Building a product from the ground up is exciting and challenging. If you are an early-stage tech startup, no matter the technology you are building, hiring strong engineering professionals is crucial for your survival.

Even if you have a brilliant idea, it will only work with the right people on board. So, you have to find developers for your startup that help you in your successful product development process. If you ask startup owners, most of them will tell you that raising finance comes easier to them than finding great software developers.

Having a brilliant idea in your hands but not aware of hiring the right developers to build your idea can impact your product development journey. You know that, and that’s why you’re here.

Well, a full-stack developer is an all-rounder, and a specialist developer is a master in his trade. Both prove to be extremely useful in different scenarios, therefore we cannot directly answer that full-stack developers are the best or developers falling under the specialised category are the best. You will be able to find out the answer only after analysing the nature of your project.

At Neoito, I am surrounded with expert developers and I have seen a lot of founders ask them the difference between both the developers. To pick the right developers for your projects, understanding the difference between them is mandatory. Therefore, I will try to give you a clearer picture by telling you the curated specifications about the full-stack and specialist developers.

So, in this article, I am going to explain:

  1. The difference between Full-stack developers and Specialist developers
  2. The skillset of a Full-stack vs. Front-end developer/ Back-end developer (Specialist developer)
  3. When to hire a Full-stack developer for your business?
  4. When to hire a team of specialist developers for your business?

Before going into that, let me tell you an app creation goes through several stages, in which following specialists are usually involved:

  • UI/UX designers who create layout of the future product
  • Front-end developers who turn the design into code
  • Back-end developers who are responsible for writing the code on the server side

Now, read on to understand:

The difference between Full-stack developers and Specialist developers

When we talk about full-stack developers, they are people who know multiple technologies and languages. They are well-versed and experienced in numerous areas like:

  • Front-End Development (Angular, Node.js, React, Vue.js)
  • Back-End development
  • Markup languages (CSS, HTML)
  • Databases (MySQL, Firebase, MongoDB, PosterSQL)
  • Software testing
  • Scalability, architecture, and the roadmap of the project.

And talking about specialist developers, these people are experts in either Front-End or Back-End development. A specialist developer will be your go-to guy for a particular subject such as design, database design, domain modelling, and entity framework.

The skillset of a Full-stack vs. Front-end developer/ Back-end developer (Specialist developer)

So, now you know the basic difference between full-stack developers and specialist developers. Now we will discuss the skillsets of each developer.

Front-End Development

A developer who specialises in Front-End development uses Front-End technologies like React, Angular, Vue, NextJS, etc., for creating the visual appearance of the application. So, when you consider the look and feel of the application, a specialised front-end developer can do better than a full-stack developer. Front-end developers handle UI and UX. UX deals with the purpose and functionality of the product. UI deals with the quality of the interaction that the end-user has with the product. They need not be aware of how things work in the back end (they will have a high-level idea of what happens in the back-end, but they won't become a full-stack developer). They are often assisted by back-end developers, who are responsible for server-side application integration and logic.

A full-stack developer uses similar front-end technologies to design the visual look of the application. But they lack expertise like a specialised developer. They always stay up to date with the latest back-end technologies because they also have to work on the app’s back-end development.

So, if you hire an experienced full-stack developer, you usually get user-friendly app designs as they know front-end and back-end development.

Back-end development

Back-end developers work hand-in-hand with front-end developers by giving the outward-facing web application elements server-side logic. Back-end developers also work with software stacks that include operating systems, frameworks, web servers, languages, programming APIs, and more.

Back-end developers create the logic to make the web app function properly. They achieve it by using technologies like NodeJS, Django, Flask, etc. Aside from making web applications functional, these developers are responsible for optimising the application for speed and efficiency. Also, they use various databases like MongoDB, My SQL, etc., to create a data storage solution to store data like users, comments, and more; it is a vital component for all web applications. To build your application, hiring a reliable back-end developer is crucial as he/she is also liable to keep the application secure.      

Here, considering a full-stack developer is not a wrong choice. Though a full-stack developer has a generalised knowledge in both front-end and back-end development, they will do both development simultaneously. But they won’t give much attention to the performance aspect of API or DB queries. Hiring developers who specialise in the front-end or back-end can deal with that issue and complete the project on time.

Knowledge

A specialist developer is specially trained and has extensive experience in a particular technology. Whether you hire a front-end developer or a back-end developer based on your requirements, both are efficient with their technologies.

On the other hand, a full-stack developer will allow you to work with developers that have high experience with front-end and back-end technologies. A full-stack developer is different from a specialist developer as their knowledge is not limited to a particular language or technology.

So, above, we have discussed the skills of both developers in general. However, if you still find difficulty making the right decision, let me help you by highlighting their pros and cons separately. Let us have a look at them.

Pros and Cons of Full-stack Developers and Specialist developers

Pros of Full-stack developers

  • Quick learners: Full-stack developers are fast learners, and they grasp new concepts quickly. They can be trained easily on new ideas.
  • Project handling: Full-stack developers are highly versatile and dynamic. They are familiar with all the stages of development, so they can quickly identify and fix the issues with a product.
  • Cost-effective: You can hire a full-stack developer to perform the same task performed by four specialist developers. It helps you to accomplish the project with a small team, thereby reducing the hiring costs. Also, if you have a limited budget or resources, you can hire a full-stack developer as he/she can fulfill your project’s both front-end and back-end requirements.
  • Flexibility: A specialist developer works either on the front-end or the back-end of an application. But hiring a full-stack developer brings you flexibility as they work on both the front-end and back-end. He/she can switch between tasks and eliminate the need to conduct frequent meetings between front-end and back-end developers. A full-stack developer can handle the entire project single-handedly while providing more flexibility.

Cons of Full-stack developers

  • Time management issues: Many companies hire one or two full-stack developers to complete their projects. It causes a risk in time management due to higher workload and lack of collaboration. Several tasks remain unsolved when these developers keep on working on new tasks.
  • Difficulty in tracking the project: Full-stack developers work on huge chunks instead of breaking a project into smaller tasks. It makes it difficult to track and identify the completeness of the project.
  • Minimal benefits of technological advancements: Full-stack developers have sufficient knowledge in several domains, but they are masters of none. As a result, they sometimes fail to keep up with the latest trends and technological advancements of a specific domain.
  • Availability: A software company should be careful of entirely depending on a single or handful of full-stack developers. If the full-stack developer with a high dependency quits the company, it can affect the project flow. Since a full-stack developer handles huge chunks of a project, it can be challenging for the company to handle the project in the middle, and it can be tough to replace the resource.

Pros of specialist developers

  • Focus on quality: Since the developers are experts in their particular technology, you can expect quality work from them. The output from them is generally superior compared to that of full-stack developers.
  • Stay updated in their respective domains: These developers will stay updated in their respective fields and want to increase their knowledge. They have sufficient knowledge in their areas of specialisation, and due to that, it is easy for them to remain updated with the latest technologies.
  • Easy allocation of responsibilities: With specialist developers, the distribution of work and duties are easy. The project can be divided into smaller tasks and can allocate to the specialist developers.

Cons of specialist developers

  • Can be costly: It can be expensive to hire specialist developers compared to a full-stack developer. It is because you can replace two or more specialist developers with a full-stack developer. So, hiring a specialist developer is considered as costly. However, for complex projects, specialist developers are necessary.
  • More dependency: A specialist developer has a greater dependence on other team members. They are masters in a specific domain, so they cannot handle the entire project independently. Sometimes this higher dependency can delay the development process.
  • Coordination: It is important to schedule meetings and discussions to ensure coordination between various team members involved in the project.  

Now the pros and cons of both the developers are clear for you. Even so, you might be in the dilemma of hiring a specialist developer or a full-stack developer for your business. To help you get a clearer picture, I am going to list out specific criteria:

When to hire a Full-stack developer for your business?

  • Minor projects with less complexity: If your project size is small to medium with fewer complexities, it is good to hire a full-stack developer. He/she can cover a wide range of technologies, switch between the tasks, and meet the expectations.
  • Limited budget: For enterprises with a limited budget, hiring a full-stack-developer is an ideal choice. If you can’t afford many specialist developers, you can hire a full-stack developer to help you get positive outcomes.
  • Small businesses/Startups: If you are an early-stage startup or small business, you can significantly benefit from full-stack developers. Startups have time and budgetary constraints; if you consider these aspects, full-stack developers can be highly beneficial.
  • Time constraints: If you have to complete a project within a short period, you can hire a full-stack developer to ease the process. Their expertise in various areas and the ability to switch between tasks help you to complete the project in a short time frame.

These are the only cases you should consider hiring a full-stack developer; other than that, it is always better to hire specialist developers.

When to hire a specialist developer for your business?

  • Major projects: If your project is large and long-term, you should hire specialist developers. So, the projects can be divided into small tasks and can be completed in an organised way.
  • High-complexity projects: High-complex projects need in-depth knowledge and expertise. These specialist developers can leverage their experience and expertise to manage complicated tasks.
  • Project quality: If project quality is your priority, then you have to hire a specialist developer.

Conclusion

In short, both developers can work wonders in different situations. Deciding to hire a full-stack developer or a specialist developer depends upon your requirements and expectations. However, for startups and small enterprises, hiring full-stack developers is an ideal option. For complex projects that require top-notch solutions, specialist developers are suitable and essential.

As we discussed earlier, both developers have their pros and cons. So, if you are still in two minds to choose between the two, or if you want to avoid the risks of hiring and maintaining them. The best option I would suggest is to hire any of the reliable tech outsourcing companies like Neoito that already has a team of seasoned full-stack and specialist developers.

We have experience managing several projects and can help you avoid the stress of hiring the right members for your project. We successfully develop your product as per your requirements with minimal supervision because we know how to do that with quality. As we also have the experience of hiring the right people for different projects, we can guide you and help you create a differentiator.