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04.08.2017

What Does a Front-End Developer Do?


Have you ever wondered exactly what a front-end Developer does? What skills you'll need to go down that career path? In this edition of our career insights series, we've taken an in-depth look at exactly what a front-end developer role entails, with an added insight from a professional freelance front-end developer.



Hello and welcome to a brand new section in our Freelancermap blog – career insights! In this series, we’ll be taking an in-depth look into the hottest and most interesting freelancer markets – covering what they’re all about and how you might get into them. Additionally, our insights will feature expert opinion from freelancers that work in the field. 

So what is a front-end developer, anyway? It’s basically the front layer of your website. The design, content and functionality – the things that users interact with. If your laptop were a website, your keyboard, display, the mouse and all other buttons would be the front-end. Those are the things you see, click and touch. Anything on the inside – like your hard drive, video card and processor, is the back end.

 

The Job of a front-End Developer


Now that you know what a front-end developer is, answering this second question is pretty easy. Your job is to create anything the user interacts with. But let’s get into some detail: First of all, you’ll need to have some hard skills, like being able to work with HTML, CSS and JavaScript – we’ll get into those in a second. But there are other things you will be doing – like thinking about speed and efficiency, which are crucial to user experience.

Apart from that, you’ll be thinking about how people interact with websites and where they look for things – that’s quite a lot of tasks. And they do require a special mix of creativity and technical knowledge. Here are the most important skills:


 

What skills will you need to succeed as front-end developer?



The skills you’re going to need as a freelancer working in front-end development generally fall into two categories – your tools and your overarching skills. Let’s dive into the most important ones:

1. Tech Toolkit of a front-end developer

 

HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language)

 

HTML will probably be one of the first things you learn how to use. It will provide the first building blocks of your website, its initial structure. Using HTML, you will be placing images on your website, determining fonts and putting up hyperlinks. HTML is one of the two most important components you need to build a website.
 

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)

 

CSS is the second basic element. This is where the layout happens – it is where you decide how the elements of HTML will be displayed. Colors, backgrounds, transitions and animations are all things you will be doing with CSS. Using these two components, you will be able to create a basic website.
 

JavaScript

 

But to make a really good website, you will want to also know Javascript. Using this programming language, you will be able to add all sorts of interactions to your website – maps that update in real time, videos that can be interacted with and even little games.
 

Front-end Frameworks

 

Besides these regularly used languages, you will need to go deeper and learn how to work with frameworks, which will help you code quickly with libraries and ready-made structures.

The probably most popular one is Bootstrap, that make your site compatible with all browsers and ensure your website will look great no matter the size of your screen (remember: mobile first!). Besides Bootstrap, JavaScript frameworks such as AngularJS, Backbone, ReactJS or Ember will assist you when working with JavaScript.

Lastly, JQuery cannot be ignored. It’s a free JavaScript library designed to simplify the process of developing with JavaScript. This open-source software allows you to add already made elements to your work that you can redesign as you wish.

 
2. Overarching skills

Having responsive design is one of the most important things for front-end developers. Responsive design is how you make sure that your site functions and looks good regardless of the device a visitor might be using – whether it is an iPad, a phone or a big desktop computer. Secondly, you will also have to learn how to optimize the performance of a website. It’s not just about looking good, you also want a website to load fast. If it doesn’t, chances are a lot of people are going to click that big red X button before you have the chance to show them your fancy design.

And last but not least, testing and debugging are essential front-end developer skills. Bugs happen all the time, mostly where you least expect them. There are different ways to look for bugs and remove them and you will have to know several if you want to catch them all.

 

Project providers: Who needs a front-end developer?

 

We already said at the beginning that front-end developers are in charge of the appearance of a website. Now, everybody needs a website so the chances for a front-end developer are unlimited. This profile is in high demand in many fields. Some of the more popular are marketing agencies, graphic design studios and software and engineering companies.

On the other side, many developers decide immediately after their studies to become self-employed and work with SMBs directly creating their websites without intermediaries.
 

Take on a new development project   Projects for front-end developers

Creating the perfect portfolio as a freelancer front-end developer

 

When creating a freelancer portfolio as front-end developer, the first thing to look at is making sure you’ve got the basics down. Tell people who you are, what you do and why you should be the one they contact – tell them that on the first page or make sure they know where to click to find that info. But, really, all portfolios should do that.

To have a great front-end developer portfolio specifically, there are a few details you’ll have to consider. First of all, most people have no idea what front-end means. Explain it to them. There is no worse thing than dealing with clients who contact you with jobs out of your scope, so be specific.

Finally, and maybe most importantly: Focus on showing, not telling. As a front-end developer, your job is to create good-looking, smooth and well-designed websites. So make sure your portfolio website fits those criteria. Also include your best projects – you can have a list with hundreds of skills. But letting potential clients see something that you’ve created and you’re proud of is worth much more than all the skill lists.

 

“Your job is to create good-looking, smooth and well-designed websites. “

 

Real insights from a Front-End developer

 

Now that we know that without Front-End developers and designers the pages of the internet wouldn’t be that nice and enjoyable to surf, it’s easier to understand why this profile is so in-demand. But what is a day like in the life of a Front-End developer? Is it the career path that you should pick?

To learn a little more about it we asked Ivana Kruljac, a passionate web developer from Croatia currently living and working in Germany, about her experience and story. Here are her answers:

 

1. What drove you to choose your career path?

 

I studied computer science at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, so it was a natural path for me to work in the IT industry. Ever since I've been using the Internet, I was curious on how to create a website and wanted to know what was behind the visible part. Funny thing is that the first contact with code wasn't until in my 3rd year in college. Until then, I was learning mathematics and robotics. A friend and I bought a book which was about how to create a web shop basket in PHP from scratch, so we were just typing the code and watching what was happening on the browser. Back then there wasn't so much literature on the Internet.
 

2. What misconceptions do people often have about your job?

 

In my experience, people are still not so familiar with the terms front-end and backend. Most people still think that if you're developer, you're doing the “whole package”. 10 years ago that could be the case, but nowadays with new technologies on the way and the complexity of applications, this is a totally different story. Front-end Developers are in the middle, between Designers and Backend Developers. They are an intersection. Of course, there are a lot of Front-end Developers that do UX/UI or backend stuff but it should not be taken for granted.

 

“Most people still think that if you're developer, you're doing the “whole package”“


3. What's the most enjoyable part of the job?

 

Creativity, imagination, challenges, hunger for learning and joy when a client is satisfied with the work you deliver.
 

4. What personal tips and shortcuts have made your job easier?

 

For us developers is important to update ourselves on a daily basis. That means read a lot and research a lot, because technology is growing and changing rapidly and on daily basis. Personally, what made my job easier are the launch of Node.js and Sass language. They are allowing me to do my job way faster and be way more organized than before.
 

5. What advice would you give to those aspiring to join your profession?

 

First of all, as in all development jobs, they need to love what they do. They need to enjoy creating things, be passionate about it and play with the code. You have to constantly challenge yourself to do more and better. Otherwise, I would highly recommend them to choose a different career - they are, in my opinion, not the right person for the job.
 

6. Would you say front-end development is a great niche for freelancers?

 

There’s a big potential and a big market behind it which just keeps growing, followed by all sorts of developers – juniors and seniors. I think that there’s enough room on the table for everyone due to high demand of all sorts of applications – for web and mobile platforms.

So, if you’re good at what you do, you don’t need to put too much effort to reach people and gain their trust. Few references will do the work for you. They don’t even have to be references from clients; it can be something that you did while you were studying or any personal projects that you did just for yourself. And, since you’re developer, you know where and how to publish them!


Hope you found the article useful! If you have any questions or you'd like to add anything to the article - let us know!

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