Backend and frontend explained simply

When you take a closer look at a CMS like WordPress, commission an app, or delve deeper into a new piece of software, you’ll come across the terms ‘frontend’ and ‘backend’. What do these two terms mean? What is the relationship between frontend and backend, and how do they differ from one another? Keep reading to find out more.

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Backend and frontend are two levels of one software

Frontend and backend are found in every software and as a result on every website. The two terms just describe two different levels that make up programs or sites.

In order to understand what frontend vs backend, it makes sense to first look at them independent of one other. Although both levels are very closely related, they perform completely different tasks. The application will only run smoothly when the frontend and backend are perfectly in sync.

What is frontend?

To understand what exactly the frontend is, put yourself in the shoes of the user. When you visit a website or open an app, the user interface that you can see is the frontend, i.e. all the content that is open in front of you, the images and text, but also the entire design of the page or software, from the colour to the font to the placement of the individual elements. The frontend enablesinteraction between the user and the program. And this is where the connection to the backend happens.

What is backend?

The backend refers to all the things that go on behind the scenes. These are all the processes which website visitors and software users have no direct access to, but actually make the website or application function. The backend is where the administrative work happens which ensures that everything runs smoothly. For example, functions are defined, databases are updated, and changes are made to the layout. In this sense, the backend is the heart of a site or program and is always working in the background to ensure that users get the best experience possible.

Tasks completed in the backend include:

  • The original setup ofa website or program, including the frontend
  • The management ofsoftware and its users
  • The installation of plugins as well as completion of the necessary updates
  • The embedding of content and media
  • The management and maintenance of databases
  • The implementation of the necessary security features

The interaction of frontend and backend

Backend and frontend are therefore fundamentally different from one other. However, their interaction ensures that a site runs perfectly. The basis of any software is the backend. It is used to define functions and set up the frontend. When it comes to its actual use, the frontend has a very important task. Only a clear and appealing frontend leads to a good user experience, whereby users can access the data and processes properly. This functionality is ensured by the backend.

Generally, different people take care of the frontend and backend. The backend is primarily the responsibility of programmers or developers, who determine thesettings, set up interfaces to third-party programs, install updates, and fix errors. The work on the frontend is usually done by a web designer or a frontend developer. However, to ensure the website’s smooth running, both sides should work together as closely as possible. This results in software that is user-friendly, visually appealing, and secure at the same time.

Tip

Classically, in a CMS, backend and frontend are linked in such a way that the backend always refers to only one frontend. With a headless CMS, this is different - an unlimited number of frontends can be served by a single backend via an interface. Learn more about this in our guide.