Client-Side vs. Server-Side: Definition and Differences

Updated November 8, 2022

Client-side and server-side are two important concepts that are used in computer programming, such as with software and website development. They have different usages, definitions, and programming languages that make them important parts of the programming process. By gaining a better understanding of the terms client-side vs. server-side, you can perform your responsibilities more effectively. In this article, we explore what client-side and server-side mean and discuss the main differences between the two terms.

Related: Comparing Front End vs. Back End (With Definitions)

What is client-side vs. server-side development?

Client-side vs. server-side development are two types of development that run on different platforms and have different purposes and programming languages. Software and website developers use these two concepts to create various applications, websites, and programs that function correctly and provide clients or users with a seamless experience. Here are the definitions of these two terms:

What is client-side development?

Client-side development involves the operations and programs that run on the customer or user's device, such as a computer or mobile device. Developers focus on creating seamless and positive user experiences when customers or users interact with the application or website. These components include anything that the customer or user sees on the website or application. Some developers also refer to client-side development as front-end development. Components that a client-side or front end developer focuses on include:

  • Website layouts: Website layouts are the formats that determine the arrangement of visual elements on an application or website. The main parts of a layout include the header and menu, the images, the website content, and the footer.

  • User interfaces: User interfaces determine how a user interacts with a website or application at different access points. The three user interface formats are graphical user interfaces, voice-controlled interfaces, and gesture-based interfaces.

  • Form validations: Form validation processes verify whether the users input correct information into any mandatory fields on the website or application. Types of form validation information include usernames, first and last names, telephone numbers, postal codes, addresses, and e-mail addresses.

  • Visual elements: Visual elements on a website or application include images, colours, and fonts that users see. It determines the appearance of the website or application and helps users locate and understand information.

Related: What Is a Client-Server Model? (With Functions and Benefits)

Programming languages for client-side development

Web, user interface, and user experience designers use specific programming languages to perform their responsibilities and create front end experiences for users. Here are some languages you might use as a front end developer:

  • HTML: Hypertext Markup Language is the standard markup language for documents displayed in a web browser. Developers often use HTML to build the structure of a website and render it in a browser.

  • CSS: CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets and is used to add visual design elements to a website or application created in HTML. This includes the colours, fonts, and layouts of the website or application.

  • JavaScript: JavaScript is a scripting language that developers use for web development and applications within a website. It creates the interactive elements that engages the users and makes the website or application more dynamic.

  • VBScript: Visual Basic Script is a general purpose programming language that developers can use to make dynamic web pages.

Related: Web Designer vs. Web Developer: Definitions and Differences

What is server-side development?

Server-side development is a type of development that involves the programs that run on a server. Some programmers also refer to this type of development as back end development. As a server-side developer, you focus on ensuring the programs and operations run correctly on the backend in order to provide users with an accurate browsing experience. Server-side development is important for websites and applications because browsers interact with the servers to retrieve information. Here are some tasks that a server-side developer might focus on:

  • Coding dynamic websites: Backend developers code websites and applications that provide various interactions and purposes for users. The websites or applications rely on code to operate, display on search engines, and load quickly for visitors.

  • Developing web applications: Many websites have various applications that are on remote servers and get delivered to the users' browsers or devices. Web applications are interactive programs that perform specific tasks and provide data to the developers, such as user browsing patterns.

  • Connecting websites to databases: Developers design websites and applications to communicate with specific database servers to execute statements and operations that perform various tasks on a user's browser or device.

Related: Computer Programming vs. Computer Science (With Duties)

Programming languages for server-side development

Software developers use many programming languages to create dynamic and intuitive backend functions that allow the websites and applications to retrieve and display information and data. Here are some of the languages you might use for server-side development:

  • Java: Java is an object-oriented programming language that developers can run without considering the underlying computer's architecture. It's one of the most widely used server-side programming languages, such as for software and application development.

  • Python: Python is a general-purpose programming language that's often used for building websites, applications, and operating systems. Developers can also use Python to design task automation and conduct data analysis.

  • SQL: Structured Query Language is a programming language that developers use to communicate with a database. Developers use SQL statements to update data or retrieve information from a relational database.

  • PHP: PHP stands for hypertext preprocessor and is an open-source scripting language for creating websites and applications. It's easy for developers to add functionality to web pages as you can embed PHP into HTML.

Differences between client-side vs. server side

Client-side and server-side development are both terms in programming that shows where the code runs in a website or application. Both these types of programming are important to ensure users have a dynamic and intuitive experience with a website or application. Some developers might know both client-side and server-side development processes, while others might specialize in front-end or back-end development only. Here are some of the differences between the two types of development:

Where the code runs

One of the main differences between client-side and server-side development is where the code runs. Client-side development refers to front-end development, which means the code runs on the user's device, such as their computer or mobile device. It includes all the visual components that the user sees, such as the colours, fonts, images, forms, animations, graphs, and tables. These components provide a dynamic, engaging, and intuitive user experience. These components also help users locate, read, and understand important information, so they can effectively browse the website or application.

Server-side development occurs in the back end and users don't see the operations and programs that run on the server side. Instead of running through the user's device, the code runs through the back-end servers. Back-end developers focus on all the elements that users can't see on the website or application. These elements are crucial for the website's performance and to help ensure users can access the correct information and developers have access to user data.

Related: What Is Source Code? (Definition, Uses, and Examples)


In client-side development, the scripts run on the user's device, such as their computer or mobile device. Alternatively, server-side development scripts run on a web server. These two types of development also use different scripting languages to create the components on the front end and back end of a website or application. For client-side development, developers often use JavaScript, HTML, or CSS to code the front-end components. Server-side developers often use PHP, Python, and Java to code the back-end applications and processes to retrieve data.


Client-side development and server-side development have different purposes on a website or application. Client-side development focuses on creating visual effects of a website, such as layouts, user interfaces, form validations, colours, and fonts. These visual effects provide a better user experience for visitors and make the website or application more intuitive to use. Server-side development focuses on the content of a website or application. It also completes tasks like interacting with databases and retrieving information from web servers.

Collecting vs. processing user input

Another difference between client-side development and server-side development is how they handle user input. Client-side development collects input directly from users, such as using web forms. Once the front end collects the user input, server-side development can start to process it by connecting a database to the website and sending the input to the database. Client-side development and server-side programs often work together to ensure user input gets collected and processed.

Levels of security

Client-side and server-side programs have different levels of security. Client-side programs are often less secure, as users can see and interact with the programs to complete different tasks. Server-side programs often have more security because users can't see or interact with the source code that connects and communicates from the web server to the databases.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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