Hello again in the world of coding! In this article I am going to talk about the so-called “bridge” between two concepts of developing: between front-end and back-end. This is about the person, who can do literally everything and sometimes even more. This person is a full stack developer.
Who is a full stack developer?
Well, a full stack developer is a specialist who is able to create a web application from scratch: both client and server parts. Not everyone will be able to answer the question of what technologies such a specialist should work with, what skills and what knowledge. It all depends on the company he or she is working in and the requirements of the customer.
Nowadays, the standard LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP), which was then used by almost every second developer, is not enough to consider themselves a full-stack developer. Now the full stack developer must have completely different skills and abilities in the portfolio. Among them the most necessary are:
In fact, the division into Back-end and Front-end appeared only in the 2010s, when software products began to have a complex and multi-level structure. Before that, most programmers were the Full Stack by default, although no one called them that. Because in the 90s, there were too few programmers to divide them into any categories.
Why are full stack developers needed in the software development marketplace?
Companies are now opening positions with Full Stack requirements for several reasons. For example, a project is not very complicated technically, but it has complex domain logic and requires frequent changes. That is, the main snag is “what” exactly needs to be done, not “how.” Then it will be easier for one person to understand and navigate.
Or the task is to create not a full-fledged complex product, but an MVP. Then it is easier to find one person: in this way, in conditions of constant uncertainty and improvements, there will be much less contradictions and misunderstandings.
Actually, one Full Stack developer can share a large piece of functionality himself. He does not need to agree on API and dependencies within a single feature, as is usually the case between Back-end and Front-end. This saves a lot of time.
Another option is when the business does not have the money to maintain separate teams. Therefore, the company hires more versatile people to reduce risks, especially if this is already an inactive phase of project development.
What general skills are required from the full stack software engineer?
- Server and hosting
Understanding servers and hosting is the skill number one. Knowledge of using the file system, placement in the cloud storage as well as work with data access control and network resources are the differentiating features of every great full stack developer.
- Working with data
A full-stack developer must be able to create a perfect balanced data model, also be familiar with relational and non-relational databases, and be able to work with XML / JSON formats.
- Back-end technology
Back-end technology includes knowledge of PHP, Python or Ruby, the ability to build client-server interaction, API development. It is required to work well with analytics and related frameworks.
- User interface
- UX design
The ability to work with UX is a must-have item that any full-stack developer should be familiar with at least at a basic level. You need to understand how the user will interact with the interface – this is an important part of the success of the project.
- ES6 / ES7 React, JSX, Redux
- REST API, websocket, Node.js
- Configuring Apache, nginx, Node.js servers;
- Development of dynamic web applications;
- Building sites with backend Node.js.
What tasks and responsibilities do a full stack developer have?
The responsibilities of Full Stack developers do not differ from the usual tasks of programmers in other areas: development of new system modules, code reviews, bug fixes, meetings with the team, and so on.
I asked some full stack developers about their experience in working for the company and this is what they do at work:
“As a Full Stack TeamLead, I review the code and participate in the development of the implementation of both the Front-end and Back-end. This is convenient because you see a more complete picture of the application”.
In each company, the project has a different representation of back-end and front-end tasks. Requirements for knowledge of both directions may also be different. For example, the back-end is considered to be at the senior level, while the front-end is at the middle level.
Well, it is physically difficult to know both the back-end and the front-end perfectly at the maximum level. The task of a full stack developer is to be able to write a project himself that will be visually fast for the user and protected. At the same time, a full stack developer may not be able to, for example, make beautiful animations on the front-end, complex automated deployments, serious optimizations of the back-end and databases, when you need to squeeze the maximum out of the hardware.
A good full stack developer has a varied experience that covers the entire solution development cycle. He can often configure the server, implement the API, and make the “friendly” interface. And not according to the latest best practices, but on the whole high quality.
Advantages and disadvantages of being a full stack developer
- Independence during the process of working
Among the advantages of the full stack specialization, developers note the speed of development, the ability to independently solve problems and not spend additional time on communication.
For example, when you work as a front-end and you need the back-end to return new data, you ask a colleague to make changes, then you have to wait. Full Stack developers don’t have to wait for anyone.
It is attractive that you can concentrate on solving the problem, and not squeezing out ”additional percentages of performance”.
- Flexibility in choosing projects
Full stack developers are attracted to this specialization by great career opportunities: he or she is more flexible in choosing a project and his or her role in it.
If we are talking about disadvantages, the most annoying and exhausting thing might be when customers have too many requirements.
The biggest drawback is the dispersion between specializations. Most of these specialists do not develop so much in any direction. The quality of the code may also suffer if the developer’s full stack is required to solve a problem for yesterday, there is no time to sit down and figure out how to do it correctly.
Customers want to dump too much on one person. For example, there are already Node.js + React.js + React Native declarations, that means that mobile development is also added to the web stack. This affects the quality of knowledge and the final product: the more technologies you need to cover, the more superficially you know each of them. In addition, a person cannot like all directions at the same time.
How to become a full stack developer and where to go next?
Most full stack developers come from the back-end, who are faced with front-end problems.
To become a full stack, developers are advised to study the code of the entire project, delve into the discussion of the entire architecture, and not be afraid to ask questions about the logic of making certain decisions.
Build your competence gradually, starting with small tasks. Take a course in the direction you are missing to understand the basic principles. And then master your knowledge in practice according to the rule “learning by doing”.
What can I say from my own experience, the easiest way to become a full stack developer is to try to develop a difficult project yourself that solves a certain problem. It can be a plugin, website, utility, bot, whatever. After several successful projects, master the concept, or you will realize that this is not yours.
It is better to start with one thing: front-end or back-end, and then as necessary to master the additional areas. Because when you try to develop “in width,” you may not get enough “depth” and eventually turn into a “handyman” who can do everything, but not well enough.
What about the salaries of full stack developers?
I would not say that full stack developer salaries are higher than backends or front-ends. For instance, many developers work as freelancers, positioning themselves as back-end developers with additional front-end skills. These additional skills allow them to solve problems more efficiently and, accordingly, somewhat increase their value as a programmer. Roughly speaking, this may give a 15% increase in rate.
However, full stack developers have more options when searching for a project: they can search for work both on full stack, and on the back-end or front-end separately. In addition, the demand for full stack is growing, since such people are the most flexible in terms of the project.
Full Stack specialists may become good team leaders who can solve cross-team problems, as well as lead developers who can “drag” projects on their own. You can also develop endlessly “horizontally”: study new technologies and, as a result, get a job on more complex projects.
Other options are to go into architecture, management, or even become a startup manager. The developer’s extensive full stack knowledge will help to see the strengths and weaknesses of design decisions. In addition, over the course of a career, a person will accumulate a lot of knowledge on a variety of technologies and he or she will have plenty to choose from when planning a project.
So, this was a big guide into the depth of the full stack developer’s job, his tasks and responsibilities. Due to the advantages and disadvantages that I have told you about, you can think and decide whether you need this or not. However, do not forget to develop yourself constantly, increase your knowledge and improve technical and communicational skills.