Having an amazing user interface for your website has a lot to say about your business or career. We can think of a website as having two major components, i.e. the front-end and backend. Most users are simply familiar with the front-end of a website because that is what they see when they first open a web application. This simply means it has to be properly designed to give users the best experience possible.
Times have changed and front-end development has changed from simple HTML and CSS to more advanced technologies and tools. Professional front-end developers now make use of frameworks and libraries such as jQuery, React and Vue.js to make their work a lot easier. Let us take a deeper look at the world of front-end development, what it takes to become one, the job market and salary structure, the technologies involved, and the options available for becoming one.
What does a front-end web developer do?
Front-end developers work with back-end developers and other web designers to create websites and web applications. When people click on a website, the servers (backend) sends detail and information to their pc or mobile, which turns into the page they view. Front-end developers focus on the writing code and designing what the user sees when they open a webpage.
When we take a close look at front-end development, we realize that it focuses more on user experience or what most people simply call the client side. This simply means front-end developers create what the user can see and interact with. Let’s take a Google search as an example, a user simply opens their web browser and enter the URL address, which is www.google.com in this case.
Difference between front-end and backend web developer
Although there are front-end and back-end developers when it comes to web application development, these people need to work together to deliver a fully functional web application. As mentioned previously, front-end developers focus on what the user can see, such as web pages, forms, graphics etc.
It is highly important for web developers to take front-end performance into account when beginning work on a new or existing project. After all, you would hate to be penalized by the search engines for having a website that takes an excessive amount of time or simply refuses to load. Not to mention the reaction of your visitors who are forced to sit there and wait.
Unlike front-end developers, back-end developers focus more on the hidden functionalities of the application. This includes things such as database design and management, web server hosting, DevOps etc.
These developers make use of programming languages such as Python, PHP, Node.JS and GO. In terms of database management, back-end developers make use of tools such as MySQL, MongoDB, SQLite, and Postgres. A fully functional web application must have the input of both front-end and back-end developers – in some cases, there are full stack developers who make use of all the tools used by frontend and backend developers.
Why do we need good front-end developers?
As mentioned earlier, front-end developers are responsible for creating the user-facing part of a web application. This makes their job very important since they can easily determine if a user is going to come back to your website or not. There are several reasons why we need good front-end developers.
Opportunity for growth
Front-end development has a way of getting you more traffic and conversion on your website. It is relevant that you give your visitors reasons to always stay on your website, which means you must hire a good front-end developer to take care of everything for you. You can grow your existing business or personal website within the shortest possible time.
Hiring a good front-end developer can save you a lot of money in the long run. This is true because a properly designed website will help you save money that would otherwise be used in creating a good image for your business. Users can simply visit your website to get all the necessary information they need.
Job opportunities for front-end developers
Apart from the business-related benefits of becoming a front-end developer, there are personal benefits and one of the most important advantages is being able to get a high paying job in the IT industry. Getting a good job is one part of it, and being able to work from any location of your choice is another. Working as a freelance front-end developer gives you the chance to choose your clients and ask for the right fee, unlike working for someone.
What is the role of a front-end developer?
A lot of people don’t know the difference between a front-end developer and a web designer. A web designer main focus is how the website should look, such as colors, fonts, layout, etc. A front-end developer, however, makes things happen on the web page like:
- Fetch data from the back-end and display it on the page.
- Creating hover effects.
- Formatting data
The front-end developer also needs to work closely with the back-end developers. They need to coordinate what kind of data the back-end API should return and how the client and server should communicate.
What kind of education do you need to become a front-end developer?
It has been a long-standing myth that before you write code, you must be very good at math or some other science subjects such as physics. This is not true as becoming a front-end developer has very little to do with your math skills. It has more to do with logical thinking and problem-solving skills rather than math or science.
A front-end developer, just like any other programmer out there needs to have a creative mind, or at least willing to learn how to become creative. Logical reasoning is important because that is what will help you to come up with the ideal design for a web page or some application.
It is quite safe to say that you do not need some kind of formal education. If you already have this kind of education, that’s fine, but you do not have to spend money on studying computer science for years, just so you become a front-end developer. There are several options available to you, and that is what we are going to look at next.
What are your options to learn without formal education?
As mentioned earlier, you do not need any kind of formal education at college or university level to become a frontend developer. Although taking the Computer Science route is one way to go, this can be time consuming and expensive. Other options that are available to you without formal education include things such as training boot camps, self-study, and free or paid online courses.
When it comes to training boot camps, there are several options online; all you need to do is search. A few training providers are
How is the Job market for front-end developers?
The front-end developer job market keeps expanding every day, which is because most companies are turning to IT solutions providers to help them solve problems. Emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Internet of Things, Machine Learning and so much more are creating more jobs for front-end developers more than ever before.
In terms of the salary scale for front-end web developers, it is safe to say the salary is quite attractive, which makes the job market to keep growing every single day. Let us take a look at some popular companies in the United States, which are also located in some other parts of the world. Keep in mind that the money you make as a front-end developer depends on the value you bring to the marketplace, which means senior front-end developers make way more money than entry level or intermediate level developers in the industry.
Based on the information from Glassdoor, IBM, which is a technology giant, pays an average of $78,204 per year to front-end developers. This falls within the range of $42,000 as the lowest and $125,000 as the highest pay at the time of this writing.
Accenture, a global consulting is another popular IT company that has a global footprint in many countries. Front-end developers working for this company get paid an average of $95,246 per year, with the minimum and maximum pay of $60,000 and $130,000 respectively.
Overstock.com pays front-end developers an average of $88,750 per year. Front-end developers get the lowest pay of $50,000 and highest salary of $102,000 per year. As mentioned earlier, these salary figures depend on your level of experience as a front-end developer.
Note that working as a freelance front-end developer gives you the opportunity to negotiate prices, which depends on the scope of the project you are working on.
Is it possible to be a freelance front-end developer?
Yes, it is. Working as a front-end developer or any IT professional offers a lot of flexibility. One of such options is to work from any location of your choice. Front-end developers can decide to work from home by finding clients to work for. Although working remotely is one way to go for freelance front-end developers, you can also visit customer premises for meetings and other progress reports on projects.
It is possible to be a freelance front-end developer if you have all the right knowledge and tools required to succeed in the industry.
Having a steady Internet connection is a no-brainer because all your work will be done online. There are freelance job boards online such as freelancer.com, upwork.com, fiverr.com, and peopleperhour.com. You can start by visiting any of this websites to showcase your front-end development skills and get clients.
What skills should a freelance front-end web developer have?
There are important skills you need to learn when you opt for the freelance option. You need to master time management as a freelance front-end developer. This is because you are responsible for determining the duration of all your projects, and in most cases, projects are delivered with deadlines.
Another important skill you should have is sales and marketing, you don’t have to be a sales or marketing expert to thrive as a freelance front-end developer but you have to learn the basics to be able to get clients and sell your projects.
Just know that you are the HR, accounting, marketing, and most importantly technical department of your business.
To be the best freelance front-end developer, you need to have a problem-solving mindset, since most clients will just explain their problems to you, expecting you to come up with the solution as quickly as possible.
Languages and tools for front-end development
Becoming a good front-end developer has everything to do with your ability to make use of the right programming languages and tools. If you want to become an expert, you have to use what the experts are using to get things done. There are several tools and programming languages out there, and it is important that you know what to learn and what to ignore for front-end development.
In terms of programming languages, there are some basics you must understand before you can start creating web pages for the Internet. The first is Hypertext Mark-up Language, which is simply referred to as HTML. This is known as the programming language of the web, since it forms the basis of front-end development, as we know it. Once you fully understand how to make use of HTML to create web pages, the next thing you should consider is how to style what you have created.
This is where Cascaded-Style-Sheets CSS comes into the picture of front-end development. This is important to learn because it gives you the chance to make your web pages look beautiful.
An important tool for front-end developers or just about any programmer out there is Git. Being able to make use of the tool can save you a lot of time in sorting out your code. As a front-end developer you get to work with other developers on different projects, so being able to make use of Git can help you collaborate and share code even better.
What are front-end frameworks and should you learn it?
One advantage is that with a framework, your work becomes very easy. Using front-end development frameworks can greatly reduce the time spent on coding. This is true because these frameworks come with inbuilt tools that make your work easier. You can easily make use of components within a development framework, which should help you save time in coding. Let’s take a look at some common front-end development framework and some companies that implement them.
Angular is one of the popular front-end development frameworks, which is used by millions of developers out there. Using this framework gives you the opportunity to focus on building spectacular web applications. Ranging from prototypes through global deployment, it is safe to say that the Angular framework delivers the productivity and scalable infrastructure that supports Google’s largest applications.
How to become a good front-end developer and stand out from the crowd
There are many front-end developers out there, which makes it imperative that you stand out from the crowd. In order to do that, there are few things you have to put into consideration.
Learn on a regular basis
New technologies and frameworks for front-end development are created all the time. In order for you to stay ahead, you must be willing to learn on a regular basis. Keep in mind that most employers are more willing to hire front-end developers who can demonstrate the use of the latest technology.
Becoming a good front-end developer has everything to do with the projects you complete while working on your own. Working on side projects gives you the ability to master all kinds of technologies that are currently used by front-end developers in the industry. Working on side projects will also teach you how to collaborate with other front-end developers using tools such as Git. In addition to growing your development skills, you also get to show the projects to your potential clients or employers.
Tips on how to ace a job interview
Acing a job interview as a front-end web developer is not any different from other developer job interviews. There are many things that are commonly required by employers.
The first tip is to know what role you are interviewing for. This has to do with getting detailed information about the company and job description before the interview date.
It is important that you have a good profile online to show your interviewer in case they request for it. Keep in mind that interviewers are not interested in your social media profiles, rather they want to see the projects you have worked on in the past. So, make sure you have an updated profile on GitHub with all your recent and past projects.
A resume and cover letter might come in handy, so have both ready before the interview. Apart from specific questions related to front-end development, also prepare for generic questions such as tell us about yourself, why do you think you are the best fit for this role? What can you do for our company if we hire you?
You could be asked about any recent technical challenge you might have faced, be sure to keep your response simple and precise. An example response could be something like “I recently worked on a project where the back-end developer used a database tool I am not familiar with, I had to learn how to use the new tool in order to complete the project”.
Keep in mind the interviewer would also like to know about your future plans i.e. what new technologies do you want to learn etc. So, be sure to have a good response ready.
Recommended online training/resources
When it comes to getting the right kind of training to become a front-end developer, there are several options that are available. Online resources such as YouTube can offer you plenty of videos prepared by experts for free.
It is important to note that solely relying on websites such as YouTube means you have to try everything out for yourself. So, it means you must have all the development tools installed on your computer to practice, practice and practice.
Udemy is another training provider that offers paid courses on front-end development, which you can take at your convenience. One of the important skills to have as a front-end developer is your ability to share code with other developers online. GitHub is a good place for doing so and you get free Git training on Udacity.
Web application development is basically here to stay since new technologies keep coming up every single day. Becoming a full stack developer is somewhat unrealistic (but doable) since you dabble into so many things at the same time.
When you opt for the front-end developer option, your focus is going to be on user experience, since you are responsible for designing what the user sees when they first visit a website or open a web application.
If you are thinking of becoming a front-end developer, you shouldn’t be discouraged by the myths surrounding the job, such as math and science aptitudes, formal education, cost of training etc.
There are several options, as mentioned in this article on ways to prepare yourself to become the best front-end developer you can be. Leverage on free online courses offered by online training providers such as Udacity, Lynda and Udemy. Although some courses are not free, there are hundreds of free front-end developer courses available on the Internet today.
Once you have the right skill, remember to always work on projects to add to your online profile, which clients can see before hiring you. A good place to keep your code is GitHub, which is a free online repository for developers to showcase their projects and keep track of code changes. It also gives you the chance to collaborate with other front-end developers on projects. In terms of the front-end development framework to learn, you should consider learning the React framework, which is widely used by most companies in the IT industry.
Focus on getting the right skills required to become a front-end developer and not worry about how much you can make – the money comes when you have the right skill. This is because the market is great and the demand for front-end developers keeps growing every day.