The term “Full Stack Developer” gets thrown around a lot these days. But what does it mean, exactly? Is it just someone who can code and design websites? Or does it encompass everything from marketing and copywriting to graphic designing and business analytics? The answer is a bit more complicated than you’d think. Here’s a short guide to what a full stack developer does and the skills you’ll need to succeed in this role.
The (Coding) Behind the Scenes
The front end of a website consists of the interface your user interacts with; the back end is the code that makes it all work. A front end developer is responsible for the design and build of the page, while the back end developer(s) are responsible for the programming that makes the page work. This is one of the main differences between the roles; a front end developer mainly focuses on creating an aesthetically pleasing user experience, while a back end developer focuses on making the site functional and easy to use.
If you’re new to the game, starting with WordPress is a great way to get your feet wet. This is an easy-to-use content management system (CMS) that back end developers love because of its intuitive nature. There is a wealth of free plugins and themes available for WordPress, allowing you to quickly implement advanced features into your site. Some good starting points for you if you decide to go this route are:
- WordPress SEO: Makes sure your site’s content shows up when people search for related topics
- SEO Friendly Design: Makes sure your site’s design isn’t too crowded and prevents search engines from skipping over crucial content
- Security: Ensures that your site is secure from hackers and misuse
- Robust: Brings in more revenue by encouraging more people to visit and engage with your content
- Customization: Enables you to change the appearance of your site with just a few clicks
- Aesthetic: Improves the overall appearance of your site without affecting its functionality
Marketing & Copywriting
Besides the fact that a website’s code is a form of legal documentation, a back end developer also creates the copy that appears on the site. A marketing manager is usually responsible for the marketing strategy and the ads you see on sites like Google, while the copywriter creates the actual words used in the ads. A good way to get started writing effective marketing copy is to analyze popular content similar to what you’ll be doing and then re-invent the wheel. You’ll learn a lot and be able to produce something unique and compelling. Some good places to find inspiration are:
- Product Review Blogs: Search for popular product reviews and see how other people are promoting their products. You can use this as a form of inspiration and learning how to write effective reviews. Be careful not to use this as a copywriting sample, though; if this is your first go-round as a copywriter, start small and work your way up. You don’t want to throw away your entire portfolio just because you’re starting out. Especially since there are so many different skills you need to learn before you can become a full stack developer.
- Online Magazines: Dive into the world of online magazines, the output of which is usually focused on one specific topic. You can use this as a form of inspiration to create a marketing plan for a product or service.
- E-commerce Blogs: Search for e-commerce blogs and get an idea of how products are promoted on the web.
- Online Forums: Search for popular forums and get an idea of what people are talking about. This can help you find the key topics you need to cover in your marketing materials.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Find out how to optimize your site’s content for search engines like Google and Bing. There are several free tools you can use to test and see how changes to your site affect your search rankings.
Graphic design is the art of putting shapes and designs onto a piece of paper, such as a T-shirt or a business card. A good graphic designer will be able to create eye-catching designs that are also functional and easy to implement. Some good places to find inspiration are:
- Shopping Cart Design: Browse through the design portfolios of popular e-commerce platforms like Shopify, Bigcommerce, and Clicktale to get an idea of what a shopping cart looks like. Just remember: The cart is nothing but a representation of the user’s needs and expectations. You don’t want to copy exactly what another site has because they might not have the same goal or vision as you.
- Mobile App Design: Check out top mobile app design studios like Basecamp, Firebase, and Hello Fresh to get an idea of what a mobile app looks like. Just remember: You’ll need to take a little bit of this and a little bit of that to make it work for your own needs.
- Webfonts: These are the font styles you’ll see appearing in websites and how they appear when used in different combinations and sizes. You can use this as a resource to find the perfect font for your needs.
- Patterns: Downloadable patterns are the bread and butter of many a crafty blogger. This is where you’ll be finding many of the patterns you need for the projects mentioned above. Just remember: These are often used for decorative purposes so always match the pattern when you use it.
- Illustrations: If you’re drawing by hand or using Adobe Illustrator, you’ll need to know how to use patterns and how to make them work for you. Match the paper and the pen you’re using to the pattern and you’ll be able to produce an effective and interesting-looking product.
- Typography: Learn about the different types of fonts and how to use them effectively. Times New Roman, for example, can be used for body copy but also for headlines.
Analytics & BI
Analystics and Business Intelligence (BI) are two terms that get thrown around a lot these days, even though many people don’t know what they mean exactly. Analytics is the collection of tools that allow businesses to analyze the data and provide insights for marketing and operational decision making. Business Intelligence is the practice of analyzing the data and presenting the findings in a meaningful and informative way. Both are very data-driven industries and a good analyst must always be able to present the findings in a clear and concise manner.
You’ll be doing a lot of data gathering and analysis as a full stack developer, so it’s important to learn how to be efficient and effective with this. Some good places to start are: