A post-it note with this question written on it has been sitting on my desk for a couple of weeks. At first, I didn’t know how to approach such a question — I wanted to develop an answer that made sense to anyone new to the arena of web development, but that still touched upon the finer details. After all, maybe you are someone interested in making a career change and have repeatedly seen the words full-stack web developer on every technical educational website and job application. Or maybe you are simply curious as to why this phrase has been trending higher than bathing suits this summer.
In this post I’m going to be giving you both the wider scope and some of the details of what this sought-after job entails, and my experiences within the field, answering that question for both the novice and the more experienced coder alike. So, let’s take a look at what we’re going to cover — simply select any of the following sections to jump straight to it.
- What Is A T-Shaped Developer?
- What Is Front-End Web Development?
- What Is Back-End Web Development?
- What Is Full-Stack Web Development?
- Why Become A Full-Stack Web Developer?
- How To Become A Full-Stack Web Developer
- Further Reading
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1. What Is A T-Shaped Developer?
The T-shaped model is a concept that has been around for a while that describes the abilities or characteristics of an individual. An ideal T-shaped person has many generalized skills with a specialization in one or a few specific fields.
A full-stack web developer is an excellent example of this model as the developer has general knowledge across a wide breadth of technologies and platforms as well as in-depth experience and specialization in a couple of those concepts. For the most part, there are two general fields that make up a full-stack developer’s skillset: front-end development and back-end development.
### 2. What Is Front-End Web Development?
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Everything that you actually see on a website — the layout, the positioning of text and images, colors, fonts, buttons, and so on — are all factors that the front-end developer must consider.
The main goal of a front-end developer is to provide the platform for visitors to interact with, a platform which provides and receives information. This means some developers will be well-versed in web design and using software such as Photoshop and Illustrator to create graphics and themed layouts.
Additional skillsets of a front-end developer could include user experience design and user interface design, skills which help a team evaluate the best methods of displaying and collecting information. A front-end developer who possesses these design skills is potentially more valuable as they can identify the look and feel of a site while assessing the technical capabilities of such a design at the same time. Although this additional skillset might be useful to a developer, they are certainly not a requirement for the job, and more and more companies are seeing the value in hiring UX & UI designers to focus solely on this aspect of website development.
### 3. What Is Back-End Web Development?
Creation, edit/update and recollection of data are some of the processes that are most often associated with back-end development. Some examples of common scripting languages used are PHP, Ruby, and Python. With these languages, a back-end developer can create algorithms and business logic to manipulate the data that was received in front-end development.
This means that a back-end developer must be able to write code to receive the information input from the user and also save it somewhere — like in a database. There are two main types of databases: relational (like PostgreSQL and MySQL) and non-relational management systems (like Mongo). The language used for database management is SQL, which helps the developer interact with the database.
The concepts might sound foreign, but just understand that there are different database management systems based on convenience and use.
Another component of back-end development is server management, which are applications that host the database and serve up the website. An alternative to knowing how to manage servers is to use cloud-based platforms that provide the infrastructure, like Heroku or Amazon Web Services.
Understanding server management allows a developer to troubleshoot slow applications and even determine how scalable their websites are to include more users.
### 4. What Is Full-Stack Web Development?
Full-stack developers are experts in both the front-end and back-end; so, the full stack of technology that makes up a website. They are proficient in both front-end and back-end languages and frameworks, as well as in server, network and hosting environments. To get to this breadth and depth of knowledge, most full-stack developers will have spent many years working in a variety of different roles. They also tend to be well-versed in both business logic and user experience, meaning they are not only well-equipped to get hands on, but can also guide and consult on strategy too.
In the video below, we explain the role of the full-stack developer in more detail