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Mika

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Become a better front-end developer

Also available on Medium.


If you have been around the front-end scene for a while, you probably know that a few years ago being a front-end developer meant that you handle HTML, CSS and maybe some basic Javascript, whereas backend logic was done with languages like PHP. Nowadays, the term front-end developer has broader usage.

Two sides of the front-end

According to article Front-of-the-front-end and back-of-the-front-end, there are two types of front-end developers. Front-of-the-front-end developers focus on look & feel and back-of-the-front-end developers focus on business logic and functionalities.

https://miro.medium.com/max/2400/0*tnbzmfXXpW_k5mxc
Credit and source: Twitter/@shadeed9

A front-of-the-front-end developer is a web developer who specializes in writing HTML, CSS and presentational JavaScript code.

A back-of-the-front-end developer is a web developer who specializes in writing JavaScript code necessary to make a web application function properly.

Often those who only maintain a skill set of HTML/CSS are falsely mistaken as inexperienced developers which is not the case. A front-end developer shouldn’t feel pressure to learn Javascript if they want to focus on the visual aspect of the front-end rather than the functionality side of the front-end.

Let’s take a look at this picture:

https://miro.medium.com/max/700/0*Xn6pTrO_jHCg9ncO
Credit and source: The Great Divide, Chris Coyier

Both of these are front-end developers, but do entirely different things and obtain different skill sets. Understanding this division is crucial for shaping your own path as a front-end developer.

Ask yourself why

In many social situations people often ask us ‘What do you do?’ When answering the question, you would probably say something along the lines ‘I am a developer’ or ‘I build web applications’.

Now instead, you should approach that question with why you do what you do. Take a moment to think of your why. What is something that really sparks joy in you when developing? The answer could be something ‘I love crafting beautiful and accessible online stores to make online shopping a better experience for everyone’.

When you have an answer for yourself about why you do what you do, it becomes easier to categorize you to either side of the front-end development. If your why is more related to visuals or usability, you’re leaning towards front-of-the-front-end, and if your why is more related to logic or systems, you’re leaning on the back-of-the-front-end.

Choose your path

Now that we have explored the two sides of the front-end and took a moment to understand your whys, it’s easier to choose the path to continue on or identify the path you’re currently on.

If what you prefer to write is semantic and accessible HTML, you know CSS/SCSS architecture and build pleasant layouts, you’re probably a look & feel oriented developer who fits in the front-of-the-front-end category.

If you prefer writing complex Javascript logic, working with modern Javascript frameworks and APIs, you’re probably a functionality oriented developer who fits in the back-of-the-front-end category.

The line between these two sides varies from developer to developer and you could be a mix of both. Having understanding of the division helps you better categorize yourself which should help shape your path as a developer and progress your set of unique skills.


Sources and credits:

The Great Divide by Chris Coyier (@chriscoyier )

front-of-the-front-end and back-of-the-front-end web development by Brad Frost (@brad_frost)

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