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First, unless anyone has better definitions, let's define "back end" and "front end" according to their usage here: Is it common to separate back-end and front-end into two positions on web development projects?.

How common is it to find programmers exclusively assigned to back end or front end roles on a team? What's the scope of their responsibilities?

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Pigeonholing specific types of development to specific developers goes against everything Agile stands for. If you are trying to move to Agile development then this is not a good idea.

All of your developers should be able to be given any development task and they should be able to complete this task (not necessarily as fast as others though). Certainly some developers have skills in Front-End or Back-End development, and it is wise to utilize the teams strengths, however I would try to keep them involved in work that others are doing on the team as well.

All too often what you see in large development shops with developers who are strictly "backend" or "frontend" is that they are:

  • Complacent, grew comfortable doing the same thing over and over again.

  • No interest in learning new technologies or skills, goes hand in hand with complacency.

  • General lack of skill, They are just all around horrible developers who honestly shouldn't hold the title. The role they play sometimes is just the one they do the least damage in and management is just trying to hide the guy somewhere where he won't affect the project too poorly.

And while I have worked with some incredibly smart developers with 20+ years experience who have taught me so much... it seems the majority of them have at least two out of three of the above negative qualities. Perhaps these highly senior developers are just relics from the Dot Com bubble when it was easy to become a "developer"?

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In theory, the answers from question you quoted already answer your question. In a startup, it's a bad idea to have an ASP.NET developer who works only on the back end. In a large company, it can be suggested to have a dedicated developer for every task according to the skills of every person.

In practice, I never saw an ASP.NET developer working only on a back end, even on websites large enough. Also (but this is just my personal opinion), ASP.NET does a really bad job when it comes to separating work among people: it's difficult to have a dedicated C# developer and a dedicated HTML/CSS programmer; it's difficult to strictly separate a project into a front-end and a back-end.

Of course, things change when it comes to very large websites. Not only because you can't develop the whole website alone in a reasonable amount of time, but also because you'll lack the required skills or the knowledge of the overall project requirements.

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