Demand for front-end developers has been on the rise. This can be verified by looking at worldwide Google Trends for just the past five years. You can also go on job search sites like Indeed, and find thousands of listings for front-end development in big cities (take New York, for example).
This begs the question, what are front-end developers and what do they do? Simply put, a front-end developer is tasked with creating the “user-facing” portion of the website or application. This includes everything you interact with- buttons, forms, graphics, menus, tables, etc.
What Is A Front End Developer? What Do They Do?
As I mentioned earlier, a front-end developer is tasked with designing and implementing the “front end” of an application or website. But first, let me explain what the term frontend actually means. For the purpose of this example, let’s consider a simple e-commerce site.
Let’s say you have a website for a national chain of convenience stores. You can visit their website, create an account, enter your location, and see all available stores nearby. After that, you can browse the inventory and see the details for each individual item- price, photos, delivery time, etc.
All of this is delivered to your device through two separate layers- the front end and the back end. The front end contains the graphical interface that you interact with. This includes the webpage, buttons, menus, notifications, photos, etc.
But in order to deliver that front end to your computer/ phone browser, a server is needed. Everything that goes on the server side is the backend, and you as the end user can’t see any of it. Whenever you place a log-in request after entering your data, the front end sends that information to the server for comparison with a database.
When you click on an item to see details, the latest data is sent to the front from the server. Then, it updates the values in the necessary fields within your webpage. The front end contains all the logic for what to do when the user engages with a certain event (like pressing a button).
But how this data is acquired and processed will depend on the backend code in the server. In layman’s terms, everything on a website that you can visually see and interact with is considered the “frontend”. And since your device is a client, frontend services are sometimes referred to as “client-side” services.
However, the terms aren’t fully interchangeable as client-side could mean code that runs in your browser’s JVM. But you don’t necessarily see that process or interact with it. Any service that you can personally see and interact with from your end, is definitively a frontend service.
What Skills Does A Front-End Developer Need?
First is HTML, or Hypertext Markup Language. This isn’t a programming language, but markup. Basically, it encapsulates information and tells the browser how to display it.
Every page consists of a heading, body, text, images, etc. HTML helps the browser create tags for each of these elements, organizing them in a tree-like format. This is called the Document Object Model, or DOM.
And within these “nodes” of the tree, there is information- text, pages, headings, scripts, etc. The styling of this information is decided by a language called Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). CSS provides the spacing, font, color, animations, etc.
Becoming a front-end developer requires a decent understanding of these three basic languages. But that’s only the start. Modern development requires you to be proficient with libraries and frameworks. Like React, Angular, Vue, etc.
In addition, you must also have experience working with RESTful services and APIs, if you plan to work with web services. If you’re going to develop apps for mobile devices, you should be familiar with responsive and mobile design (as well as mobile frameworks). Finally, you must know how to work with Content Manage Systems like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc.
Is Front-End Development A Good Career?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall demand for web developers and digital designers is expected to grow 23% between 2021 and 2031. Combine this with the fact that the average frontend developer in the U.S. earns $102K, and you can see that is quite a lucrative career. At least from a demand and earnings standpoint.
There is an ever-increasing demand for online services and a shift towards a virtual reality augmented world. Hence, we can expect an increase in job openings for front-end developers. People who will design and maintain the interfaces needed for apps and services we use in our daily lives.
For someone with an interest in developing interactive visual interfaces, front-end development is a great career path. Here, you create products that people interact with directly, unlike a backend developer. It is a field where you can leverage your creativity and problem-solving.
Does Front-End Development Require Coding?
Is Front-End Development Hard?
In addition, you will have to stay updated on the latest advancements in front-end frameworks. Different companies require different skill sets, depending on your job and the project you’re working on. And since mobile devices are extremely popular, you must also know how to implement an app or website on phones/ tablets.
Creating a website that works across all popular browsers will also take quite a bit of first-hand experience since each browser has its quirks. The adherence to global standards by modern libraries and web browsers has somewhat mitigated the compatibility issues compared to old browsers. But it’s still something you have to contend with.
Finally, you might have to work with graphic design and code editing tools. You will also have to do lots of testing, maintenance, and debugging- often considered tedious and boring tasks. But that’s just the reality of development in general, and not exclusive to frontend development.
In summary, being a front-end developer isn’t the easiest job. But it is far from the hardest thing out there. You will find many developers who claim that backend development is harder because it’s a less “visual” task and involves more languages with lots more coding.
Do Front-End Developers Need To Know Design?
This will depend on the particular subset of front-end development that you’re working in. If you’re a UI/ UX designer, then yes- you’ll obviously have to be good with design and graphic tools. However, not every front-end developer does design.
A lot of your work will be with HTML, CSS, etc., and you will have separate guys for the UI/ UX design. However, a rudimentary understanding of UI is needed if you’re working with tools like Bootstrap. You have to understand design concepts, and how to apply them in your website/ app (even though you don’t actually create the UI).
If you’re the web designer doing all the buttons, menus, graphics, etc. you’ll have to work with software like Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator. Product designers deal with these tasks. They create a functional design that is both human-friendly and representative of the brand.
5 Front End Project Examples
Build Your Own Portfolio Site
This is a project that requires basic skills but is difficult to implement unless you’ve got a clear vision of what your brand should look like. When you create a portfolio, not only are you showcasing your previous work, but you’re also projecting an image of who you are. The page itself should be reflective of your skills in the various fields of web development.
URL Shortening Page
Using React, you can build a simple quiz app with four multiple-choice options for each question. This will teach you how to work with complex state objects and create UIs. Check out this free quiz app guide.
Rock, Paper, Scissors Game