If you’ve worked in design for a while creating websites or front-end development, then it may be time to add back-end developer to your resume. A back-end developer handles the server side of things or does the coding for apps and such. Front-end is more about the actual interface and look of the finished product. While you need both front-end and back-end development, they are significantly different from one another.

In a recent survey of developers, about 57.9 percent of respondents were back-end developers. Many held multiple roles in the design and technology industry. Looking at job statistics for a back-end developer shows that those who create the core of what serves as a website or app tend to make a bit more annually than those who do the design work. The reason for higher pay is the specialized coding knowledge needed for back-end work.

The survey also showed there were many ways a back-end developer learned on their own, including reading through the documentation for technology, asking questions from other experts, reading books or taking computer science classes. Below are eight ideas for gaining the knowledge needed to become an effective back-end developer.

1. Take an Online Course

If you already have design skills and want to add back-end developer skills to the mix, many inexpensive online classes are available through sites such as Udemy and Lynda. For example, if you design websites and want to understand better how your server works, you can take a class on server management.

Coding classes include info in PHP, HTML — if you’re a designer, you likely already know this — and other languages. Think about the elements you’re most likely to use with your current clients and start there.

2. Understand the Software Stack

The back-end of a server is made up of many different programs and ways that machines communicate with one another. Start with the structure of the server and the study the four main components of:

  • Servers
  • Databases (SQL)
  • Middleware (software installed on the server)
  • Programming Languages

If it sounds like a lot to learn, it is. A set of classes that go through the management of each aspect of the back-end of websites is the best way to learn all these moving parts and how they work together.

3. Find a Mentor

Moving into back-end development requires understanding a lot of fine details you won’t always pick up from a book or course. Seek a mentor who has experience working with servers and understands how delivery methods and coding all come together into a seamless whole. Ideally, those looking at a website or using an app never even think about the back-end aspect of the service.

One idea is to move to one of the top cities for designers and tech people. You’ll have a lot more experience in these cities, as they are competitive enough to attract the best of the best. Seek out connections or even choose a job at a company that matches new employees with more experienced ones. Make it clear you’d like to learn more about being a back-end developer.

4. Attend College

Perhaps you already have a degree, and the idea of going back to school doesn’t sound like much fun. However, many local community colleges offer certification in specific programming languages or provide short courses of study to expand on your current skills.

If you live within driving distance of a major city, you’ll have a bigger selection. However, many schools now offer online courses in computer technology topics, as well. You may pay a bit more for the convenience of studying online, but you’ll gain the ability to complete the work on your own time.

5. Learn Programming Languages

You can use books, college courses, online courses or even Google to learn programming languages. The more you practice, the better you’ll understand. Programming is a language because it’s very much like learning a foreign language, and each has its own rules and accents. Back-end developers should know:

  • Java
  • Node JS
  • Perl
  • PHP
  • Python
  • Ruby

Developers should also understand the basics of HTML and CSS and how they work.

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6. Develop Specific Skills

A back-end developer has a particular set of skills they use alongside front-end development to keep a site running smoothly. Some of these skills include:

  • Writing and correcting code
  • Designing databases
  • Understanding design patterns
  • Familiarity with popular web frameworks, such as Linux and Windows

It’s difficult to list every skill a back-end developer needs as many skills are harder to define. You’ll need organizational skills and attention to detail. You’ll also need listening skills, so you can make the back-end work with what the front-end developer desires.

7. Save Versions

As you make changes on the back-end and the front-end of a website or in an app, it’s important to keep old versions in case a bug appears. Tracking down a bug isn’t easy, but if you have all the versions, it is easier to figure out which change introduced the bug into the design.

Developers sometimes use Git, as it keeps a repository of different versions of code and allows you to see what changes led to the error. However, you can also save different versions and compare them against one another whenever a bug occurs.

8. Study Security Compliance

With the introduction of GDPR, security is more critical than ever before. Companies are now responsible for protecting the information they collect from consumers in the European Union. Without a secure back-end, not only are websites and apps open to hackers, but you’re failing to protect those entrusting you with their information.

The top risks include:

  • SQL injection attacks
  • Cross-site scripting
  • Authentication
  • Redirects

Familiarize yourself with security software and choose one that easily integrates with your system.


Add to Your Skills

Once you understand the basics of being a back-end developer, add to your skills by learning a non-SQL database coding language, staying up-to-date on the latest developments and learning additional frameworks. The more you know, the more valuable you’ll be to your company or clients. Learning back-end development language isn’t easy, but it is something anyone can tackle with a bit of determination and a small investment of time.


This article was originally published on 2/14/2019 and updated on 3/07/2019.

About the author

Lexie Lu

Hello! My name is Lexie and I have a fervor for design, writing, and coffee. I graduated with a dual major in Creative Writing and Commercial Design, and through those grueling study hours (facilitated by coffee, of course) I always found time to write for myself.

My posts feature design trends throughout all industries and show how the field is always changing. There’s never a dull moment in the design world!


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