The Details: Frontends and Backends
How an application is sort of like a restaurant
“The Details” is a paid-subscriber-only series that dives deep into technical topics, surfacing only the details you need to know. The last “The Details” post was about SQL and NoSQL production databases. Have an idea for a “The Details” topic? Just reply to this (if it’s in your inbox) or send it to email@example.com.
It seems like I’m referencing the difference between a frontend and a backend in almost every single Technically post, so I figured it made sense to spend some time diving into what those really are, and most importantly, give you a real example of what goes into a frontend vs. what goes into a backend in a real life application.
This distinction – so important! If I’ve done my job correctly, you’ll begin to see all software you use as frontends and backends of varying shapes and sizes. So without further ado…
## Frontends and backends: the restaurants of code
If you’ve been reading Technically for a while, you know that an application – like the one you’re reading this post on – is made up of just two parts: a frontend and a backend.
The best analogy I’ve thought of for frontends and backends is a restaurant. Say you’re having a lovely evening with the homies (after you’ve hugged and kissed them of course) and you stroll into your favorite upscale Brooklyn eatery. Your experience is interfacing with a few things:
A nice table with comfortable chairs
High quality food and drink brought to your table
Servers catering to your every whim
Fantastic. Behind the scenes though, there’s tons of logistical work that goes into being able to provide you with said experience. In particular, there’s an entire kitchen staff that worries about:
What should be on the menu
How to cook everything consistently and perfectly
Where to source quality ingredients from
How to prepare and store those ingredients
What to do in situations where ingredients are missing or go bad
As a patron, you don’t need to think or deal with any of this – you interface with the “frontend” of the restaurant, and the “backend” takes care of making sure the food that arrives on your table makes you want to leave a 5 star review.
It’s not a perfect comparison, but this is pretty much how I think of application frontends and backends.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Technically to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.