There are lots of different things that make up a website. Files are hosted on a server, and when a visitor loads the site, code runs on both the web host server and the user’s computer to display the final visual on the screen.
Modern plug-and-play software and services make it easier than ever for anyone to run their own website, but when something goes wrong, or you want to change something beyond what’s customizable out-of-the-box, it can be difficult to know where to start.
In this situation, the best use of your time and money is probably going to be to hire a web developer to do the job. For each of those different pieces that make up a website, there is a specialty web developer to match. It’s important to get the right developer for your particular task, which naturally leads you to ask, which kind of web developer do I need?
Front End Developer
When a new user visits your website, the web host sends them a whole bunch of code which their internet browser (eg Chrome or Safari) interprets and displays as a website.
Front End Developers are useful when:
- Your website is loading but something doesn’t look right
- You want to change something related to how your website is displayed
Back End Developer
Before the code gets sent from the server to the visitor’s computer, the web server has to interpret the user’s request to provide the correct response code. During those few moments the web page is loading, the server is running checks and verifications, retrieving database data, and formatting the final HTML response it will send back to the user.
This is the back end; the processes that run behind the scenes to make your website functional. Back end developers are web developers who work with code like PHP and MySQL to write functions to process data and add features to your website.
Back End Developers are useful when:
- Your website isn’t loading and is displaying an error message
- You want to change the capabilities of your website
- You want to collect or process user input, such as a form response
Most websites nowadays are run on Content Management systems like WordPress or Magento. This software runs on the web host server, but there are other technologies also installed on the server that it relies upon. This is sort of like how computers run operating systems like Windows, and then you can install programs within that.
Anything that needs to be changed on the server outside of the content management would be best handled by a system administrator. These developers specialize in maintaining servers and troubleshooting server issues. Most website owners have subscriptions with hosting companies that provide support technicians; these are system administrators.
System Administrators are useful when:
- Your website isn’t loading and you’re seeing 500-level errors
- Your having trouble with email to or from your domain name
Web designers get a special mention here because, even though they are not technically web developers, they very well may be who you are looking for before or in combination with a web developer.
You might expect front end developers, working as often as they do with changing the way things look, to be able to make something on a website look good. This isn’t always the case.
While really good front end developers will largely be able to make things look good, it won’t compare to something that has had input from an actual designer. Web designers don’t just make things look good, they make them look like they belong with everything else on the page.
Web Designers are useful when:
- You want to change the look and feel of your website
- You want to make your website look more “modern” and “professional”
As a final note, many web developers specialize in a particular Content Management System. You’ll want to find a developer that’s familiar with your particular system, and include that information in your request.
With this information, you can hone in on the right developer for your particular job. If you just want to skip all the research and go with the experts, we’re ready to help out.