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What Is Front End Development?

Have you ever been curious about what front end web development involves?

You’re not alone. Front end programming is an important role in the web development industry, and demand is continuing to grow for people who have skills working with the front end of a website.

When you open a new browser window and navigate to a site, the site will load. The people responsible behind that are web developers, who develop all the technical architecture that powers our websites. Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, even your local cafe’s blog, are all powered by the efforts of web developers.

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One type of web developer is a front end developer, who focuses on one specific part of the website experience: what the user sees, or the “client-side”. In this guide, we’re going to break down the basics of front end web development and discuss what the role of front end web developer entails.

What is Front End Development?

The “front-end” or “client-side” of a website is the part of the site that users can see and interact with. All the text, images, colors, boxes, and everything else that appears on a webpage is built using front end technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Whereas web design focuses on deciding how websites should look, front end development is concerned with actually making those designs a reality on a functional web page. Front end web developers act as a bridge between design and technology, implementing the experiences that users will be able to have on a particular website.

What is a Front End Web Developer?

Front end web developers design the front ends for websites.

Everything you see on a website is the work of a front end web developer. Their primary goal is to create an aesthetically pleasing user experience that meets all the goals for a particular application. So, for a blog, the front end web developer should design something that is both easy to read, and visually appealing.

Front end web developers work with back end web developers to understand the technical specifics behind a site—like how forms are processed, and how users can log into a site—then make those features accessible on the website a user sees. Front end developers also work with designers to decide how a site should look, then implement that design.

In addition, front end web developers will make sure that a website renders correctly, and that a website appears as it should across multiple different devices.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Front End Web Developer?

Front end web developers have a wide range of responsibilities, which can vary between jobs. For the most part, though, front end web developers spend their time coding and implementing the front end of a website. The work of actually designing a site is left to web designers.

Here are a few of the responsibilities you can expect a front end web developer to take on:

  • Use programming languages like HTML and CSS to create web pages
  • Maintain and improve a website
  • Ensure a website functions across different devices and browsers
  • Work with web designers and back end web developers to ensure a site is functional and well-designed
  • Create prototypes based on designs
  • Help back end web developers integrate their work with the front end

Front end web development is constantly evolving; every year, there are new technologies that come out to help make development easier. As a result, front end web developers need to stay up-to-date on the latest trends, and remain ahead of the curve.

Front end programming can be a demanding job because you have to work with so many other people to deliver on objectives. However, for someone who is visual and who enjoys coding, a job in front end development can offer a perfect blend. On the one hand, you’ll spend your time actually coding a website, and on the other you will be able to help influence exactly how designs are implemented.

What Technologies Do Front End Developers Use?

Front end web developers use different technologies for varying purposes, but there are a few skills that are considered key to the job. These are:

  • Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML): HTML is the programming language that allows you to define the structure for a web page.
  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS): CSS allows you to define how elements should appear visually on a website, and is concerned with the layout, colors, font, and other elements of a site’s design.
  • JavaScript: JavaScript allows you to create interactive and dynamic websites and implement features like modal windows, contact forms, and changing content.

Front end web developers also use frameworks and tools like Bootstrap, Vue.js and React.js, which allow them greater control over their programming. 

In addition, front end web developers may also use graphic design tools such as Sketch or Photoshop, because they are often involved in creating the final design for a website. While web designers are primarily responsible for creating the actual designs for a site, a front end web developer may advise on whether a certain design can be implemented easily, and provide feedback on a design from a technical perspective.

What is the Difference Between Front End Development and Back-End Development?

Web development is often split into two categories: front end and back end.

As we discussed, front end web developers are responsible for implementing what the user sees on a website. But what about back end web developers?

Back end programming is concerned with developing the architecture that powers the features on a website. In web development, the “back end” refers to the server, application, and database which are used to power a website.

Back end web developers will use server-side technologies like Python, Java, PHP, Ruby, and .Net to build the features for a website. They will also use tools like MongoDB and PostgreSQL to retrieve and store data.

Consider the Computer Science Hero website. The front end is what the user sees: the feed of posts, the user profile images, the lists of articles, and everything else. The back end, on the other hand, is what the user does not see that powers the front end code.

The back end controls which posts should load on the page, how those posts are retrieved, and how they are stored. The front end developer will then take that data and use technologies like HTML and CSS to present it on the web page.

Consider the example of an online store. A back end web developer would focus on storing data on orders, products, user profiles, payments, and making everything work from a technical perspective. A front end web developer, on the other hand, would create the actual web pages that visitors can use to interact with a website.

What Are the Job Prospects for Front End Web Development?

Front end web developers have impressive job prospects. According to Glassdoor, there are 7,192 front end web developer jobs open in the U.S. alone. In addition, there are 53,318 web developer jobs in the U.S., which often combine both front end and back end web development skills (Data collected April 28, 2020).

So, there are a lot of open positions, but what about the salary? That’s a great question. Glassdoor reports that the average base pay for front end web developers is $76,929, an impressive sum even in comparison to other technical jobs.

To start, you’ll likely work as a junior or entry-level web developer, and you may specialize in front end programming. Then, as you develop more experience, you may advance to a mid-level or senior role, where you will have more influence over the direction of key projects within an organization.

Often, front end web developers work in an agency environment, where they will be responsible for working on projects for external clients. As you work on more projects, you could advance to a more senior role within an agency.

In the long-term, jobs in front end programming may progress into more senior programming positions within an organization. For instance, after years in the field, a front end web developer may be promoted to technical project manager, Chief Technical Officer (CTO) or a Vice President of Technology position.

The Bottom Line

Everything that you see on a website has been developed by a front end web developer. From the text on a website to the forms to the position of the images, everything has been implemented by the front end web developer, using technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

As the internet has become a more important part of our lives, demand for front end web developers who can help create functional user experiences has grown significantly. These developers help turn a design—and the technical back end—into an actual site that a visitor can use.

If you are creative, enjoy thinking about design, and love coding, a career in front end development could be a perfect match for you.

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