Should You Become a Frontend or Backend Developer?

Without doubt, there was never a better time to be a developer. Technologies are exploding, and if you’re good, so are the salaries. Even for those who are just starting, picking up the basics and getting a job is not hard. However, there’s another side to the coin. If you’ve been developing for about 2-5 years, you’re now at a point in your career where you’re wondering which direction to take: frontend or backend?

Full Stack Isn’t the Answer after a while

If you thought you could keep going on the road to full stack, you’d be a little off in your choice. Sure, full stack development is an option, but I don’t recommend it if you want to rise really high in your career. Reason? Complexity. All the areas of development — backend, frontend, mobile, wearable, embedded — are rife with chaos and challenges of their own. You need several years of hard work and ongoing effort to get anywhere close to being called guru in any of these areas, let alone all. So, if you want to enjoy being a super-specialist and make a killing income-wise (which I’m sure you do!) then the sooner you abandon your full stack dreams, the better.

What? Did that crush your heart? I’m sorry . . . let’s take a minute to recover . . .

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Now that the reality has sunk in, let’s move on to the frontend vs backend question.

Characteristics of a good frontend developer

You know you were cut out to be a frontend developer if:

  • You have an eye for good design.
  • You have an almost unstoppable itch to dive in the make crappy interfaces better and faster.
  • You are a visual person and love precision.
  • You’re not as much into algorithms and abstractions as you are into building things.
  • You love JavaScript(!). Honestly, the JavaScript ecosystem is exploding, and the only answer to managing this madness is unconditional love.

Characteristics of a good backend developer

And then, you know backend is your domain when:

  • You love to ask and imagine “sure, it works, but what’s underneath?”.
  • Abstractions like design patterns, algorithms and data structure give you an orgasmic joy.
  • You dismiss CSS and front-end as an “ugly hack” that’s not worth your time.
  • You want to build foundations of large-scale systems.
  • You wonder how things work when software is distributed over hundreds of nodes.

Choosing between frontend and backend

Just is case you’re wondering, none of the fields is less rewarding money-wise. There are as many insanely paid front-end developers as there are backend developers, so banish all doubt from your mind. If you ask me, once you’re past the 2-3 years of your career and want to take things seriously, it’s a choice you need to make. Do you think of yourself as a visual person who loves precision? Then be a front-end developer, I’d say. Or do you enjoy working with invisible things and making magic happen? If so, backend is your domain.

I hope this post helped you in clearing some of your doubts at worst, and at best, help you decide on a direction. Please do leave a response in comments.

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