There is a lot of confusion around what a front-end web developer does. Our goal in this post is to not only answer that question, but also to give you a number of key skills that any front-end developer needs in order to be successful.
Have you ever looked at a website that was beautifully designed and executed, and wondered, “how in the world do they do that?”
The answer is that behind every great site are many talented and hardworking people. One of these key players is a front-end web developer, who takes the raw content from the designer and turns it into a fully functioning web page.
In this blog post, we’ll answer the question “what does a front end developer do?”
Who is a front-end developer?
At the most basic level, a front-end web developer is a person who writes code for the user interface or UI of a website. They are also responsible for coding pages, and styling information such as fonts, colors, and other visual design elements. This includes what you see when you visit any given site – things like buttons, text, and menus.
What does this mean?
A front-end web developer’s job is to turn the designs that a web designer has come up with into an actual readable website that everyone can use.
This gives them a lot of influence over how the site looks and feels which makes them a key player in the development of app or sites
For the User: The activities of the front-end developer affect how a user interacts with the website, and what they see on it.
For the Business: Companies need to hire front end developers to make their websites enjoyable for users, keep up with website trends, meet WCAG standards and prompt more website visitors to convert into customers.
Front-end web developer Vs. Back-end web developer: Difference and relationship
Before we proceed further, it is important to know the difference between front-end and back-end web developers. The best way to do this would be by understanding their responsibilities and roles.
Back-end web developers:
They are responsible for the data and logic behind a website. These programmers develop the back-end or server side programming, which includes databases and networks that allow for the storage of data in a website’s backend. In other words, they design how information is stored, retrieved and used by an application or system.
Front-end web developers
Front-end web developers, on the other hand, are usually in charge of the appearance of a website that is displayed on your screen.
In some cases, a single person may be capable of carrying out both roles (Full-stack developers).
Both these roles are critical for ensuring that a web app works as desired and the user experience is first-rate. The back-end web developer will need the front-end web developer to provide them with a prototype of how they want the app to work. This will make it easier for the back-end developer to code and ensure that the front-end is perfect.
The front-end web developer does not need to know anything about the back-end programming and vice versa. This is a type of relationship where the two parties work together to complete their separate tasks while building up on each other’s work.
Tasks of front-end web developers – what they can do
They are the ones who bring your ideas to life.
In reality, the role of a frontend web developer differ depending on the company they work for, but in general it can be said that they can do the following:
- Developing your page layout and prototype; from sketching the ideas, creating prototypes with wireframes and finally creating the final page design
- Create animations, graphics, or any other interactive elements for web pages
- Developing a site’s look, feel, navigation: choosing the color scheme, choosing fonts and handling text size
- They also create clickable wireframes and prototypes to test with users
- Debug and troubleshoot bugs
- Ensuring the site is accessible to visitors with disabilities
- Redesign and build new pages
- Split testing to find the most effective versions of a web page
- Optimizing a website for search engines and making sure it’s mobile friendly.
This list of responsibilities is not exhaustive, but it does give a good overview of what the front end developer role entails.
Skills that makes a good front-end web developer
- Proficiency using front-end programming languages such as HTML, CSS
- Knowledge of design frameworks such as Bootstrap and Foundation
- Ability to work with content management systems and CMS tools
- Basic understanding of server side languages like PHP, Python or Ruby.
Front-end web developers also have a lot of other skills that they can bring to the table. Such as:
- Experience with image editing and optimization tools like GIMP or Photoshop
- Understanding of SEO principles
- User interface design and UX principles.
- Knowledge of web accessibility standards such as WCAG, AA or WAI
- Excellent communication skills.
- Knows how to make a website responsive across multiple devices and screen sizes.
But what does that mean in practice?
If you’re not a developer, then it’s hard to tell. Usually the HTML is written using a templating system, like Twig with WordPress.
CSS is written to style the HTML elements – for example, to make the text bigger or smaller when you hover over it.
Design tools like Photoshop or Sketch are used to create the visuals like images, icons and illustrations.
While other languages like Python or Ruby might be used to interact with a database. For instance, to show a list of recent blog posts on the home page.
How to tell if you need a front-end web developer
Also, if your site is not responsive, you need a front-end web developer. Responsive design is the new paradigm of how sites should look on different devices like desktops, tablets and phones.
How to tell if your site is non-responsive:
- It doesn’t work on your phone
- Mouse and keyboard controls are different from mobile devices
- The page only fits in the screen with scrolling
- The page is zoomed in or out on a browser
If you can check off any of these, then your site needs a front-end web developer.