Development Lingo 101

Oh geez. Doctor Digital I need to get some complex web development done, but when I tried to hire a software dev, I felt like I was ordering pancakes at a drive through. Front end, full stack, half stack, what the?

Doctor Digital Says

When do you need to get a software developer vs the bootstrap DIY methods you may have always employed? Whether it’s to build a web, mobile or desktop application, you need a software developer at nearly every stage of the process. If you have an idea, and it’s IT-related, chances are you need a software developer. Finding the right person means you need to know what to ask for and where to begin the conversation. The costs vary according to the scope of the work you want done, if you’re hiring a freelancer, you’re likely to pay from $75-$150 an hour as a rough guide. Here are some crib notes to help you understand the developer zoo, and who does what.

Front end: The front end of a website, including web or mobile application, is the part a user sees and directly interacts with - you know, the bit at the front. The front end is built with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Front end developers use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to code up websites. They’re the ones who take the design and create a functioning website from it. Some sites are only built with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Other sites, however, have more code hidden away in the back end of the site, to augment or enhance the front end of the site. Did someone say back end...

Back end: When you get to the back end, you have entered through a coding curtain beyond where the user directly interacts. The language of coding is different back here and includes languages you may have heard of like PHP, Ruby, Python. While front end developers are usually called by name, a back end developer is more often talked about by their primary coding language or languages. If you’re wondering where you would need to use a back end gal or guy, it's usually if you have a complex content management system, a bespoke web application, or simply something with some complexity that can’t be managed by the usual front end suspects. If you are using a template website like Squarespace or Weebly, the development work has already been done to create these sites, and your interface as a user or your designers is more in the realm of web design, as all the hard coding work has been done for you.

Back end developers generally work with a front end developer to make their code work within the site or app’s design (or to tweak that design when necessary) and front end. Which brings us to the pancake section.

Full stack: As everything converges, the front end and back end meet and become a full stack. There is a fair amount of controversy around what this term actually means from the coding community, but it is usually someone who can work in front end dev, plus has working knowledge of one or more coding languages and dabbles in UX/UI and QA. They may or may not exist outside of the imagination of businesses that just want to get a software or web product built and launched but if they do, they are likely to be highly valued and awesome communicators who understand the client and developer side.

Half stack: Literally three pancakes with maple syrup and spiced butter.

There you have it, a breakdown of the types of roles you need to ask for when you are considering software or web development, and a brunch option

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