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What Is a Front End Developer? Everything You Need to Know
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AnnaMarie Houlis,
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Journalist & travel blogger
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In short, a frontend developer makes websites and applications work for users. Of course, it's far more nuanced and complicated than that.

Here's exactly what a frontend developer does — and how to land a job doing it yourself.

What Is a Frontend Developer?

What is the role of a front-end developer? Ultimately, frontend developer writes code to make the user interface of a website or application function.

"Front-end web development, also known as client-side development is the practice of producing HTML, CSS and JavaScript for a website or web application so that a user can see and interact with them directly," according to Frontend Masters. "The challenge associated with front end development is that the tools and techniques used to create the front end of a website change constantly and so the developer needs to constantly be aware of how the field is developing."

All in all, a frontend developer's objective is to ensure that visitors have a seamless experience using a website or application — it should be easy to read, digest and operate. Of course, because we use a variety of (and increasing number of) devices, frontend developers need to stay abreast of innovations and make sure that their work transcends devices. On top of devices, sites and applications should load correctly across different browsers and operating systems, as well.

In an article for Medium, frontend developer Oscar Godson explained a day in his life:

"I walk to work, plug my laptop into my external monitor, fill up a glass of water, and open up Chrome, Twitter for Mac, Textual (IRC), and log in to the VPN," he wrote. "I glance through a dozen or so tweets, and then go to GitHub and our private GitHub Enterprise app. GitHub allows us to share our code between each other and provides a place to keep track of bugs. I read through all the bug tickets, pull requests (a way to send changes to a someone without saving them to your main codebase. Allows for someone to review your changes and if they look good to be included in the main code base), and comments on code changes... Once I’m done reading through all that I get my development environment setup. I open Vim and start up our Ruby app."

But not every day is a "code day." 

"Many people go to a lot of conferences," Godson explained. "Things like NodeConf, Fluent, JSConf, OSCON and others are really popular and you can meet other programmers. There’s also local meetups for all kinds of things. Everything from general front-end or specific things like jQuery to building and controlling robots. You always have ways of learning new things from new people in all kinds of ways. This is pretty awesome and something many other career fields don’t have."

According to Upwork, a front-end web developer’s job description might include services such as:

  • Tailoring user experience
  • Bringing a designer’s concept to life with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Production, modification, and maintenance of websites and web application user interfaces
  • Creating tools that enhance how users see and interact with your site in any browser
  • Implementing responsive design for mobile sites
  • Contributing some back-end experience, collaborating on APIs, and more
  • Maintaining software workflow management with a project management tool like GitHub and task runners like Grunt and Gulp
  • Consulting on SEO best practices
  • Testing the site during development for usability and fixing any bugs

What salary can you expect as a frontend developer? An experienced front end developer, which includes employees with 10 to 20 years of experience, can expect to earn an average total compensation of $87,000. based on 397 salaries.

What Is Difference Between Frontend and Backend Developers?

While a frontend developer takes care of the visual part of the website and how it all operates (this includes everything you see when you're navigating the internet, from fonts and colors to dropdown menus, sliders and more), backend developers handle the data logistics of a platform. 

How Do You Become a Frontend Developer?

Frontend developers need to possess a ton of technical skills to be able to perform their jobs well. So what skills do you need to become a frontend developer? According to SkillCrush, a frontend developer should possess at least knowledge of HTML, CSS, JavaScript.

Let's break down the languages a frontend developer should understand.

  • JavaScript: "With its frameworks and libraries, it’s the core of front-end development, and beyond," according to SkillCrush. "It was the first client-side language and is still the most ubiquitous client-side script on the web."
  • HTML5: "HTML dictates a site’s organization and content, all interaction aside, so it’s something every front-end developer needs to know," SkillCrush explains. "HTML elements can annotate footers, headers, how text displays, how media and images appear, and more."
  • CSS3: "The latest standard for cascading style sheets (CSS), CSS3 is broken into modules and comprises the code for every graphic element—from backgrounds to font—that make up the look and feel of a website," according to SkillCrush.

They should also know version control software, like open source stalwart Git, "a tool you’ll use to track those changes so you can go back to a previous version of your work and find out what went wrong without tearing the whole thing down."

They should have extensive knowledge in creating responsive designs, testing and debugging, as well as using, building and automating browsing tools.

"Carrying out these tasks that lead to better web performance can be another front end time-sink, but that’s where building and automation tools come in — programs like Grunt and gulp can be used to automate image optimization, CSS and JS minifying, and other web performance chores," according to SkillCrush. "In the ongoing quest for efficiency, it’ll be in your interest to get familiar with them."

So how to find a job as a frontend developer? Fortunately, you're spoiled for choice when it comes to job board websites boasting web developer openings. While you can use mainstream sites, you'll have tailored opportunities if you use job boards and resources with job listings like the following:

You might be wondering: What kind of companies need this job? Typically, any company that uses a website or application to share information needs a developer. So, luckily, these jobs are in demand.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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