Whether your business leverages technology or sells it, you want your products to be results-oriented and user-friendly. Until recently, the developers who created these products would work on either the back-end development or the front-end user experience of software products, but never both. Which worked — for a while.
But, as technology began to advance rapidly and newer tools and protocols started coming out, it became apparent that developers needed a broader range of skills to take end-to-end ownership of development projects and propel them successfully to the finish line.
Increasing costs at a global level have made it necessary for businesses to reduce their operational budgets. Yet, at the same time, developing web applications are proving to be a necessity for businesses to stay competitive in an increasingly online world.
Full stack developers are growing in demand, as they fill a gap in the market for generalists who can perform end-to-end development, take full ownership of the project, and help offset the costs associated with hiring multiple developers.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of web developer jobs in 2020 was 199,400, and this number is expected to grow by a whopping 13% (faster than the industry average) by 2030.
Here’s what you need to know about full stack developers, what they do, and how they can benefit your team. Plus, we’ll cover the specific skills to look for when you’re ready to hire full stack developers for your business.
What Is a Full Stack Developer?
Let’s say you have a favorite application that you use very often. There’s one part of it that you see and interact with, called the front end. Then there’s another part you don’t see, which consists of all the activities that take place behind the scenes while you’re engaging with the app, called the back end. Applications also have a third important component called the database, a structured collection of data required to run the app.
A full stack developer is a type of developer, programmer, or engineer who typically designs an application from scratch, inclusive of the back-end, front-end, and database elements, ensuring a seamless, functionally efficient, and user-friendly experience.
A full stack developer functions much like a generalist who doesn’t need specialist expertise in all the technologies but still has enough subject matter knowledge to create a commercially viable product, commonly known as an MVP or Minimal Viable Product. An MVP has enough concrete and functional features to attract early adopters willing to test and try the product, offering suggestions and recommendations for further improvement.
In this sense, a full stack developer has broad exposure to many different technologies that enable them to more quickly become familiar with the requirements and deliver despite not having in-depth expertise in any one vertical.
What Does a Full Stack Developer Do?
So what does a full stack developer actually do? The deliverables can vary from project to project, but in general, full stack developers look at the following:
Front-end development, also known as client-side development, focuses on the development of everything that you see on the front side of your website or app. This includes the layout of the pages, the colors, the buttons, fonts, links, the positioning of the text, and so on.
Front-end development is not only about designing the face of your sites. It’s about creating an attractive and engaging interface that your users or customers can connect and interact with. So if your full stack developer has specific skills in user experience design, that’s a plus, although it isn’t really necessary.
Your full stack developer would then be able to make sure the back end functions the way it should without compromising the front end's ease of use or engagement-boosting features.
Back-end development, also known as server-side development, refers to how well your website or app works. The back end is the place where all the data gets stored and arranged. Users don’t have direct access to this part of the application, but they interact with it through the user interface. Unlike the front end, users don’t get to see what goes on the back end as they navigate the website or application.
A browser is a program that locates, collects, and displays the information that you typically see on the World Wide Web. Web pages, videos, and images are some common examples of browsers. Browsers are another core component of what full stack developers do to build a successful web application.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Full Stack Web Developer on Your Team?
Now that we’ve worked out what full stack developers are and what they do, let’s take a look at the more critical aspect of how they can benefit your team.
They Have Knowledge of Front-End Technologies in Addition to Back-End
Full stack developers function as a one-stop resource. They can make sense of the application as a whole besides understanding the individual components that form a part of that whole. What this means is that your full stack developer can ensure all the moving parts work together harmoniously toward realizing the goal of the application.
This flexibility is due to the generalist nature of their skills. A specialist would be a better option if you’ve built an application that’s already successful and you need someone to refine or further develop some of the smaller functions. A full stack software developer, on the other hand, is a better option if you’re looking to build your app from the ground up and make it ready through a process of refinement and continuous feedback from users.
They Can Develop an Entire Application From Start to Finish
Because of their ability to cross-functionalize, a single full stack developer is more than adequate to develop your entire application from start to finish. So you won’t need to defer to other specialists to manage individual components of the design process. You won’t also need to hire separate user experience designers to fix the look and navigation of your website/application.
They Can Be a Project Manager During the Development Process
Having a full stack developer on board enables you to delegate ownership to the one individual. They are responsible for executing the project end-to-end, problem-solving and troubleshooting, communicating with other team members and key stakeholders, delivering progress reports, and in general, completely overseeing and managing the project. At the end of the day, you only need to refer to one person for anything and everything related to the project.
If you decide to engage the full stack developer for the long term, you would then also continue to engage with the one point of contact, making it easier to follow up and stay on top of progress and maintenance.
They Are a Budget-Friendly Approach for Businesses
Hiring a full stack developer can be especially beneficial for businesses operating on a tight budget. Having one person on the team who can manage everything is a lot more cost-effective than hiring multiple developers for the same app design, for example.
You won’t, therefore, need one developer to concentrate on the back end, another to optimize user interactions through an appealing interface, or a third to manage mobile-friendliness through responsive design. (This is, of course, an elementary example for illustrative purposes. Real-life projects can be a lot more nuanced and complex.)
What Should You Look for When Hiring for Full Stack Development?
Once you’ve evaluated the potential of a full stack developer for your business and decided that you want to go ahead with recruitment, what specific skills should you be looking for? Ideally, you want a combination of technical (also called "hard") skills and soft skills.
Technical or hard skills refer to, as the name suggests, the technical skills that a candidate will need to perform the job effectively. Unlike soft skills, these skills are measurable in terms of knowledge and output.
Knowledge of Different Programming Languages
Once they’ve learned the primary languages, they can then move on to learning CSS Frameworks, Libraries, and Preprocessors, which are simply tools that help to speed up the development process.
Aside from languages, it’s also crucial for developers to be fluent in database management, web storage, HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), REST (Representational State Transfer), and web architecture (which involves coding, structured data, computational tasks, and more).
Experience Working With Complex Web Applications
Given that a full stack developer’s role is pivotal to a project, you want to look for experience in managing complex web applications. You could consider a developer with less experience at the early stage of their career if your project is pretty basic.
Ask your candidate to provide you with specific information on the types of projects they’ve worked with so you can get a sense of how experienced they are and the level of complexity they’re comfortable with. It’s common for technical recruiters to ask skill-based questions during the hiring process to weed out the less experienced candidates.
Portfolio of Real-World Projects They Have Worked On
Serious candidates and candidates with solid experience should be able to furnish a portfolio of real-world projects they have worked on. Ask for specific information, wherever possible, on the goals, how they went about designing the system, the applications they used, and the results.
Soft skills are less easy to measure, and yet they complement hard skills and have a significant impact on how the candidate successfully executes their role. Soft skills refer to personal traits and interpersonal abilities. Even though a full stack developer’s role can be seen as technical, they need specific soft skills to complement what they do.
Interpersonal Communication Skills
Full stack developers rarely work alone. They will need to communicate on an ongoing basis with your business and other key stakeholders, talk to service providers and development teams, and continually provide project updates and reports.
The developer needs to clearly understand business requirements and deliver on those expectations. They may also have to tone down complex technological language to simplify what they’re doing in a way that makes sense to the average non-technical person. As such, full stack developers need to have strong interpersonal communication skills.
It’s easy to think of this skill set as merely talking effectively. But the umbrella term "interpersonal communication skills" covers much more than just talking. The developer should be able to listen just as effectively and ask questions where needed and in a timely fashion.
They should understand the nuances of nonverbal communication, such as body language, eye movements, facial expressions, and hand gestures. Ultimately, they should be able to use communication to build strong relationships with other members of the team, which in turn leads to achieving business goals and creating measurable outcomes.
Time management can be a critical skill for a full stack software developer. Developers who know how to manage their time get things done effectively, meeting deadlines. At the same time, they know how to prioritize tasks, so the urgent and essential activities get done first. Time management for developers may sound simple in theory, but it can be a lot more complex in practice.
Full stack web developers have to deal with known variables as well as ambiguities and unknowns as part of their development projects. They may also have to learn new skills as they work in different development environments. They will usually need to break down their deliverables into specific features and tasks and work out the resources required for these not just in terms of time but also in terms of staffing and the effort involved. So they also look at people management as well as task management.
Simultaneously, they may need to work on troubleshooting, as when challenges arise, they may get called to prioritize urgent tasks and may have to fix errors while tracking and updating key stakeholders on their progress. All of this requires the ability to identify priorities, understand time requirements, and ensure on-time delivery without feeling overwhelmed, underequipped, or stressed.
Problem-solving skills are another critical skill that full stack development candidates should have. Fundamentally, it’s about how much value your developer brings to the table, all things considered.
On a mundane level, problem-solving involves the ability to clearly define what the problem is, identify causes, work out solutions, and implement them effectively. To arrive at optimal solutions, a developer should ideally have:
- The ability to analyze a problem from many different viewpoints
- The ability to deeply research the information required to solve the problem
- The ability to critically distinguish pros, cons, causes, and effects
- The ability to think outside the box to come up with unique solutions, similar to creative thinking
Problem-solving goes hand in hand with interpersonal skills, as the developer should be able to convince multiple stakeholders of the viability of the solution, besides following through with successful implementation.
Add a Full Stack Engineer or Developer to Your Team Today
We’ve developed this guide to help you understand the benefits of full stack developers, how they can benefit your team, and what you should look for to find the ideal candidate for your needs. But hiring good-quality developers can be challenging if you’re a business owner who’s going it alone, is just starting out, or has no prior recruitment experience.
For instance, how do you decide whether a junior full stack developer or a senior full stack developer is more appropriate for your project scope and budget? How will you know if your candidate is a skill match for your project? Where can you find a reliable source or sources for high-quality web developer candidates?
Perhaps you need additional support to shortlist candidates. Can you be sure you’re getting the most cost-effective solution? What about long-term management, especially if you’re a small business or start-up? These questions can seem overwhelming at first, but the entire process can become a lot easier if you decide to bring expertise on board. You could, for example, partner with Revelo.
Revelo is the largest online platform connecting US companies with a talent pool of over 300,000 Latin America–based remote software developers. The company helps you with everything you need to source, hire, and manage highly qualified, English-speaking, full-time remote tech talent in US time zones, whether you’re a startup, growing business, or a Fortune 500 organization.
Kickstart the process of finding quality candidates with Revelo by filling in a few quick details here. Your next ideal candidate could just be a few clicks away.