Can We Say Goodbye to Full-Stack Developers?

The software industry is always in need of full-stack engineers, and it has been suggested that front-end and back-end developers may become obsolete due to the emergence of technologies such as Node.js. Being proficient in JavaScript is now considered to be the most desirable skill set when it comes to taking on large-scale web development projects.

However, I would like to present an alternate view, one that I think is more effective in addressing software engineers‘ and designers’ perspectives on the frontend/backend divide, as well as the reality that managers and executives may not always be aware of what they are requesting from them.

Unicorn: A Full Stack Developer

Given that I have close friends who are highly skilled full-stack engineers, it would be inaccurate to suggest that full-stack development is an impossible task. I too have attempted full-stack development in the past. However, why am I using a mythical creature to describe full-stack development?

Full-stack developers have become synonymous with the term ‘superhero’, given their vast knowledge of software engineering and ability to multi-task. Their skillset is highly sought after, as evidenced by the range of duties listed in the job descriptions for a variety of positions.

  • Creating the framework for a website’s front end.
  • Designing for user participation and satisfaction.
  • Constructing Server-Side Web Applications.
  • Making new computer systems and databanks.
  • Guaranteeing mobile device compatibility across all platforms.
  • Making sure software is quick to respond.
  • Creating interfaces for external programs.
  • Cooperating with visual artists on site design elements.
  • Taking something all the way from an idea to a completed result.
  • Having a firm grasp on both technical and user requirements.
  • The practice of maintaining familiarity with the state of the art in web technologies and computer languages.

The job description at present encompasses all aspects of web application development. We are seeking a full-stack developer with a variety of skills to match even the most talented of individuals, such as Leonardo da Vinci.

Full-stack developers demonstrate a range of abilities; at their peak, they possess a broad knowledge base but lack deep expertise in any particular area. As an example, a developer may be highly proficient in Python and Django, two languages commonly employed for back-end solutions, yet have only a basic understanding of Vue.js.

This developer appears to be experienced with backend development; however, their knowledge of SQL may be limited, and they may be relying on Django (a Python-based framework) to provide most of their database solutions.

It is possible to have a comprehensive knowledge of CSS and front-end frameworks such as Angular, whilst having only a basic understanding of a Node.js framework.

It is my opinion that the concept of the ‘idealized full-stack developer’ is a myth. To acquire the necessary skillset and expertise to become a full-stack developer requires a significant amount of time and energy. Therefore, it is unlikely to be achieved by most.

A Quick Look at Modern Technology

When it came to backend solutions, PHP, Apache, and SQL were the holy trinity, while frontend options were limited to JavaScript, HTML, and CSS.

The sheer range and diversity of tools available in modern web development is immense, with new options continually emerging. Through investing time to research and gain mastery of these technologies, web development has become much more manageable.

Given its popularity, JavaScript is a complex programming language requiring a deep level of expertise to master all available frameworks, libraries, and dialects. It is challenging for even experienced users to become familiar with a wide range of technologies at the same time.

The growth of the business is outpacing the ability of humans to keep up. As my colleague so articulately put it, full-stack coders have not been lost; they are merely overwhelmed. With the ever-increasing complexity of the programming world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to remain knowledgeable in all areas. To summarize, the sheer amount of information is too much to process in a limited amount of time.

With the limited amount of hours in a day, there is a finite capacity for work to be done. In an ever-changing business landscape, organizations need to be able to complete projects faster than ever before, despite the complexity, scope and scale of these projects increasing.

It is widely acknowledged that even the most basic projects are likely to benefit from the combined expertise of a team, rather than a single individual. Collaboration between individuals of diverse backgrounds and experience often leads to more inventive solutions than an individual would be able to achieve on their own.

A Full-Stack Developer’s Future Is Bright…

Web engineers must be flexible and have a comprehensive understanding of both front-end and back-end technologies, even when working with a team of experienced professionals.

A Server Engineer may not necessarily require any knowledge of frontend coding; however, it is beneficial to have an understanding of the field in order to enhance their communication with colleagues and provide support when necessary.

Working collaboratively with a team of professionals is vastly different to working independently. Having a holistic understanding of web development will ensure that all team members have a shared vision of the desired outcome.

In some instances, specialist experts in each area are essential for the successful completion of the project, whereas in others, a person with multiple skills may suffice. A prime example of this is with applications that only require basic database operations; these can be undertaken by someone with some knowledge of the backend of a website or app. The response depends on the specifics of the task.

I do not advocate for developers who work independently. It is important for individuals to stimulate their intellect, broaden their knowledge and explore new possibilities. The notion that one person can solve every problem should be challenged. Human resources need to list positions that are appropriate, and developers should accept that they do not have to know everything.

It is possible that there are individuals with an exceptional level of skills, knowledge and expertise in web development. However, even these individuals may struggle to keep up with the increasing workloads and reducing timescales. Therefore, it may be beneficial to focus on full-stack teams instead of relying on a single full-stack developer.

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