It’s not unusual for some businesses to decide to hire a full stack developer. In previous years, it was normal for a web project to require a graphic designer and a web developer, and business owners back then would be lucky to find a guy that is both. But now, full stack experts are growing in number, and it makes sense for some companies to hire one instead of assembling a team of programmers. In this post, we take a look at what full stack developers can do, and the advantages of hiring them for your project.

What it means to have full stack skills

Nowadays, web developers are generally categorized according to their areas of expertise. For instance, a front-end developer is expected to take care of the aspects of a website or web application that end users directly interact with. Because of this, front-end coders are widely considered to be skilled in the three basic programming languages used in web development — namely HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. As for back-end developers, they specialize in the non-visible (to the end user) aspects of web development, which include database management, website performance optimization, and security, just to name a few. These guys typically have knowledge of specific back-end programming languages like PHP, Python, and Ruby, among many others.

Now here comes the full stack developer — in some ways, he can be considered your all-around developer, simply because he knows how to work on both the front-end and the back-end aspects of a web project. This does not mean though that he will be doing everything, although it must be mentioned that a few full stack developers do choose to take care of coding entire websites on their own. Oftentimes, full stack developers are there because their all-around knowledge is useful in addressing any issue that might arise across the project, whether it be on the front-end or on the back-end.

Variations in full stack expertise

Just because full stack developers are comfortable doing both the front-end and the back-end tasks of a web project, that does not necessarily mean that they all possess the same set of skills. The process of developing a website or web application typically goes through different stages or layers, and the full stack developer is called “full stack” because he has working knowledge of every layer required to complete the project. But as often is the case, the set of layers (or stack) can vary depending on the project’s specific needs, and of course, on the ultimate objective of the business owner who hired the full stack developer in the first place.

There are different types of technology stacks existing today. To cite a few popular examples, you have your ASP.NET, LAMP, MEAN, and ROR web stacks. A full stack developer can be familiar with one or more web stacks, or he could choose to specialize in one type. It goes without saying that if he opts for the latter, his particular set of skills will likely lean towards the programming languages, frameworks, and techs that are commonly used with that specific stack.

Also, there are times when a full stack developer’s strengths will vary. While it is true that you can expect them to be comfortable working on both the front-end and back-end aspects of a web project, some will display better skills on the front-end, or simply possess better experience in dealing with the back-end. It is also quite possible that some will have well-balanced proficiency in both ends.

One can argue that a full stack developer’s real job involves seeing the big picture, and not so much about the tiniest detail (which can be dealt with by a specialist developer anyway). Obviously, if you are looking to hire a full stack guy, you want to take full advantage of his all-encompassing set of skills, especially with regards to how they can be put to good use on your web project. But if your website or web application is in need of more complicated solutions, you might be better off getting a specialist developer, which brings us to the next topic …

Full stack developer vs team of specialist developers

So on what grounds will you favor a full stack developer over a specialist developer, or vice versa? The short answer is: it depends on your business’ needs or the specific requirements of your web project. But for the benefit of those who could use some help in deciding which is which, it pays to go through the pros and cons of each.

Let’s tackle the specialist developer first — as his title implies, the specialist developer specializes in one or a few specific web development skills. His area of expertise could be web design, front-end coding, or back-end programming. Because he is more focused on one area, specialists are expected at all times to deliver high quality results, and they are almost always updated with the latest techs and trends in their chosen field, which is largely a given considering their focused expertise.

But web projects sometimes need at least two specialist developers (usually one for the front-end and another for the back-end), and if you are an owner of a small business only, you don’t always have the budget to hire a couple of programmers. Moreover, a specialist developer’s focus on one aspect usually means he will depend on another programmer in order to address an issue his expertise can’t fix.

Let it be said that in terms of sheer skill, a full stack developer may not be as proficient as a specialist developer. What the full stack guy does have in spades is versatility. Throw him in any stage throughout the web development process, and he will still be at home, whether it’s taking care of the front-end programming, or handling the server side coding behind the scenes.

Because of his general knowledge of all the development stages, a full stack developer is also able to debug almost any type of code. No web project is ever alike, except for the fact that each one will go through a testing and debugging process.

Hiring the full stack developer you need

As we may have mentioned earlier in this post, which full stack developer you pick might depend significantly on what your web project or business requires. So let’s go through some possible scenarios.

Starting a web project from scratch. A full stack developer can be ideal for jump-starting new web projects. Because his expertise revolves around the big picture (as opposed to the details), he will likely be able to take basic or preexisting web solutions and craft them into a prototype in reasonably quick time.

Of course, once the basic foundation of your web project has been laid out by the full stack developer, you can now choose to either have the same guy steadily improve upon that initial set-up, or have a specialist developer work on the details (as needed) later on. But as far as getting the web project off the ground, full stack skills should be more than enough.

Assigning a web project leader. If you already have an ongoing web project, especially one that needs some tighter direction moving forward, you can have a full stack developer manage it, as well as lead the existing team of programmers (if you already have one). A person with full stack knowledge should have no problem diving into a project currently in progress, simply because his familiarity of all web development stages ensures he won’t get lost in the ins and outs of the project.

Moreover, a full stack developer need not worry himself with the details anyway, which he means he can just focus on providing leadership to the team, as well as facilitate coordination between members and even the business owner himself.

Worrying about costs. Web developers don’t come cheap, especially in the United States. And not every business owner can afford to hire more than one. But if you think your web project will do just fine with just one programmer, you might as well get a full stack developer.

Truth to tell, a team of developers will likely do more in lesser time than a one-man crew. But with a full stack developer, you can still rest assured that your web project will make progress over time, just not always as fast compared to having a full web dev team.

If you are open to the idea of hiring a full stack developer from another country (especially one with lower labor costs than America), then by all means do so. Or you might try a better idea — offshore software development.

When we say offshore software development, we mean hiring a full stack developer based in another country to work full-time for your web project and for your business. Such an arrangement often involves working with an offshore staffing partner, like CoDev. What we do is we simply handle the process of hiring the full stack developer you need, and when you have chosen the perfect candidate, we will proceed to setting up your developer’s office here in the Philippines (where overhead costs are cheaper). You need not worry about stuff like HR, office space lease and equipment, and even taxes — we got all of that covered. You just need to pay a flat monthly fee, and that’s it. Talk to us today, and we’ll gladly explain more.