  • Bootstrap
  • Backbone

Plus, a little creativity also helps a front-end developer when it comes to getting the right balance of functional, responsive, and aesthetic design.

A Back-end Developer needs to be proficient in the server-side languages that build applications that make a server, application, and database communicate with each other. Examples include:

  • PHP
  • Ruby
  • Python
  • Java
  • .Net
  • Node.JS

Back-end developers also need experience with a variety of data tools in order to pull information from the database to be used by the front-end’s HTML files, such as:

  • MySQL
  • SQL Server
  • Oracle

Since full-stack developers work across all layers of the web development process, they need to have skills covering both back-end and front-end technologies.

Because of their diverse skill set, full-stack developers often manage all stages of a website project, including planning, managing databases, building user interfaces, and being responsible for the entire user experience.

When should you hire a front-end and back-end development team, and when should you recruit a full-stack developer instead?

With the growing demand for web development in Australia, the offer of a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ full-stack developer might seem like the logical choice for most businesses.

But this isn’t always the case.

While a Full-stack Developer can usually manage projects in a shorter time frame, working seamlessly across the entire job, they're less likely to master each aspect of web development as highly as a specialist Front-end or Back-end Developer.

On the other hand, investing more in a specialist team of both Back-end and Front-end Developers can result in a superior project quality as the developers are more able to be at the leading edge of their respective fields.

Ultimately, choosing between a Front-end and Back-end, or Full-stack Developer comes down to the project criteria.

  • Project size: Smaller projects wouldn’t necessarily require the same team of developers needed for large projects, making a Full-stack Developer the most cost-effective choice.
  • Project budget: For businesses that are restricted by budget constraints, a Full-stack Developer is a welcome, cost-effective option. However, recruiting both a Front-end and Back-end Developer – if resources allow – will lead to higher quality project outcomes.
  • Project timeframe: A Full-stack Developer is a good option if time is limited and the project is not too complex. They’ll often be able to complete a project faster than a duo of front-end and back-end developers as they’re not dependent on other team members.
  • Project complexity: Projects that are larger or more sophisticated will require a team of Front-end and Back-end Developers who offer more profound knowledge of the individual elements and tasks.
  • Project flexibility: For projects that are likely to evolve or need regular adaptations, the universal skills of a Full-stack Developer offers more flexibility and will potentially be more cost-effective over time.

Need some help with placing these roles?

When it comes to hiring a front-end, back-end, or full-stack web developer, make sure you recruit the very best talent for your organisation.

Our experienced technology recruitment team is ready to help. Contact us today.

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