What is Front-End Development? Necessary Web Development Job Skills Explained.

What is Front-End Development? Necessary Web Development Job Skills Explained.

What is Front-End Development? Necessary Web Development Job Skills Explained. Front-end development can include the engineering work done on mobile apps of desktop software. A front-end developer is someone who works on software, like desktop or mobile websites, that users interact with.

A front-end developer is someone who works on software, like desktop or mobile websites, that users interact with. Specifically, a front-end developer spends time on the side of technology that the user touches and sees.

The front end is also commonly referred to as the client side, or more broadly speaking, the user interface.

While many people use front end to describe website-related development, it can refer to any software that a user interacts with.

For the purpose of this article, let’s use a broader definition: front-end development can include the engineering work done on mobile apps of desktop software.

When I first learned about front-end development I heard a simple metaphor from a teacher that I have not forgotten.

I want to share this metaphor with you.

Front-end development is akin to building the buttons on an automated teller machine (ATM).

It goes without saying that the client side of an ATM is mission critical for withdrawing money.

But it is just one part of the process.

The back end of the ATM needs to store cash and properly account for withdrawals. The front end is what the user touches and interacts with when completing the transaction.

Taking this example back to the world of software, front-end engineers work in close collaboration with back-end engineers, designers, and product managers to design and build products holistically.

How so?

Let’s walk through a front-end developer's interaction with each stakeholder they will engage with when building a website or application.

Internal Stakeholders

Firstly, a front-end developer must work with back-end engineers who manage the servers, instances, databases, and storage that modern applications and sites run on.

Much of the work between front-end and back-end developers is what drives cloud computing, which is the on-demand delivery of IT resources over the internet.

Secondly, front-end developers interact frequently with designers. Designers are responsible for the look and feel of products.

A designer owns the color scheme, layout, and usability requirements.

Designers help bring style, aesthetic frameworks, and schemas to the forefront so that the front-end developer can bring all of these attributes together for end users.

Thirdly, a front-end engineer will have a relationship with the product manager, the stakeholder most responsible for thinking strategically about how to build and bring a product to market.

Product managers own the product experience, the profit and loss of a product, and launch and marketing guidelines.

If you want to explore the field of front-end development, you should be prepared to work in a dynamic and collaborative manner with other internal technical stakeholders to drive your product forward.

Necessary Technical Competencies for Front-End Development

In order to become a front-end developer, you not only need to understand the nature of the work (which I have attempted to demystify above). You also need technical skills.

To think about it formulaically, front-end development is about engaging other stakeholders + helping users + working with technology.

For example, nearly all websites are built with a combination of HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. If you are not familiar with these technologies, you will need to learn them.

Learning how to write these languages and how they interact with each other is imperative to being an effective front-end engineer.

While writing this piece I interviewed a close friend who is a product manager at a large technology company.

I asked him the following questions to provide you - the reader - with more guidance:

  1. What makes a great front-end developer?
  2. How does a front-end developer demonstrate ownership when building a product?

His answers are illuminating.

If you are applying for a job as a front-end engineer, or want to become a better front-end developer, you would be wise to incorporate his guidance into your work.

What makes a great front-end developer?

“A strong and effective front-end developer shows a determined focus and obsession on what users and customers need and want.

They start with the use-case of the customer and works backwards, working tirelessly to earn and maintain customer trust by building the front-end of products.

Strong front-end developers own their products and own solutions. They need to think medium to long term while delivering immediate product results.

A good front-end developer uses project tracking tools to track changes, demonstrate progress, and most importantly let their peers know why changes are being made and when.

A front-end developer knows what their job entails and stays in their lane.

Lastly, a strong front-end engineer strives to invent and simplify.

By bringing a spirit of innovation to work, this developer may suggest improvements to the product, back-end APIs, or other aspects of the technical stack that make the product more usable and more effective.”

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