While front-end and back-end coding require distinctly different skill sets, coding classes, and approaches to development, transitioning from front-end to back-end coding is actually more common than you think.
Let’s be clear on what makes these two types of coding distinct, for those of you who may be learning how to program for the first time.
Front-end programmers are responsible for creating the user- or client-facing portion of a website or app. This can include not just the code that powers the user interface, but also working with designers responsible for creating the visual layout that a user or client will interact with.
Back-end development involves coding work on the server and database side of an app or piece of software. While back-end coders need to sync with the code on the front-end, back-end development is largely about setting up how the database will process and respond to user requests, queries, and actually power the app to do what it’s being asked to do.
A common metaphor used to distinguish the two sides is that front-end coders create the steering wheel, brake and gas pedals, gearshift, and even the paint job for a new car, while back-end coders are responsible for everything under the hood and frame that actually makes the car go, steer, and respond to the driver’s actions.
So what if you decide transitioning from front-end to back-end coding is right for you? The good news is that plenty of developers have made this career choice before you, and there are some best practices and tips that you can follow to help make this transition easier.
Have A Clear Picture Of What You Are Getting Into
One of the biggest misconceptions front-end developers who want to make the transition to back-end often have is that this process simply involves building off your existing coding skill set and knowledge base. But that is a recipe for frustration and heartbreak- - because if you are expecting a smooth transition which simply involves adding skills to what you already know, you’ll find yourself thwarted and overwhelmed quickly.
The truth is that to become a successful back-end developer, you’ll likely need to learn new languages, frameworks, and IDEs -- all at the same time. Here are some other key considerations to remember:
First, make sure you have a good reason to make this transition. Is front-end development not challenging or demanding enough for you? Are you more interested in working “under the hood”? Or do you want to be able to handle both sides of your own application, to minimize the need for external developers and fix your own issues as they arise?
Then, be willing to consider yourself a “beginner” again, and set aside your ego. The more you embrace treating back-end coding the same way you did when you learned front-end development, the less frustration during the transition.
Also, do you have a peer or mentor figure who can serve as a patient and helpful guide for you? Finding a trusted collaborator to turn to for advice or help can also ease the learning curve.
Finally, what coding classes will you need to take? What gaps in knowledge do you already know you have? Develop a clear learning plan (with reasonable goals) to help stay on track and measure progress, which can keep you motivated.
Find Reliable And Valuable Resources To Turn To As You Learn
We already mentioned that having a mentor figure or trusted peer to turn to is an essential part of transitioning from front-end to back-end coding. However, some of you may be learning code on your own, or lack a professional network of fellow developers to turn to. Fortunately, one of the biggest benefits of learning to code for any purpose is the wealth of free and easily accessible learning resources available throughout the Internet. For those of you focusing on switching to the back-end, here are just a few valuable resources to bookmark:
- Obviously, since many of you will need to learn an essential back-end coding language, the first place you should turn to is right here -- SoloLearn! In fact, here are just a few of the back-end useful language classes SoloLearn offers to help your transition:
- For tutorials on specific elements of back-end development (not necessarily tied to a given language), there are no shortage of tutorials out there. While there are far too many links for us to post in a single blog, here are some examples of resources you can turn to:
- Beginning tutorials for graph databases
- Tutorials on database design patterns
- Overviews of specific APIs
- When all else fails, turn to the developer hubs. The big names are always Stack Overflow and Github, where the message boards often have threads around specific back-end development questions, but you might be able to find help in SoloLearn’s community too!
Is Your End Goal To Be A Full-Stack Developer, Or A Back-End Developer?
A key reason that many front-end developers “feel the calling” of back-end development is actually in service of a bigger goal -- becoming a full stack developer. In simple terms, a full-stack developer is an engineer who can handle all the work of databases, servers, systems engineering, and clients. In even simpler terms, it’s the coding version of a jack-of-all-trades.
There is appeal to being a full-stack developer vs. specializing on one side or the other. From building your own app or software without needing to hire other developers or eat into a limited budget, to being able to solve any bugs or challenges that arise as users interact with the platform, full-stack developers are in massive demand from companies worldwide.
If full-stack development is your endgame, then you should be thinking slightly differently about your transition to back-end development. Obviously, if you plan to simply say goodbye to front-end development for good, you don’t need to stay up to speed on new innovations and product releases specifically on the front-end side. This makes the transition easier for you, since you can concentrate fully on learning the languages and database/server principles you need solely for back-end development.
However, if full stack development is your true goal, then you will want to make sure you create time and opportunities to stay up to date with innovations in front-end development also, even as you pursue back-end knowledge. Full stack developers are the rock stars of the programming world for a reason -- it requires far more work, practice, and experience to be truly successful. So consider what your true programming career goal is, and make sure to set the goal (and thus, tailor your learning plan) appropriately.