What Does a Front-End Developer Do?
It’s hard to imagine any successful business that doesn’t have a strong digital presence. From your favorite fashion brand to your food delivery service of choice. No matter what the industry, a stunning, easy-to-use, on-brand website plays a pivotal role in connecting and selling to customers.
Talented front-end developers are responsible for everything you see and interact with online. They create sites and web apps that millions of people use every single day.
It comes as no surprise that a career in front-end development offers some serious job security. The role is highly sought-after and aspiring developers can expect a lucrative compensation package.
If you want to learn more about what a front-end professional does, read on. Let’s start by exploring the difference between front-end and back-end web development.
Front-End vs Back-End Developers
Back-end developers (sometimes called server-side developers) are responsible for site functionality and background processes. They’re technical professionals and masters of data and coding. PHP, Java, Python, SQL, and database design are common skills needed to become a back-end developer.
Responsibilities of a Front-End Developer
Front-end development is a varied role that covers the user-facing aspects of a site. Here’s a list of some of the responsibilities you can expect:
- Use navigation buttons, breadcrumbs, and menus to create user interfaces.
- Brainstorm initial site ideas and bring them to life with HTML.
- Use cascading style sheets (CSS) to create consistent on-brand designs.
- Understand popular content management systems like WordPress.
- Track site performance using analytics tools.
- Build responsive designs that work great on all devices.
- Have a solid understanding of search engine optimization (SEO).
- Develop and enhance the user experience.
The actual responsibilities you’ll have as a front-end developer will vary depending on the specific industry you’re working in and the size of the company.
Front-End Development Skills
If you want to cut it in the front-end development world you’ll need to work hard and learn the necessary skills. Here’s a list of what you’ll need to focus on:
- HyperText Markup Language (HTML): HTML forms the fundamental building blocks of the web. To display basic elements like text, tables, images, links, and headings through a web browser you’ll use HTML.
- Cascading Style Sheets (CSS): CSS allows you to define consistent style rules throughout a site. You can use CSS to format HTML elements and change their appearance. CSS saves you valuable time as you can quickly change how a site looks without manually editing each HTML element.
- Responsive Design: Over the years, technology has changed the way people access the internet. In the early days, you needed a desktop with a standard internet connection. Next came laptops, but wireless internet was still in development and battery life was limited.
Smartphones, tablets, and 5G internet access has been a giant leap forward for mobile browsing. Today, the majority of people use mobile devices to access the web.
Responsive design is the process of dynamically changing the appearance of a website to match the user’s device. It has become increasingly important over the years as the number of different internet-ready devices has sky-rocketed.
- Cross-Browser Development: Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Opera are some examples of popular web browsers available today. While each browser converts HTML code into a visual website, there are sometimes inconsistencies in how they interpret the code. Front-end developers should learn the subtle differences that exist between browsers in order to maximize the user experience.
- CMS and E-Commerce Platforms: Content management systems allow front-end developers to quickly build and deploy websites. They take care of all the heavy lifting and under-the-hood functionality so developers can focus on content and design. WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and Magento are some examples of popular CMS platforms.
- Testing and Debugging: Understanding testing protocols and eliminating bugs are key development skills. Usually, two types of testing procedures are carried out.
Unit testing is where individual blocks of source code are tested for functionality.
UI testing (also called acceptance testing, browser testing, or functional testing) is where the behavior of the website is tested from the user’s perspective. Every user action is simulated and checked individually.
Once any errors have been identified, the debugging process can begin. This is where you’ll eliminate bugs and improve site performance.
- Git and Version Control Systems: Website development is an iterative process. Many changes and updates will take place over time. It’s extremely important to keep a record of these changes.
Code updates made during the development process can be tracked using version control systems. The advantage of using version control is if something goes wrong, you can revert to older versions to undo changes.
Git is one of the most popular version control systems used by front-end developers.
- SEO Knowledge: Search engine optimization is the process of improving the rank of a website in a search engine, for a specific search term. Front-end developers should be aware of basic on-page SEO principles when building sites.
Some important factors that search engine algorithms use include responsive design, original content, page load speed, keywords, title tags, and page descriptions.
- Creativity: Front-end development positions require more than just technical skills. You’ll need to understand business problems and come up with creative solutions. You’ll also need to think outside the box and develop ideas to stand-out in competitive markets.
- Collaboration: You’ll work closely with several different teams within the organization. The ability to collaborate and be a positive team player are essential skills required to become a front-end developer.
The product team will help you understand the overall roadmap, project requirements, and improvements. The design team will provide visuals and branding ideas. And the market research department will outline user requirements, competitors, and overall market potential.
- Communication: Your ability to communicate, persuade company stakeholders on ideas and present designs to customers will determine how successful you are as a front-end developer.
Technical skills can be acquired by studying. But having strong written and verbal communication skills takes time to develop. It’s a skill that’ll help you gain customer confidence and facilitate better team building.
Popular Tools Used by Front-End Developers
You’ll need to learn front-end tools and techniques to stand out in the crowded job market. Front-end developers work closely with graphic designers. Plenty of cross-over exists between the two roles so it’s also useful to learn the latest graphic design packages. This will help you understand the design process much better. Here are some important tools you’ll need to master:
- Adobe Photoshop: This is one of the most important tools for web designers. Photoshop allows you to edit images and create web graphics. Images can be broken down into several layers and each layer can be reworked to enhance the final output.
- Adobe Dreamweaver: This is a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) web developer tool. It allows front-end developers to create websites without being masters of HTML. The program has a drag-and-drop interface to help you position elements and create the required layout.
- InVision Studio: Before creating a website, it’s important to understand how the interface works. The most simple and effective way to achieve this is by prototyping. InVision studio makes the process hassle-free. It creates a replica of the website which you’re working on. This prototype then serves as a reference for the website that needs to be built.