Defining what a front-end developer is and what they do is tough as it is. So, how do we set the bar for what makes for a good front-end developer?
Here’s what a few folks have to say on the topic.
I’ll argue that front-end developers need to master four different skills.
Front-End Developers, having learnt HTML, CSS and JS, are forced to take functionality into account when creating user experiences or making sure that the two disciplines work as one from a development perspective. They become all-rounders, having to understand what is actually happening between the AJAX data and the PHP file that’s sending off a mail or returning errors.
In my opinion, what defines a good front-end developer is one that has skilled knowledge of HTML, CSS, JS with a vast understanding of User design thinking as they’ll be building web interfaces with accessibility in mind. They should also be excited to learn, as the world of Front-End Development keeps evolving. The ability to stay in the loop is critical.
After I started to feel more comfortable with my responsibilities … I soon found my next challenge: to help build a stronger connection between the design and development teams. Though we regularly collaborated to produce high-quality work, these teams didn’t always speak the same language.
I think that front-end developers need to have a holistic view of the architecture of the software that they and their team are creating. They can’t silo themselves on the Front-End, but need to have an appreciation for the complexities of the Back-End as well in order to create the best user experience for their customers. In the end, it’s about continual learning and team communication, as well as listening to the customer to create a great experience.
The longer I work on the web, the more I realize that what separates the good people from the really good people isn’t what they know; it’s how they think. Obviously knowledge is important—critical in some cases—but in a field that changes so quickly, how you go about acquiring that knowledge is always going to be more important (at least in the long term) than what you know at any given time. And perhaps most important of all: how you use that knowledge to solve everyday problems.
Having a working understanding of HTML, CSS and JS is certainly a no-brainer, but it’s only one part of the equation. I believe a good front-ender connects the dots between user experiences and business goals while closing any gaps that would prevent holistic user flows. That requires good communication, creative problem solving, empathy and, perhaps above all, an willingness to listen to and accept criticism.
It’s a difficult question in some ways because the nature of Front-end Development is constantly expanding. The types of things we build as front ends become increasingly complex and varied.
For that reason, I think a good Front-end Developer understands the scope, requirements, and technical restraints of the project they are currently working on. This can invariably mean: what their teams expect from them, what their users need, and because things are changing- curiosity!
I admire how good front-end developers answer questions. If they’re super dogmatic about this one particular approach to something being the only one true way then I start to worry. Take SVG illustrations. Or image optimization. Or how to markup navigation. There’s a lot of different ways to tackle each of those things and none of them are perfect. On this note, Chris wrote a wonderful post all about dogmatism a while back and I think about it all the time. That’s the mark of a great front-end developer right there: someone who’s okay with not having the perfect answers all the time.
A good front-end developer is flexible, eager to learn, eager to share and has a pragmatic approach to the ever-changing landscape
Oh yeah, and something something cascade.
What do you think?
This is an open conversation. No right answers. No wrong answers. How would you grade a “good” front-end developer?