Full Stack is a Myth

Yellow (biggest), orange and blue (smallest) box stacked on top of each other

2-in-1 laptop is great until you need a proper laptop to work on. So why do humans in companies think that 2-in-1 developers are any better?

Front-end is not one technology or one language or even several technologies hidden in safe environment on the server. Front-end is a combination of three basic technologies in one of the most hostile technology environments1. Some of us do our best to specialize in certain parts because a) we like those parts like animation or SVG or DOM operations and b) front-end is <Bernie-voice>HUGE</Bernie-voice> and person cannot cover everything there is on front-end side. Some companies because of b) choose to have designers and developer collaborating on their own design systems. Unfortunately a lot of companies rather choose to use frameworks like Bootstrap and tell back-end devs to learn JavaScript frameworks and call them Full Stack.

The unfortunate part is that when a good back-end developer starts using front-end frameworks they don’t automatically become a good or average Front-end developer. They are effectively a band-aid because in my experience the organization lacks some things. Sometimes, it’s lack of money which can be excused in startups during the first couple of months. Other times it’s not knowing what roles are needed which can be resolved by talking to experts, soldiers in the field, who do write code daily.

It may sound strange to a non-developer. Coding on the front-end and coding on the back-end are two very different things even if the developer writes JavaScript all the time. Back- and front-end are two very different contexts and switching between them is not as easy as going from one meeting to another in one building, it feels like going from one meeting in Sleepy Hollow to another in Poughkeepsie. (Note: For those unfamiliar with places north of NYC it’ll take you about an hour to get from Sleepy Hollow to Poughkeepsie.)

My biggest pet peeve is when an overstacked developer has to do besides front- and back-end tasks also design. Design is a field on its own and if I stick to the New York state geography, switching from design to development feels like going from Poughkeepsie to Buffalo2. And no, design is not about making things pretty. Design is about making things useful first, be it research, wireframes, etc., and visually pleasing second (although there are exceptions to this rule).

So, please, before you post another full stack job ad or give your developer additional front- or back-end responsibilities think if you want to build something that will last or something that will be cheaply built.

  1. Making a robot which could function on Venus is probably the only thing that trumps Front-end when it comes to environment and that’s about it.
  2. I wanted to say Syracuse but apart from people from there and AHL or Tampa Bay Lightning fans who knows where it is. I know it because my former future high school had courses from there I could’ve taken.