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Front-end development and back-end development work in tandem to create a website or application for users. In simple terms, front-end development is what is used to create the visual display that the end user of a website experiences. Back-end development is what makes the presentation of front-end development possible. When a user attempts to access an application via the front-end interface, the relevant information is verified via the back-end database, and the proper information is then presented to the user via the back-end Web server.
The back end generally includes a Web server that hosts an application (built with code like PHP, Python, Ruby on Rails, C/C#/C++ , .NET, or Java), which communicates with a database (using something like MySQL or Microsoft Access) to serve up the information that the front-end presents. Back-end developers have expertise in building applications that can efficiently locate and deliver data. Increasingly, companies are turning to Backend-as-a-Service vendors who can make this processing faster, particularly for mobile application development.
As an example of how front-end and back-end systems work together, consider a website that has different content that is accessible to users with different permissions. When a user visits the website and attempts to access a certain page, he or she will be asked to log in; that login information will be authenticated via a database lookup, and then the back-end application communicates with the front end (sometimes via an intermediary program) to display the proper page to the user.
Most developers specialize in either front-end development or back-end development, though there is often crossover between the two areas. There are also what's known as full-stack developers who handle both the back-end application and database code and the front-end presentation code.
Editor’s note: This answer was compiled from content contributed by various community members and experts on our sites, including Stephen Popp, Dan Oliver and Margaret Rouse.
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