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Richard Oliver Bray
Richard Oliver Bray

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I think I'm falling out of love with front end web dev

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

I've been a front end developer for a pretty long time now and I've enjoyed the journey. When I first started making sites jQuery and SASS we're all the rage and you could get by not knowing too much JavaScript. Now things have turned around to the point where you can't call yourself a front-end developer without knowing how to use a JavaScript framework or library. I've been lucky enough to work at places that have allowed me to adapt to that change and try out different things, but I'm at the point now where what I'm doing is starting to lack variety.

Typically my tasks as a developer have involved creating the entirety or working on parts of a thin client application so; creating and styling components, laying them out on a page, hooking the site up to an API to send and receive data, then displaying that data in a presentable way for the user. That is a very high-level overview, there are more details like making the site performant, accessible, functioning on multiple devices and browsers, but I won't go into too much detail on that. For the most part that has been what I've been doing and I've gotten pretty good at it, but now I want to try something else.

About 2 to 3 years ago I started to look into game development. It's something I've always wanted to do but never thought I was a good enough until I took the plunge. I learnt a programming language called Haxe, a game engine called HaxeFlixel and a new side of programming was revealed to me. One that involved learning more about object-orientated programming, GoF (gang of four) design patterns, accessor methods, static extensions, machine code, how compilers work. These are things that you don't have to think about to be a good front end developer since JavaScript is a dynamically typed language and the browser does a lot of heavy lifting ( i.e. dead code elimination, memory management and garbage collection). So now instead of thinking about the best way to organise files in a large React project, I think about how JIT (just-in-time) compilers work, or what the difference is between heap and stack memory, or how wasteful it is that JavaScript represents all numbers as 64-bit floating points in memory (even really small ones). So you can imagine what it feels like for me after spending my free time converting colours using inverse trigonometric functions to continue my day job task of styling pink buttons.

This is not to say there aren't times that I've written complex logic during my day job or that front end development can't be logic heavy, Visual Studio Code, Figma, Framer, or any Google drive application are a few complex frontend heavy apps (which I would love to work on) that immediately come to mind. I just feel like I want to take a break from thin web clients and try something else. This something else could involve working with a different programming language like Java, Rust (which I've been looking into with Web Assembly), or TypeScript to do something more complex on the web or, move out of the web completely to work on games or native software applications on desktop or mobile, I'm open to it all.

There is however the question of salary. I've been doing front-end dev for a while and the experience has got me a decent salary. As the only working parent in my family the thought of changing career to say, something like a junior C++ developer would reduce my monthly income and would make it a struggle to keep up with bills. It's something I'd do in a heartbeat if money wasn't but I'm sort of bound by golden handcuffs.

In conclusion, I'd love to hear fro people who are or have been or are in a similar situation. Is this something that should stay a hobby or something I should pursue as a complete career change? Feel free to comment in this post or contact me privately via email or social media. Googling my full name "Richard Oliver Bray", should give you my social details.

Top comments (6)

jenbutondevto profile image

Hey Richard! I used to work for Labs, hope they're treating you well!

In terms of career, you can start thinking about a full stack, it will be less of a dramatic jump in cash than going to a junior role. Especially if the new role has the backend written in js (or ts), you should be more than fine. OOP and the related principles are the same for most languages, improving your back end & OOP skillset would help you land roles you're more interested in, and vary your day-to-day so you're not fatigued with FE dev.

I started as a FE web developer, with some light PHP knowledge. I was introduced to OOP whilst at Labs doing an iOS internship. After that, I've been a FS engineer ever since (although, I miss Swift!)

richardbray profile image
Richard Oliver Bray

Hey Jen, thanks for your reply. It's good to hear from an ex Labs employee although the business has changed a lot since your time at it.
Yes, you're right about transitioning to full-stack and it being less of a jump, it's something I'll look into if those sorts of opportunities come my way. iOS seems like a big jump from PHP, I'd be interested to know what got you interested in that?

jenbutondevto profile image
Jen • Edited

Apart from wanting to dabble in some iOS dev, I couldn’t tell you! It was initially just 2 weeks of work experience, so I wanted to learn something new. I found a love for swift, (and I suppose a knack for it!) so labs kindly offered me a year’s paid internship working on proof of concepts and a little on the choice app, and got to learn some OOP fundamentals along the way with my mentor.

Between my php, swift and front end experience, I had enough to join as a junior full stack engineer, even though I didn’t have a huge amount of backend knowledge.

Happy to chat further if you’ve got any more Qs! 🤓

p.s. you mention some stuff about memory, compilers etc. Generally I distinguish software developers and engineers by how much one cares about that sort of stuff. Looks like you're thinking more like an engineer now! I got my introduction to memory management with swift (even though it does a pretty good job)

drgaud profile image

It sounds like you have developed a fairly strong and specilised skillset. I think I might be able to help, but please understand I have nothing on you in terms of your experince and ability. I've got a background in the 'softer' side of business and I think it might be able to help you re-frame a few things.
Please correct me if I am wrong in any of my assumptions:
You are tired, I guess from alot of things, but JS fatigue from the constant changing landscape that is front-end web development. If you can use JQuery and SASS like you have described, I would gather that someone with your repitore would be surfing the wave like some californian beech boy. So I gather that you have became fatigued by the next in-vogue framework pilling on more demand on the developer to contantly be learning. Between learning the next new thing, like svetle or an update to the previous versions of frameworks like Vue2->3 and working on projects creates an Ouroboros situation with time where you endup eating into time for other things. the precious things that we really give a shit about.
So I think that you might be tired and exasperated, which is completely understandable.
Second, I totaly see the alure in game development, I likewise would love to build a game, which in my head Ive built and played a thousand times over. But its like you said, its about practicallity, and wisdom. Do you take the plunge and start back at square one, with little certainty about the future, which given you responsibilities would be fool-hardy and extremely risky, or do you go all-in and bet that the grass is indeed greener on the otherside.
Personally I thing the game industry has alot to answer for and even more issues to address before I would willingly work in such an industry, I like you have learnt from being exploited. Burn me once....
So with game development, I would reconsider your interest as that of an extreme hobbyist, for that would allow you the space to truly explore that avenue with the least amount of risk, to yourself and your loved ones.
Now my last point would be, I highly think you should reposition yourself as an expert in you current skill domains, the school of thought being by mechanising and specialising the talents and skills of an individual their net value increase with their expertiese in their respective fields.
I dont think you truly have fallen out of love with front-end web development. You dont go texting your ex girlfrield to tell them that you still dont love them. If you were to lets say, figure out how you can diversify your skillsets and concentrate on becoming an expert in your own right in those fields, you would be able to influence yourself and those around you with your expertiese and skills to take the projects you work on in the direction you best see fit. not only that you might find your pay packet going up somewhat, and shit becoming interesting again.

In gaming terms, you propose a zero-sum game with little incentive. I propose a net-sum game where it could be a better tomorrow for you to wake up into.

LL&P my friend, If I am wrong and caused offence, mia culpa

tevdevelops profile image
Tevin Rivera

You really have pinned the exact feeling that I have been experiencing for the last few months now as a web developer at a creative/marketing agency. I have also started to look into other sides of programming but haven't settled on one yet. I want to try game programming, but I too felt I wouldn't be good enough. But your article has inspired me to actually try it out; it would make sense since I have always played video games my entire life. Without knowing too much of your story, but I would think that getting a jr role in the gaming side of things shouldn't equate to a junior salary for you since you are already a proven professional in the software industry. That definitely should count for something. Well, I would hope. Either way good luck and thanks for the inspiring and relevant article.

richardbray profile image
Richard Oliver Bray

Thanks for your reply, it's glad to know that there are people who feel the same way. Yeah I hope if I went into the game industry I wouldn't be a jr but that stuff does look quite complicated we'll see how it goes. Also if you're thinking about doing gaming as a hobby I can't recommend Haxe/HaxeFlixel enough, it's quite an easy game engine to get into for a JS/TS dev. I'll be happy to help if you have any questions.