Is Frontend Development Easier than Backend?

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One of the most innovative and prolific fields in computer science is that of web development. Web development itself is so huge that there are a ton of specialities to choose from that one could take up. The most noticeable, perhaps, would be the specializations of becoming a frontend developer or becoming a backend developer.

Generally speaking, the large and diverse collection of technologies required on the backend, added to the complexity of the languages used in there — think Go, Python, Java, PHP — overall tends to embark the feeling in newbies as if frontend development is easier than backend.

So is frontend development really easier than backend?

Short answer: no! Long answer: this article.

It's almost impractical to say that frontend is easier than backend, or vice versa. When we claim that frontend development is not easier than backend, it doesn't mean that now backend is easier than frontend. The negation of the assertion made in the question implicitly means that the comparison is unrealistic or, at least, near unrealistic.

If a backend dev names one complexity of the backend so would a frontend dev for the frontend. This competition could go on and on, ending up with a tie. There's really no way to quantify the relative ease of these specializations, but at least we can better understand and appreciate their complexities and concerns.

In this article, we aim to discuss the modern-day challenges of frontend development and how they altogether give a rock solid competition to the challenges of backend development.

If you're completely new to this realm of web development, there's a lot of potential to explore in this article. But even if you're a veteran frontend developer, with years of experience under your belt, then too this article would be helpful to make you better realize the level of complexity you're dealing with in your day-to-day work.

Without further ado, let's begin the discussion.

What is frontend and backend development?

We always try to write our articles in such a way that they could be understood by a large number of audiences, from beginners to intermediate-level people. Henceforth, if you're a newbie, it might be worthwhile discussing what exactly is frontend and backend web development.

The way HTTP (the protocol used to communicate over the internet) works naturally lends us with two main areas of specializations for web development (obviously including many others): frontend and backend development.

That is, we have two disparate pieces of software that talk with one another across the wire in order to facilitate remote exchange of data: one is called the client, that consumes the data, and one is called the server, that serves the data.

The client for us web surfers is essentially the web browser whilst the server is a software running on specialized computers meant to serve data to clients over HTTP.

Often times, the client is referred to as the frontend and the server is referred to as the backend.

Working with the client is the concern of frontend developers while working with the server is the concern of backend developers.

Based on this, work on the frontend is referred to as frontend development while that on the backend is referred to as backend development.

We also have fullstack developers who can showcase both frontend and backend magic but they aren't the talk of today.

This whole model isn't really that difficult to make sense of, as you'd agree.

Frontend development starts off with the three most basic and de facto standards of the web: HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

  • HTML puts content and structure.
  • CSS styles this content.
  • JavaScript holds the power to add a jaw-dropping amount of interactivity to the content. (Well, it sure is jaw-dropping!)

But the modern era of today has a superbly huge landscape for the frontend, with:

  • CSS preprocessors, such as Sass, Less, allowing us to modularize our CSS code and work with control flow commands and other utilities in it;
  • bundlers such as Webpack and Rollup;
  • automated task runners such as Gulp and Grunt;
  • robust testing tools such as Cypress and Puppeteer;
  • UI frameworks/libraries such as React, Angular, and Vue.js;
  • complex state management tools such as Redux, MobX;

...and so on and so forth.

Backend development usually starts off with a web server software along with some kind of an external scripting language driving business logic on that server. A pretty familiar example would be Apache server running the PHP scripting language.

However, sometimes, instead of getting a ready-made robust server like Apache, we might build our own server from ground up using technologies such as Express.js (Node.js) or Django (Python).

But there is more than just a server in the backend equation — we have to address such diverse concerns as:

  • interacting with database systems such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, MongoDB;
  • establishing a well-designed security system with rigorous error handling, thorough logging, careful input validation and sanitization, and diligent authorization and authentication;
  • interfacing with the local or a remote file system;
  • scaling and load balancing to allow for the entire backend system to be able to stand up to a high influx of incoming traffic.
  • testing using comprehensive testing frameworks;

...and a lot more.

In short, both areas have their complexities, intricacies, and challenges. There is a lot to wrap the mind around, be it a frontend developer or a backend developer.

With the distinction between frontend and backend clear, it's time to discuss frontend development in detail.

How the frontend landscape has changed?

It wasn't always this way

The complexity of the frontend as it is today wasn't always this way. (Nice rhyme by the way!)

In fact, when HTML, CSS and JavaScript were still relatively nascent languages — we're talking about the late 90s and early 2000s — website's weren't very complex, frontend web technologies weren't very mature, and almost all of the heavy lifting of the few complex sites was done on the backend.

Remember that one of the shiny features of this early JavaScript was to be a really simple language that could be used by more than just technical people, that is, by designers, writers, researchers, and so forth. Also remember that the web was still new and people were still exploring what could be done using it.

Perhaps, this is why the word 'frontend' doesn't sound exceptionally complicated in itself — the early days of the web surely earned frontend the reputation of a very simple concern to deal with. And rightly so — back then, it was surely simple.

No one could've ever imagined what was to come in the following years and what remarkable innovations were to be brought into the game. What was considered to be near impossible back then became a routine in less than a decade or so.

Newer and newer tooling

Even after newer specifications of HTML and CSS were released, with such features as transitions and animations, and ECMAScript 5 was introduced in 2009, the frontend realm still didn't took off all of a sudden.

In spite of these developments, companies were largely using the vanilla versions of CSS and JavaScript to build their websites. With more features in CSS and JavaScript, it obviously meant that much more was now possible to be done on the web, but the complexity of all of it was still very high and not effectively abstracted away for fluid large-scale development.

As time went on, newer and ever more innovative advancements continued to be made on the frontend and the web platform, in general. We got:

  • CSS preprocessors, with the advent of Sass (2006) and Less (2009), in order to work around the limitations of CSS in large-scale development, such as lack of modules, variables, mixins;
  • CSS frameworks, like Bootstrap (2011), to aid in quick website designing with prestyled components and utility classes;
  • JavaScript utility libraries, like Prototype.js (2005) and jQuery (2006), to aid in easily quering the DOM, working around browser incompatibility issues, and performing common tasks;
  • an emergence of mobile devices and, likewise, of responsive web designing;
  • an inception of build tools like Webpack (2011) to facilitate in bundling multiple resource files into one single bundle and automating such tasks as minification, implementing modules, and so on;
  • the XMLHttpRequest interface in JavaScript to talk to web servers asynchronously, leaving off the old and inefficient <iframe> technique;
  • batteries-included JavaScript frameworks, such as Angular, to abstract away templating and handling interactions on websites;

...and what not.

There were so many technological breakthroughs in this era that it's impossible to enumrate even a small percentage of all of them here. And remember — this is all just frontend!

Excitement everywhere

This series of advancements in the potential of the frontend brought excitement everywhere.

More and more companies started to rewrite their existing applications using these powerful innovations, obviously where it was feasible to do so, while companies with new projects already had a diverse list of options to choose from.

Vanilla CSS and JavaScript stared to slowly decline in usage, but this is not to say that the languages themselves became abandoned — that would be near impossible. It's just that complex web applications began to err on the side of these robust tools for quicker deployment times, better productivity, and a great developer experience.

Working in vanilla CSS and JavaScript came with countless of challenges, leading to slow and buggy development and much greater development costs, in the longer run, for companies. And, honestly, no company wants that.

The amazing aforementioned tools helped teams forget, or at least, think less, about concerns such as browser incompatibility, file bundling, scalability, architectural styles for structuring application code, and much more.

More usage of frameworks encouraged others to developer yet more frameworks to address the pitfalls of existing ones, which in turn led to further motivations for newer and ever better frameworks, which in know where this is going.

To boil it down, this era provided us with an unbelievably competitive, innovative, and healthy environment of frontend tooling. To date, things haven't quite settled down; innovations are still on the go.

Who knows, maybe in a decade or so, we might have a better UI library than React, or maybe a better CSS preprocessor than Sass. We can never really anticipate of what will, or can, come in the realm of the web.

Since the early 90's to today, the way frontend development is done has changed drastically. Back then, knowledge of just HTML, CSS and JavaScript was more than sufficient for one to be called a frontend developer. Today, however, there are a hundreds of things to wrap the mind around in order to be truly called a 'highly-skilled' frontend dev.

Let's take an insight into some of these skills.

The challenges of the frontend

Finally, it's time to appreciate what a frontend developer does or, at least, should know how to do.

Programming using HTML, CSS and JavaScript

Needless to say, a frontend developer needs to master the craft of working in the three core web technologies: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. If you feel that this is really very very easy, we'd say: think again.

Knowing a language is one thing but knowing how to effectively and scalably write code in it is another.

You might know CSS well enough but you should equally be able to bring any given layout to life using CSS code. More than just the knowledge of CSS features, this requires an abstraction mindset.

You're mind must be in a series of questions such as: "What is the minimal HTML setup I need to implement this layout?," "Do I need to use flexbox or this could be done using old-style floats as well?," and so on.

Similarly, you might know about the basics and various APIs of JavaScript but you should equally be able to write code that is readable, efficient and flexible enough to warrant the least amount of frustration in the future while just trying to make sense of what's written on line 10. (Yup, you might get stuck on your own code! We've all been there.)

Talking specifically about CSS and JavaScript, and that of today, they both are quite huge, complex and powerful; mastering them (truly) could take quite a while. Getting started with CSS and JavaScript is superbly easy but since they're giant beasts, a frontend dev should definitely consider spending quite some time in them to hone their styling and logical skills.


As stated earlier, there's a miniscule chance that a completely new complex web app initiated today would be built in vanilla technologies. It's obviously not 0% but very close to it.

We have a handful of robust frameworks and libraries to choose from to facilitate in building complex frontends. The most common ones are as follows:

  • React is a library meant to build interactive user interfaces, created by Facebook. Though strictly not a framework, React is one of the most popular JavaScript technologies of today's era and is used by big names such as Spotify, Airbnb, Facebook (obviously), Twitter, and so on.
  • Angular is a batteries-included framework for building complex single-page web applications, created by Google.
  • Vue.js is another popular frontend framework to build user interfaces. It has a very approachable learning curve and can undertake complex development concerns.
  • Ember.js is yet another batteries-included framework with a comprehensive set of features to build interactive web applications.

Frontend devs typically know, or should know, more than one framework/library. This comes with two benefits:

  • You get to understand common frontend application architectural styles and design patterns by having a grasp over multiple frameworks/libraries.
  • You can easily mould into different teams of developers who work with different kinds of frontend frameworks/libraries.

UX and UI design

Frontend developers essentially build the graphical interfaces that users will use to interact with web applications and accomplish their goals for those apps.

And wherever we talk about interactive digital interfaces, we can apply ideas from the vast fields of UI (User Interface) design and UX (User Experience) design there.

Designing a website isn't about amalgamating some basic CSS styles here and there and you're done — absolutely not! This might've been the case back then in the late 90's but today's landscape of the web is completely different.

More and more businesses are on the web; more and more users are using the internet for such things as online shopping, banking, e-learning, research, and so forth; and more and more innovations are being brought into the design side of web development.

Nowadays, designing a web application is about imbuing captivating aesthetics into it and, at the same time, making sure that everything is usable. There is a great deal of knowledge — literally, a great deal — that goes into building visually pleasing user interfaces and achieving fluid user experiences.

Frontend developers inherently possess a little bit (or a lot) of this knowledge to be able to easily interact with designers and, thus, turn static design files into living websites. Sometimes, though, frontend developers themselves are the designers. (That's quite ambitious!)

Responsive design

Mobile devices are mainstream today and so is the prevalence of accessing websites on these handheld machines.

According to Statista, as of January 2023, almost 60% of total web traffic comes from mobiles. This is a staggering proportion that mobile devices have got covered.

With such widespread usage of these devices, and of search engines valuing websites that scale well on mobile phones, websites are required to be built using responsive design principles.

Responsive designing is simply to design websites in a way such that they scale well on all common device sizes without having the user to zoom or scroll in order to read the content. It isn't just limited to mobile phones, though — responsive designing means that a website renders well on all common device sizes.

Frontend developers are also equipped with responsive designing skills and best practices in order to create engaging websites that don't put off visitors coming from mobile devices.

This doesn't just mean that they know how to work around CSS @media queries or relative dimensions (for e.g. width: 50%). Responsive designing is an art that requires foresight and careful planning from step one so as to prevent running into scenarios where converting a given design into the dimensions of another device would be impossible.

Cross-browser compatibility

By far, one of the most irritating and intimidating aspects of frontend development is that of cross-browser compatibility.

For a long time, browser incompatibility issues have troubled developers to great lengths, and they even do to date but the condition has overall been alleviated considerably over the recent years for common frontend features.

Nonetheless, when working on applications, it's a vital skill for frontend developers to be able to work around browser incompatibility issues and build a given functionality in a cross-browser compatible manner.

In this regard, tools such as Can I Use and BrowserStack are the friends of a frontend developer.

Performance optimization

Internet is the backbone of countless of businesses. In fact, some businesses are solely based on the internet — take the internet down and these businesses would die the very next minute. It's that kind of a scenario.

Online people are booking airlines, buying cinema tickets, doing their groceries, researching scholarly and academia content, communicating over social mediums, playing games, streaming movies, and the list goes on and on. With so much being done online and the expectations of users for the experiences of these online tasks to be quick and smooth, web applications need to be outright performant and responsive (not in the design sense).

Slow and stuttering web pages have and one and only fate: they are exited sooner or later.

With the growing complexity of web apps paired with the complexity of the frontend, in general, means that making web pages performant is a really really challenging business now. It isn't just about minification or amalgamating multiple files into one single file — our applications should consume computing resources efficiently as well in addition to efficiently consuming network resources.

Frontend developers are able to analyze a wide array of aspects of web apps and optimize their performance wherever it's possible and feasible to do so. This requires profound knowledge of browser tooling, mainstream optimization techniques and best practices, concepts such as render-blocking JavaScript, and much more.

Businesses can be subject to huge losses if their client-facing web applications are janky and unresponsive. It's the job of a frontend developer to ensure a delightful experience of a website, respecting the end user's computing and networking resources.

End-to-end UI testing

Some people might think that testing is usually a concern of the backend and that the frontend doesn't need to be, or possibly couldn't be, tested. Well, to correct the latter, the frontend could be tested. And now to answer the former: depending on the complexity and scope of a web application, the frontend must be tested.

Testing the user interface is the main problem to address on the frontend. By no means is it an easy feat, but surely one which can save us from countless of hours of manual testing (which is quite error-prone) and help us find bugs early on in the development process.

Frontend developers who want to be termed as a 'master of their trade', are expected to know how to test their application user interfaces. In this regard, tools such as Puppeteer (maintained by the team behind Chrome DevTools) and Cypress are really fruitful.

UI testing has a steep learning curve but once we get the basic sense of it, it's not that difficult to explore onwards.

State management

Since the rise of single-page applications, handling data has moved largely from the backend to the frontend. Some of the most complex SPAs out there manage a staggering amount of data on the client and operate on it to drive user interactions.

As the web has gone through a rapid surge of advancements over these years, devs have come to realize that effectively managing big boulders of data, often referred to as the application's 'state', on the client requires more than just efficient data structures — it requires an architectural style, a new and better way of thinking, a rejuvenated approach to storing and processing data. This approach is given the name state management.

There are tons and tons of state management tools to work with — some are framework-agnostic while some are made for a particular one. The most popular ones are Redux, MobX, VueX, and Apollo Client.

Frontend developers are aware of the intricacies of these systems, how to work with them, when exactly to use them, and how to use them effectively. Strictly speaking, state management isn't any API to learn per se; it's an architectural style for working with state on the client and, thus, comes with its own learning curve.

Web accessibility

Accessibility is a concern that we all must be aware of. We should strive really hard to make our applications as accessible and reachable to differently-abled people as we can. But accessibility doesn't just encompass differently-abled people — it lays ideas and best practices that apply to the general population.

Frontend developers should know and practice accessibility ideas in their web applications. This requires them to have knowledge about semantic HTML, accessibility guidelines, ARIA features, and tools that aid in assessing a product for its accessibility such as Chrome's Lighthouse.

As we stated earlier, knowing CSS is one thing and developing aesthetically captivating user interfaces is another. On the same lines, building a beautiful website is one thing but building an accessible one is another. Obviously there is intersection between these areas of development but they have their own concepts and nuances.

In short, accessbility is a clear-cut must for every frontend developer.

Build tools

Last but not the least, we have build tools like Webpack, Rollup and Parcel to aid in creating CSS and/or JavaScript bundles for our web apps. Using these tools, especially Webpack, comes with a learning curve as well.

What plugins these tools use, what well-known packages do the plugin themselves use, we need to know all of these. For example, the Rollup plugin @rollup/plugin-babel uses Babel internally. If a frontend developer doesn't know what Babel is and what significance it holds in modern-day frontend tooling, then he/she definitely needs to learn about it now — it's that important.

A frontend developer structures the underlying application code to better suit such build tools, configures the tools to create builds as soon as given code files are edited (which can get quite tedious at times), and executes such ideas as code splitting to make the underlying apps efficient resource-wise, and much more.

Final remarks

Woah. This was surely one long article, but also worth the read.

Reiterating on the original question "Is frontend development easier than backend?" now you can hopefully reason yourself that frontend development ain't easy business.

It is highly technical, complex, and challenging, and requires one to work across a diverse range of concepts. HTML, CSS and JavaScript are just the beginning; there is a long road to travel to reach the ultimate destination of becoming a highly-skilled frontend developer.

At Codeguage, we offer absolutely free-of-cost courses on CSS, JavaScript, advanced JavaScript, AJAX, and React, to get better at frontend development. In addition, many more courses are planned to be introduced in the near future.

You can follow us on Twitter in order to stay updated with all of the latest endeavors happening on our website.

And if you enjoyed reading this article, don't forget to share it with others. Happy learning and frontend development. 😊

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