Frontend and backend

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In software engineering, the terms frontend and backend (sometimes written as back end or back-end) refer to the separation of concerns between the presentation layer (frontend), and the data access layer (backend) of a piece of software, or the physical infrastructure or hardware. In the client–server model, the client is usually considered the frontend and the server is usually considered the backend, even when some presentation work is actually done on the server itself.


In software architecture, there may be many layers between the hardware and end user. The front is an abstraction, simplifying the underlying component by providing a user-friendly interface, while the back usually handles data storage and business logic.

In telecommunication, the front can be considered a device or service, while the back is the infrastructure that supports provision of service.

A rule of thumb is that the client-side (or "frontend") is any component manipulated by the user. The server-side (or "backend") code usually resides on the server, often far removed physically from the user.

Software definitions[edit]

In content management systems, the terms frontend and backend may refer to the end-user facing views of the CMS and the administrative views, respectively.[1][2]

In speech synthesis, the frontend refers to the part of the synthesis system that converts the input text into a symbolic phonetic representation, and the backend converts the symbolic phonetic representation into actual sounds.[3]

In compilers, the frontend translates a computer programming source code into an intermediate representation, and the backend works with the intermediate representation to produce code in a computer output language. The backend usually optimizes to produce code that runs faster. The frontend/backend distinction can separate the parser section that deals with source code and the backend that generates code and optimizes. Some designs, such as GCC, offer choices between multiple frontends (parsing different source languages) or backends (generating code for different target processors).[4]

Some graphical user interface (GUI) applications running in a desktop environment are implemented as a thin frontend for underlying command-line interface (CLI) programs, to save the user from learning the special terminology and memorizing the commands.

Web development as an example[edit]

Another way to understand the difference between the two is to understand the knowledge required of a frontend vs. a backend software developer. The list below focuses on web development as an example.


Frontend focused[edit]

Backend focused[edit]

Note that both positions, despite possibly working on one product, have a very distinct set of skills.


The frontend communicates with backend through an API. In the case of web and mobile frontends, the API is often based on HTTP request/response. The API is sometimes designed using the "Backend for Frontend" (BFF) pattern, that serves responses to ease the processing on frontend side.[5]

Hardware definitions[edit]

In network computing, frontend can refer to any hardware that optimizes or protects network traffic.[6] It is called application front-end hardware because it is placed on the network's outward-facing frontend or boundary. Network traffic passes through the front-end hardware before entering the network.

In processor design, frontend design would be the initial description of the behavior of a circuit in a hardware description language such as Verilog, while backend design would be the process of mapping that behavior to physical transistors on a die.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Front End vs Back End of Your Website: Everything You Need to Know". DOJO Creative. 7 February 2020. Archived from the original on 1 September 2022. Retrieved 31 August 2022.
  2. ^ Thapliyal, Vimal. "Difference Between Frontend and Backend MVC – Joomlatuts". Archived from the original on 30 December 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  3. ^ Gutierrez--Osuna, Ricardo. "L18: Speech synthesis (backend)" (PDF). Texas A&M University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 February 2019. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  4. ^ Bin Muhammad, Rashid. "Operating Systems Notes". Kent State University. Archived from the original on 31 August 2018. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  5. ^ Wickramarachchi, Viduni (24 February 2021). "The BFF Pattern (Backend for Frontend): An Introduction". Bits and pieces. Archived from the original on 27 March 2024. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  6. ^ O'Dell, Mike. "Network Front-End Processors, Yet Again | June 2009 | Communications of the ACM". Archived from the original on 2016-12-30. Retrieved 2016-12-30.
  7. ^ "Front-End Design | Online Documentation for Altium Products". Archived from the original on 2016-12-30. Retrieved 2016-12-30.