In this internet age you must be visiting many websites developer every day and you must have found some websites which looked and worked fabulous for you and you liked them the most. But have you ever thought how they were made? Have you looked at them the way they were laid out, the way you got response when you clicked at any of the button or link or any other related thought? You must have thought, “How to do that in your website?” These kind of things come under front end development. Web design is the way how a website looks while front end development is how that design is actually implemented on the web. Now you come to the point. A front end web developer is the developer who does that implementation.
ESSENTIAL SKILLS OF FRONT END DEVELOPERS
HTML AND CSS
All of the job requirements of front end developer for the work of Front End Development require proficiency in these languages. It is a must. HTML is the standard markup language used to create web pages. A markup languages enable you to write code for a digital document or web page which is different from a regular text. It is the most basic building block you will need for developing websites of any kind. CSS is the language used to present the document you create with HTML so that it is readable and attractive. HTML is responsible for creating the foundation for your pages while CSS has the next job and it is used to create the page’s color, fonts, layout and the style. As we said both of these languages are essential to become a front end developer and without the knowledge of these, no developer can become a front end developer. It is as simple as that.
FRONT END FRAMEWORKS
KNOWLEDGE OF CSS PREPROCESSING
Knowledge of CSS Preprocessing is highly useful for the front end developer while developing a website. Although CSS has many benefits but it also has limitations and one of them is that you have to write similar lines of code so many times for the whole website. Hence when your project grows in scale and code base, keeping in mind that in CSS you can’t define variables, functions or perform arithmetic operations, you will find yourself wasting lots of your time in writing repetitive code to make changes. Similar to CSS and JS frameworks, CSS preprocessing is another thing which can make life of a front end developer much easier. Using a CSS preprocessor like Stylus, Sass, LESS, you will be able to write code in the preprocessor’s language. The preprocessor then converts that code into CSS and it will work on your whole website. For example, assume you want to change the shade of a color you are using across your website. With a CSS preprocessor, you will only have to change the hex value at one place only instead of changing the hex values on all the CSS pages of the site.
KNOWLEDGE OF RESTFUL SERVICES AND APIS
REST stands for Representational State Transfer. Actually it is a lightweight architecture which simplifies network communication on the web and internet and RESTful services and APIs are those web services which adhere to REST architecture. You should read about REST and RESTful services in more detail if you want to become an expert front end developer. Take an example, say you want to write an application which shows you all of your social media friends in the order as you became friends with them. You can make calls to Facebook’s RESTful API to read your friend list and return that data. You can do same thing with Twitter which also uses RESTful APIs. Actually the process for any service that uses RESTful APIs is the same and only the data returned will be different. The front end developers should become expert in using these. There are simple guidelines and practices to use them and you can learn how to communicate with a web service. They also make a web service to perform better, work more reliably, be easier to edit/modify and scale better and easier.
RESPONSIVE DESIGN AND MOBILE DESIGN
The days of only desktop and laptop PCs being used for viewing websites are gone. Now more than half of the internet traffic originates through mobile devices and smartphones. That means most of the people now use phones and tablets and rest use computers to look at the web pages. Have you ever thought how these pages adjust themselves to the device you are using without you doing anything at your end? This is where responsive design comes into picture. A front end developers have to fully understand the responsive design principles and how to implement them while coding for the website. One good thing about responsive design is that it is an integral part of CSS frameworks like Bootstrap. All of these skills are interconnected and you will learn them quickly when you start with any one of them while doing front end development.
KNOWLEDGE OF CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS AND E-COMMERCE PLATFORMS
Nowadays most of the websites which are built use content management system i.e. CMS. Large number of them also use E-commerce platforms and they sell their products and services through the site. The most popular CMS right now in the world is no doubt WordPress which is behind the millions of successful websites. Reports says that more than 30% of all the websites on internet have been built using WordPress alone and almost 60% of websites that use a CMS prefer to use WordPress only. Some of the other most popular CMSs are Drupal, Joomla and Magento. Magento is basically a most popular E-commerce platform along with Shopify and OpenCart. Although you don’t need to go very deep into WordPress and these other CMS but knowing bit about these will give you a niche and you will be preferred by the companies who are using these or planning to use these CMS into their websites.
VERSION CONTROL SYSTEMS – GIT
Assume you have done all the work of marking up with HTML, Styling with CSS and programming with JS. In this process you must have gone through a number of revisions in your development and software code. Now if something goes wrong along the way, you will have to start all over from the beginning. Therefore, here comes the Version control software into the picture. Version control is the process of tracking and controlling changes to your source code hence this kind of problem will not happen with you. Git is an open source Version Control Software recently bought by Microsoft. It is a tool you can use to track those changes so that you can go back to any previous version of your work and find out easily what went wrong without undoing the whole thing from the start. The working knowledge of Git – Version control software is a skill which most of the employers want to have in their front end developers or even in other developers.
TESTING AND DEBUGGING
Any developer even a front end developer can do mistakes. Hence bugs can come in the code they write. Therefore, having knowledge and experience in testing and debugging processes is very important for a front end developer. There are different testing methods for web development. Like Functional testing looks at the functional aspect of your website like a database and makes sure it does everything which you have coded it to do. It is also called UI testing, acceptance testing, browser testing or functional testing where you check to make sure that the website behaves and works as it should be when a user is taking actions on the website. You can write tests which will look for outcomes like particular HTML code on a page after an action is taken for example making sure that if a user forgets to fill out the essential fields in a form, error message pops up for the user. Unit testing is the process of testing individual or small blocks of source code and unit testing frameworks provide a specific method and structure for doing so. For each programming language they are different.
Debugging process is very important as it takes all the bugs and errors which testing uncovers, analyzes them to find out why and how they are happening and finally fixing them. Testing and debugging processes are implemented differently in different organizations but if you have worked on it somewhere then you can easily adapt to it at other place. Hence front end developer should have working knowledge of testing and debugging processes.
PROBLEM SOLVING SKILLS
Good front end developers should have excellent problem solving skills whatever the job descriptions say. The have to use them number of times while writing code for the website. For example, they need the creative problem solving skills while figuring out how to best implement a design, how to fix bugs that come, how to figure out how to make your front end code work with the backend code and in most of their development and coding tasks. Hence front end developers should have great problem solving skills. For example, you have created a perfectly working website front end and you hand it over to the back end developers so that they can integrate it with the CMS of the website. Imagine, somehow many of your amazing features stop working. A top front end developer will view this as a problem which has to be solved rather than a thing to be highly disappointed about. Although an experienced front end developer will anticipate these bugs early and will try to avoid them in the first place itself so that he doesn’t need to spend time on resolving them afterwards.
BROWSER DEVELOPER TOOLS
KNOWLEDGE OF HOW TO WORK IN COMMAND LINE
Nowadays, almost all applications or software that come to the market have Graphic User Interface i.e. GUI as no one wants to type lines of difficult commands onto a black screen in order to get the things done. It is more easier to point and click on a white background screen having interactive menu. Even in the field of website development, GUI are highly preferred. But an all-purpose GUI may have some limitations for some specific applications. There can be times when you would need to open a terminal on your computer where you have to enter commands to get things done. There is a difference when your computer is giving results which are available on the surface and when you get what you need by digging in with specific commands. Although most of your front end development work you can do using GUIs but you will be highly preferred and sought after if your front end development skills also have a mastery of how to use command line.