What Does a Full-Stack Developer Do?

What Does a Full-Stack Developer Do?

If you like the idea of building stunning websites for a living, a career in full-stack development awaits. Positions in this space are in-demand, so you can expect job security, excellent career progression, and a lucrative compensation package. And the good news is, you don’t even need a degree.

But before you dive right in, it’s important to understand exactly what the job entails. In this post, we’ll look at what a full-stack developer does, and the technical skills you’ll need.

What Does Full-Stack Mean?

A stack is a collection of programming languages, frameworks, technologies, and tools used by a developer. Here are three examples of popular web development stacks:

  • LAMP: Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP
  • WAMP: Windows, Apache, MySQL, PHP
  • MEAN: MongoDB, Express, Apache, Node.js

A common front-end stack is HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Some people also include certain business processes as part of the stack. For example, requirement capture, testing, and maintenance.

The term full-stack relates to a professional that can work on every aspect of the development stack, from top to bottom. Full-stack developers are all-rounders that handle both client-side and server-side technologies.

In some organizations, they’re also responsible for interviewing clients, capturing requirements, and defining system specifications.

Full-stack developers replace the need for separate front-end and back-end specialists. Front-end developers focus on anything the user can see or interact with and are experts in UX/UI (user interface/user experience) design. Back-end developers work on site functionality, server configuration, and data handling.

That’s it in a nutshell.

Full-Stack Developer Soft Skills

Rather than specializing in a single area, full-stack developers need to be competent in many different technologies. You’ll also need to learn interpersonal skills to communicate with clients, team members, and senior company stakeholders. Here are some of the skills required, starting with soft skills:

  • Communication: A full-stack developer rarely works in isolation. You’ll need to transition between business departments to do your job. It’s vital that you present ideas clearly and confidently when working on a project. You’ll also need to be a great listener when dealing with clients. Depending on your specific organization, you may also be asked to present ideas to entire departments or update management on progress. Great presentation skills will be needed to engage with your audience.
  • Innovation and Creativity: You’ll need to be innovative to stand out from the crowd. When working to improve user retention, you’ll need to be creative and think outside of the box.

Developing innovation doesn’t happen overnight. Some people even think it’s an impossible skill to learn. But there are several steps you can take to improve your creativity. Surround yourself with inspiration, engage in creative discussions, and sleep on ideas.

  • Organization and Time Management: Full-stack developers are the jack-of-all-trades of the tech world. To take on the role you’ll need to be extremely organized. You’ll be tasked with a range of different jobs. It’s up to you to prioritize your work and manage your time effectively. This is especially important if you’re given a client-facing role. Being late for a meeting or arriving unprepared may jeopardize the entire project.
  • Adaptability: Trends change quickly in the web development world. You’ll be expected to change with them. You’ll need to keep up to date with all the latest development tools and techniques to be successful.

Prospective employers prefer candidates that demonstrate a can-do attitude and are willing to learn new skills when necessary. Even if it’s your favorite programming language, sometimes you must move on and change with the times.

Full-Stack Developer Hard Skills

Let’s now look at some of the technical skills needed to make it as a full-stack developer:

  • HyperText Markup Language (HTML): HTML is the fundamental building block of web development. HTML documents are interpreted by web browsers and transformed into graphical web pages. Developers use HTML to create web elements such as text, images, lists, headings, titles, forms, tables, and buttons. One of the challenges you’ll face as a full-stack developer is browser compatibility. Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge all read and interpret HTML slightly differently. You’ll need to test your site for bugs on each individual platform. If you want to study HTML in more detail, check out how hard is it to learn HTML?
  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS): CSS is used to apply styles to HTML documents. You can alter colors, fonts, margins, text-alignment, and image sizes using CSS. Learning CSS will save you a lot of time. It allows you to change entire websites with a single line of code. Without CSS, you’d have to change each HTML element individually.
  • JavaScript: HTML and CSS are great, but they only allow static content. If you want to develop dynamic sites, you’ll need to use JavaScript. This powerful scripting language allows you to change how a site appears, in real-time. It’s perfect for creating interactive user interfaces such as drop-down menus, pop-ups, or scrolling image carousels. You can also develop mobile apps, server applications, and even games using JavaScript.
  • Back-End Languages: If you want to become a full-stack developer, you’ll need to master at least one back-end programming language. Some commonly used languages are Python, PHP, and Java. These are run on the server and handle site functionality. Data handling, database interaction, login functionality, shopping carts, site optimization, and site security are some examples of back-end tasks.
  • Structured Query Language (SQL): Most websites need to collect and store some kind of data. For example, an e-commerce site needs to collect your mailing address, along with other personal information, in order to process your order. SQL is used to interact with databases and is usually embedded into a back-end language like Python or PHP. You’ll need to learn how to write queries in SQL to retrieve, store, delete, or update data within a database.
  • Database Management Systems (DBMS): Most employers expect full-stack developers to have a good understanding of database design. You should learn how to structure efficient databases, how data elements work together, and the different data types that are used to store information. MySQL, PostgreSQL, Microsoft Access, Oracle, and dBASE are examples of popular database management systems.
  • Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP): Sites and web apps need client-server communication to function. HTTP is a protocol used for transmitting HTML documents between web browsers and servers. HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP. It encrypts the data in order to protect sensitive information such as bank details.
  • Web Architecture: Full-stack developers need to know how to structure code, how to store files, how to structure data, and how to run computational tasks on both clients and servers. You should have a solid understanding of how the different web elements work together to run a functional website.

What Does a Full-Stack Developer Do?

We’ve already discussed what makes a career in full-stack development a great choice. But perhaps one of the best perks about this role is the diverse set of tasks you’ll be involved in. You’ll rarely have two days the same as you put into practice a wide range of skills.

In the morning you could be working on the front-end. You’ll use your HTML skills to finish designing the layout of the homepage. Maybe you’ll tweak the colors and layout using CSS, to come up with your final design.

Later in the day, you could have a meeting to capture customer requirements. You’ll need to empathize with the client, listen carefully, and build a professional relationship.

Just before you finish for the day you may decide to work on the back end. You’ll use PHP and MySQL to build a login page and store user credentials to a database.