Is Frontend Development Easier Than Backend? The Answer 2023

So, you’re wondering if frontend development is easier than backend? Well, that’s actually a pretty tricky question to answer. In 2022, both frontend and backend development are pretty involved and complicated areas of web development. Luckily for you, in this article, we are going to break down the aspects of frontend development that make it harder than the backend and vice versa.

So without further ado, let’s jump right into it!

Why Do Some Programmers Say Frontend Is Easier Than Backend?

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s first address an important question. Why is it that some, usually older, programmers will tell you the backend is harder than the frontend? Well, this is probably because in the 90s frontend development really wasn’t all that difficult. Sure, there were browser compatibility issues and JavaScript was underdeveloped, buggy, and not incredibly useful. However, website frontends were pretty basic. Both design-wise and by technical, programming standards. There were no frontend frameworks like React, Vue, or Angular and most business and application logic was done on the backend. For that reason, backend development used to be much more difficult than frontend in the 90s.

Why Is Frontend Harder Than Backend?

So, why might some people now say that frontend is harder than backend development? Well, there are actually quite a few reasons why this is the case. Let’s look into them.

1. Keeping Up With A Rapidly Changing Landscape

The primary reason why frontend is viewed as being difficult is the fact that it is rapidly changing. It seems like every few months there are new tools and frameworks coming out to “make frontend development better”. Every day you have new tutorials and courses to teach you React, Angular, or Vue.

In my personal opinion, I can see this stabilizing sometime in the future. However, modern frontend development is still in its infancy, and because of this, there are many different approaches and techniques coming out to try and perfect it.

Once upon a time, Angular was the go-to frontend framework, then it was React. Now you even see some companies regressing back to pure vanilla JavaScript, like Netflix for performance reasons.

It doesn’t look like these changes are stopping anytime soon. So keep in mind the ever-changing landscape of frontend development the next time you say it is easy.

2. More Principles To Keep In Mind: Design, UX, Programming, Etc.

Not to bash on backend developers, but the majority of backend projects are really just repeating the same CRUD operations. It is difficult at first, but once you get the hang of it, it is pretty simple.

However, when you start working on the frontend, there are many different aspects you need to keep in mind and be good at. First, you need to be a half-decent designer. Even though you will rarely be given a project without a design mockup, your designer isn’t going to have every single viewport designed and you will have to take some liberties to make sure the frontend doesn’t look terrible.

In addition to design, you also have to consider user experience. If you’re a noobie at this, I highly recommend this tiny book. Designers don’t usually care how the user interacts with the software as long as it looks good. I mean, they care a little, but not enough. As a frontend developer, you are going to need to keep in mind how the design is going to be interacted with and make the appropriate decisions for users to have a good experience with the application.

Finally, in 2023, frontend programming can be equally as challenging as backend programming. With opinionated frameworks, frontend state management systems, and complex logic, there is no reason to believe backend developers have more difficult work than frontend developers from a programmming perspective either.

3. More Tools To Learn

The ever-changing landscape also means there are going to be more tools you need to learn just to stay on top of your work. With Gulp and Grunt being replaced by Webpack; then Angular being replaced by React, and a plethora of other tools being introduced every day like Yarn and NPM, you will always be learning tools that can really slow down your ability to learn other useful programming topics such as different paradigms, languages and best practices.

Sometimes it honesty feels like you’re going nowhere just to keep up.

4. Testing and Test Suites

Last but not least, testing a web application frontend is significantly more challenging than testing the backend. Especially when it is design-related. When you are testing a backend, it really comes down to testing a few edge cases and making sure your functions and objects are logically sound.

Trying to write tests for a frontend is a completely different story. You need to write tests for design elements to make sure they exist and look correct, as well as test for all state changes and logical operations. It is not uncommon to just skip frontend test suites all together in favour for tedious manual testing given it’s unreliability.

Not to say it is impossible to write unit tests for a frontend. However, it is certainly a lot more time-consuming and frustrating.

Why Is Backend Harder Than Frontend?

While frontend certainly has its reasons for being more difficult, so does backend development.

1. Steeper Beginner Learning Curve

There is no doubt that backend development has a steeper curve than frontend. While you can build a website frontend with only HTML and CSS, you need to learn an actual programming language to work on the backend. This is another reason why some people might think frontend is easier than backend. They have built a basic website and now think they understand everything about frontend development. Whereas, when it comes to the backend, a beginner will find it very confusing without significant practice.

2. Less Visual Than Frontend

This one is a bit tricky because I would personally say that the backend is equally as visual as the frontend, you just need to know where to look. However, with frontend development, you can usually see the changes you are making on the screen. With the backend, you don’t necessarily get the same immediate response. So for that reason, the backend can certainly seem more difficult to a beginner.

3. Many Backend Languages

Finally, the backend can be more difficult to learn because there are so many backend languages. PHP, C#, Java, Python, Ruby, etc. For that reason, backend development can seem a lot more daunting than frontend where you only have HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to get started. I mean, there is obviously more to learn, but most of it is based on those languages.

Once you learn all of these languages, you will see that the different ways of doing backend development are really just different flavors of the same thing. However, switching languages is difficult enough that most people specialize in a specific language and only hop around when needed or a better job opportunity arises.

Summary: Which Is Easier, Backend or Frontend?

So which is actually easier, frontend or backend development?

Honestly, that answer depends. There are many applications out there that are much more challenging from a frontend perspective and many that are from a backend perspective. Although they are different, you can’t concretely say one is more difficult than the other. They are both challenging skills to learn with a very high ceiling if you wish to master them.

If you were to ask me, a frontend developer, I would tell you that frontend is more challenging. However, I am sure if you asked a backend developer, I am sure they would give you a different answer. 😉

So that’s about it! If you are a new programmer just getting started with web development, you can check out my free resources here.

Here are some other amazing courses to check out as well.

As always, happy coding!

Grant Darling

Grant is a full-stack / frontend software developer passionate about writing & coding. He has many years experience working in the tech industry both as a freelancer and as an employee.

The Code Bytes is all about providing people with honest information about programming. To learn more about Grant, read his about page!

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