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Shifting to full stack

What you need to know about becoming a full stack developer

Ronita Mohan
full stack developer
© Shutterstock / vladwel

Many companies now prefer to hire full stack developers. Whether you are a back end developer, or a front end developer looking to make the move to full stack, the switch can seem daunting. In this article, Ronita Mohan gives a few tips and explains what you will need to learn before making the switch to full stack developer in your career.

In recent years, there has been a shift in web development—companies are now favoring full stack developers. 

This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a need for front end or back end developers, but businesses are finding that there are more benefits to hiring a full stack developer who has a number of skills, instead of singular specializations.

As a result, for developers in 2019, it is becoming a more feasible idea to present resumes declaring you a full stack developer. To know both the front end and back end of apps and websites makes you a more bankable individual—companies get more bang for their buck by hiring one person who can essentially do two jobs.

Thus, your chances of getting hired and retaining a full stack development job are much better. But if your specializations lie in either front end or back end development, the move to become a full stack developer can feel like a challenge.

As most developers know, front end and back end development are different arenas—how do you go about conquering both to become a full stack developer? 

In this article, we will look at what you need to know before becoming a full stack developer.

Web languages

Web and programming languages have been the domain of front end developers, with back end developers dabbling in the field to some extent.

If you are a back end developer, you have to learn the gamut of web languages to become a full stack developer. These languages include:

HTML and CSS

The building blocks of many websites are HTML and CSS. Front end developers have mastered the art of these two languages to create the cornucopia of websites that inhabit the internet.

HTML is a markup language that allows developers to create the structure of a website such as the headings and content. 

CSS is a style sheet that makes websites look the way they do and controls aspects such as the colors and fonts.

Without these, websites as we know them would not exist.

JavaScript

Another crucial language that full stack developers must know is JavaScript. Commonly acknowledged as the most popular programming language in the world, JavaScript is used to create advanced website features, which are not possible with HTML.

SEE ALSO: Women in tech: “Different backgrounds enrich processes and products”

Learning front end languages like the above is an important step towards becoming a full stack developer and creating functioning websites on numerous platforms like WordPress and Wix.

Back-end languages

Back end developers, on the other hand, are familiar with a whole set of other languages. 

While JavaScript is also one of the languages used in back end development, there are many other languages that backend developers master for their sphere.

For a developer moving into full stack development, the number of back end languages available will seem overwhelming. Here are just some of the most popular languages:

  • C
  • C++
  • Java
  • PHP
  • Python
  • Ruby
  • Rust
  • SQL
  • Swift

This list is enormous and it isn’t possible for a developer to learn all of them fluently. To become a full stack developer, you should strive to be proficient in one of these languages. 

If you are able to have some knowledge of the other languages, that will be to your benefit, but do not attempt to learn everything. It will not be physically possible and your inability to have a complete grasp of at least one language will be to your detriment.

Web technologies

While learning front end and back end languages are the start of a full stack developer’s journey, learning the necessary web technologies will get them one step closer to their goals.

Web technologies have advanced a great deal over the last decade, and it is crucial for a developer, full stack or otherwise, to be well-versed with current technologies if they want to be able to do their job efficiently.

These technologies include the following:

Web browsers

Browsers are essential for viewing websites, and knowing how to work with and adapt languages for them is a vital part of a full stack developer’s role.

There are numerous browsers being developed, but the most popular continue to be Google Chrome, Firefox, Apple’s Safari, and Microsoft’s Edge. Knowledge of browsers is incredibly important as HTML and CSS often have to be adjusted according to browsers, as well as to make websites more user-friendly on mobile.

Frameworks

Another set of web technologies that full stack developers need to become familiar with are development frameworks. Some of the popular web development frameworks available include Angular, Django, Laravel.

Web protocols

Knowing how web protocols work will help full stack developers ensure that devices can communicate with each other and the internet.

The protocols that have to be used include HTTP/ HTTPS, DDP, and the API-related REST.

Servers

There are a number of web hosting services to choose from and these servers contain a great deal of information about your site and other online applications. 

Knowing how to handle servers, and how to backup data, is an important part of a web developer’s role.

Practice your new skills

Learning languages and finding out more about web technologies is only one part of the journey to becoming a full stack developer. Academic knowledge isn’t quite enough to get you a job. You need practical experience with your new full stack abilities.

Having the knowledge of how these varied aspects of development work is a good start but together, these languages and technologies have to create a concrete page, and eventually a fully-functional website with multiple pages and uses.

SEE ALSO: Things that can haunt front end developers

Don’t be overly ambitious—creating a massive web application will take time and energy, as well as the help of a team that you may not have access to.

Start small—write code to structure your page and work up towards a complete web application that can host files and more. Your first few attempts will have errors, but do not be demotivated by them. Use these errors as a learning opportunity to get better.

Testing

Alongside practicing your new skills, you also need to test the web pages you create. Do not attempt to finalize a website before testing every aspect of it first. 

The smallest of errors within an area you thought was insignificant could throw your entire application out of whack. Every time you create something, test it out to see that the functionality, the look, the feel, the user-friendliness are up to your standards.

Look at how the languages you have learned work together to create a webpage. Is the page connecting with the internet correctly? How does it appear in different browsers? What is the load time? Are the files displaying properly?

Testing everything you create also helps ensure that you know exactly where an error may have occurred. 

There are so many aspects to a functioning website, especially if you are working with an ecommerce website builder, that if you go too far in the build, you may not be able to uncover the source of the mistake.

After all the work you have put into making the website, the last thing you want to do is have to rebuild it from scratch because you can’t find where the error is.

Key takeaways

When you are either a front end or back end developer, the prospect of becoming a full stack developer can be daunting. But though it can take time, it is quite possible to achieve this.

Start by mastering the front end web languages that make websites work, and learn one back end language thoroughly. Additional knowledge of other languages is beneficial, but not essential.

Study the web technologies that make it possible for the sites to function on the internet and communicate with each other and other devices.

You need to practice everything you learn—academic knowledge will not be sufficient within a corporate environment. And always test your coding so you can spot errors as soon as they occur. 

By following these five steps, you can begin the process of becoming a full stack developer.

Author

Ronita Mohan

Ronita Mohan is a content marketer at Venngage, the online infographic and design platform. As a marketing professional, she enjoys sharing her insights into social media, web development, productivity, pop culture, news, management and diversity. 

Twitter: @Venngage


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