What You See vs What's Going On Under the Hood - Setting Development Priorities
The article discusses the factors determining which part of the application development process developers should focus on first - the front-end or back-end.
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The question of what came first, the egg or the chicken, haunts humankind for many centuries. From a software company client's standpoint, there's another essential rivalry requiring due diligence: should a software product start with front-end or back-end development? It goes without saying that both these parts of the web application are vital and require due attention during design, coding, and testing.
The thing is that deciding which of them requires number one priority may be tricky sometimes. This article will consider the main reasons determining whether developers should focus first on the front-end or the back-end part of the app development process.
When Starting With the Front-End Can Be a Good Idea
First of all, let's outline the main features of the front-end and back-end. These concepts can be described as the difference between what you see on the screen when you open a web application and under-the-hood processes to make this happen. In other words, front-end development determines the visual part of the application. At the same time, back-end developers must ensure that everything related to the server-side (e.g., databases, APIs, etc.) works as planned.
When you cooperate with a company providing bespoke software development services, you probably want to ensure that developers share your vision of the future project. If the company, in its turn, values long-term relationships and a client-centric approach, receiving quick feedback becomes irreplaceable. For this reason, it may become an excellent decision to focus on front-end development rather than starting with the back-end. A set of mockups can tell much more about the future application than a bunch of server-side scripts, despite their importance to the development process.
After the deployment is finished, the web app will become a kind of showcase for the clients' business, so starting with the front-end part can be a decent chance to ensure that the developer's vision of the product embodies their needs and expectations.
Changes are inevitable during the web application development process. The very nature of agile methodologies helps to some extent solve these issues and overcome possible unpleasant consequences of changing the initial development plan. However, to remain as flexible as the project requires, it's vital to be able to redistribute priorities within the team of developers according to the current state of affairs. For example, the client can rethink how the final product should look after starting the development process. Say, some details related to the UI/UX part of it may require rework to fit the nature of the client's business better. In such a case, if your initial aim was to focus on front-end development in the first place, adding changes will be easier and less time-consuming since you won't have to redesign the database architecture or any other part of the app related to the server-side functionality.
Not trying to bite off more than you can chew is a good approach both in everyday life and software development. Jumping back and forth between front-end and back-end is an approach that can barely be considered as the most optimal. Instead, developers can focus on the front-end part of the application and use a "fake" server-side functionality for testing purposes. On the other hand, implementing a full-featured back-end will require the development of some UI elements to ensure that the app has no issues with getting data from the server and interpreting it correctly. This approach implies that developers will need to switch their attention between two concepts.
The very reason for providing top-notch front-end web development services is to satisfy the end user's needs and ensure the best possible experience. End-user's misunderstanding of how the interface is arranged and how to work with it may ruin countless hours of back-end developer's work. Despite the nature of the app the development company is working on, user experience is the number one goal. Therefore, polishing the front-end is a task that should not be underestimated. Nonetheless, all that has been said above doesn't mean that front-end and back-end development can exist in isolation from each other. It's pretty standard when front-end developers help understand the specific parts of the back-end to be implemented later.
When Starting With the Back-End Is a Good Thing to Do
Front-end and back-end development complement each other, and in order to find the perfect balance point, sometimes, it's better to start with the back-end part of the web application. For example, data-driven apps gather information from diverse sources. The nature of this data is also quite diverse.
For example, we can consider a system that collects information from thousands of IoT devices installed in vehicles delivering products requiring strict delivery conditions, such as medicines. Another example is the continuous stream of data from financial markets to be processed and represented in a way a human can understand and interpret. Applying Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning algorithms can add an additional level of complexity.
In these cases, the back-end and the data to be used determine the application flow. For a drug manufacturing company employee or financial analyst, the eye-catching UI will be the last thing to worry about. They will expect a developer to implement a reliable and easy-to-use interface that provides timely data access.
For this reason, a well-structured database and efficient API can be considered as a more viable part of the software system. Therefore, the back-end becomes the thing the development company should take care of first and then build the front-end around it. Also, testing the application's business logic is an excellent example of when front-end development can be left until the developers have proof of concept.
The back-end and front-end development are two sides of the same coin. Trying to decide which one is more important for building a successful web application is a task that hardly has a consistent solution. Moreover, it's pretty hard to say if such a question has any reason at all. What's more important when we talk about software development is how to find the perfect balance when it comes to deciding where to start first.
The app with a clumsy UI is as useless as the one that can't correctly load data from the server due to poor database design. Setting priorities in the work of back-end and front-end developers is a task requiring the involvement of experienced specialists on all stages of product development.
Published at DZone with permission of Sergey Laptick. See the original article here.
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