The three kinds of web development are front-end, back-end and full-stack. Each of these arenas have their own specific priorities, but all must work together effectively to produce functional, optimally performing websites that fulfill certain goals. Each works towards its own goals while exchanging the information over an agreed upon set of rules, also known as a data contract.
To understand how the web development data contract works, it’s important to review everyone’s priorities.
The data contract usually starts with the front-end web development team saying that it wants:
The back-end web development team says we will send THIS information, delivered THIS way, but:
This data contract negotiation continues on an ongoing basis for everything that the user interacts with on the website. Most of the time, the system is waiting for user input, then optimized to send back the quickest answer between the front-end and back-end of the data contract.
Full-stack data development is not just a merging of front-end and back-end web development. For smaller projects, a full-stack developer may do some of both areas, negotiating the data contract internally instead of between multiple organizational teams. However, full stack is really more focused on the overall architecture of the website, as well as how the data contract can be negotiated most effectively.
They essentially help negotiate through issues happening between the front-end and back-end, applying a wider perspective over the entire system and processes dedicated to the right outcomes. They may have a stronger focus on one or the other, depending on the product or objective.
Now that you understand how the three kinds of web development negotiate the data contract, there is one more key thing to consider:
All of these potential issues point at the need to holistically understand a website’s functionality and goals. Here is a brief excerpt that illustrates the principle in action:
“Interaction designer Scott McGregor uses a delightful test in his classes to prove this point. He describes a product with a list of its features, asking his class to write down what the product is as soon as they can guess. He begins with 1) internal combustion engine; 2) four wheels with rubber tires; 3) a transmission connecting the engine to the drive wheels; 4) engine and transmission mounted on metal chassis; 5) a steering wheel. By this time, every student will have written down his or her positive identification of the product as an automobile, whereupon Scott ceases using features to describe the product and instead mentions a couple of user goals: 6) cuts grass quickly and easily; 7) comfortable to sit on. From the five feature clues, not one student will have written down ‘riding lawnmower’.”
Cooper, A. (2004). The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy & How to Restore the Sanity (pg. 48). Sams Publishing.
Even when a website looks good and performs work according to initial specification, online technologies are constantly evolving. All three kinds of web development should keep usability in mind, regardless of their individual priorities. That way as time passes and technology changes, your customers or clients continue to receive an experience they expect and value.
This brief overview article is the first in a four-part series diving more deeply into the three kinds of web development. If you are interested in being the first to receive this blog content directly in your email inbox, subscribe to our monthly newsletter.
Published on: June 08, 2022 by Robert Glenn, Senior Software Developer