What Is a Front End Web Developer?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 22, 2021 | Published February 25, 2020

Updated February 22, 2021

Published February 25, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When you visit a website, you probably expect it to, at minimum, function as expected. You want buttons to work, navigation to get you to the right page and payment to be secure. All of this and more is done by a team of developers, designers and quality control personnel working together to create an experience that will leave you, the user, feeling satisfied or even delighted. This article will focus on discussing the front-end developer's role in creating that stellar user experience you've come to expect from the sites you visit, as well as the specific tasks, challenges, necessary skills and traits of a front end developer.

What is a front-end web developer?

A front-end web developer is a coder who uses tools and languages like HTML, CSS and JavaScript to program front-end website designs, keeping navigation, layout and responsive design at the forefront of the design. This role is different than that of a web designer in that the designer produces the visual aesthetics of the site while the developer actually programs the design into the site, implementing the design as well as functionality. The main objectives of this role include:

  • Accessibility: Front-end web design needs to make sure that the site's content displays correctly on all device screens, regardless of screen size, and is accessible through as many access points as possible. This adaptability is known as responsiveness and can be achieved through the use of style sheets in the development of the site.

  • Performance: A site needs to perform competitively, meaning that the site loads as quickly as possible. This is done using specific snippets of coding to decrease render time and make sure the user can see the site in full with no waiting or buffering.

    Related: Learn About Being a Web Developer

What do front-end web developers do?

A front-end web developer uses coding languages to engineer and develop websites, programs and applications. This role is in charge of integrating design and functionality, ensuring the site/app/program performs as intended for every user while implementing a functioning aesthetic design for optimal user experience. This includes a logical layout, accessible content, functioning elements and an intuitive navigation menu.

Other responsibilities of a front-end web developer can include:

  • Prioritizing a consistently excellent user experience through the implementation of the website design using HTML, CSS and JavaScript

  • Maintaining the website

  • Optimizing UI with consideration of SEO best practices

  • Creating fully responsive tools to enhance UX, regardless of which browser is used to access it and what size screen being used

  • Testing and debugging the site

    Related: Learn About Being a Web Designer

Examples of skills that front-end web developers need

Front-end developers need to possess a distinct set of skills and personality traits in order to successfully integrate technology and design into a functioning responsive website. Some acquired skills necessary in this role include:

1. Coding languages

Front-end web developers implement web design using the following coding languages:

  • HTML: Developers use HTML to create the structure of the website. In short, the HTML code tells the browser how to display the site's content (font size, alignment and other formatting aspects).

  • CSS: CSS, or cascading style sheets, enables the proper presentation of the site's elements, such as layout, color and fonts. Using CSS enables the developer to retain control over the consistency of the site's styles.

  • JavaScript: This scripting language enables the developer to create an interactive experience for the user through their browser by ensuring the site's features are functioning as intended. These features can include responsiveness, animations, sliders, basic automation (such as date and time), games and other interactive elements. JS is essential to delivering the desired UX.

2. jQuery

jQuery, or JavaScript library, is a collection of ready-made, customizable plugins and extensions that make coding less labor-intensive as you get deeper into the coding of the elements of your site. For example, to create a simple animation using JavaScript, the code you'd be required to write is quite vast compared to the single line of code that can do the same thing using jQuery.

3. JavaScript frameworks

JS frameworks provide pre-made architecture for your JavaScript code and works with jQuery to increase the speed and efficiency of website development. Many common types of JS frameworks function based upon the user's needs, but the common theme is that it substantially reduces the amount of coding needed in development.

4. Front-end frameworks

Also known as 'CSS frameworks,' these are packets of code that provide a template to build your site functionality upon and allows you to customize as needed. To provide a simple, analogous explanation, front-end frameworks work with CSS as JS frameworks work with JS. They facilitate faster coding for standard elements that you'd otherwise have to code individually by hand.

5. CSS preprocessors

A CSS preprocessor provides additional CSS functionality to maintain the scalability of your CSS and makes it easier to work with by ensuring your code is properly formatted and browser-friendly.

6. RESTful services and APIs

REST, or Representational State Transfer, is a lightweight architectural design for APIs that streamlines the processes executed by web apps or services, improving performance and increasing scalability to present a more reliable product to the end user. This is initiated by enabling a RESTful web application to provide information about itself and its resources, effectively allowing the client (the web app or browser using it) to use those resources to make new resources (create a new user account, for example) or edit existing resources (such as a post).

7. Responsive design

Responsive design means that the website responds to the specific device by adapting the site's layout to the size of the screen for the best user experience.

8. Cross-browser development

This simply refers to the ability to write your site's code in such a way that it can adapt to the specific browser it's displayed on so that the user experience remains consistent regardless of the browser displaying the site.

9. Content management systems

This is the platform your site is built in. There are many CMS platforms to choose from depending on what type of site you're looking to build. These platforms make site development easier and more personal by integrating drag-and-drop features with the ability to customize using HTML and CSS.

10. Testing and debugging

It's essential that as a web developer, you are familiar with testing and debugging processes. UI testing, also referred to as acceptance, browser or functional testing, is the process by which the developer ensures that the website operates as expected when a user interacts with the site. Such testing can include things like enabling an error message that comes up if the user leaves a required field on a form blank. Debugging simply refers to the action of figuring out why certain errors are happening and fixing them.

11.Version control systems

VCSs track changes made to code over a period of time as well as facilitate the easy reversal of said changes to a previous version. It's a smart 'undo' function.

In addition to the above technical skills, developers need to possess the following personal skills and characteristics:

1. Problem-solving and critical thinking

Problem-solving is the main skill a developer needs, aside from technical skills (maybe even more). From debugging to creating a design structure to fixing broken code, it's essential to have the patience and thoroughness to identify problems and fix them. An experienced developer is able to anticipate problems before they happen and prevent them from happening.

2. Creativity

Implementing a design that is both functional and adaptable is a skilled job to begin with, but on top of that, a developer has to be able to also have an eye for structural design and be able to make functionality and aesthetic value work together seamlessly. This includes making sure the styling is responsive across all browsers, code is concise, specific and adaptable and looks good on every device.

3. Flexibility

Sometimes, it's necessary for the front-end developer to also act as a graphic designer, usability tester, QA and more, depending on the size and scope of the team and project. A flexible individual will be able to perform all of these tasks, to standard, whenever needed.

4. Research ability

It's crucial to stay updated on the newest developments in the tech space, including design trends, innovative products and ever-evolving services. Additionally, as technology continues to get smarter, it's absolutely necessary to remain up to date regarding privacy issues surrounding personal data sharing.

5. Detail-oriented

To make users understand and care about the information your site is presenting, the developer must be able to create an interface that's easy to use, clear, fast and intuitive. Sometimes, making all of this work at once requires investigative work and an analytical eye for the finer details of the methodology, context, interaction and aesthetically-forward, functional overall design.

Related: Learn About Being a Software Engineer

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