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Seven skills you need to become a front-end developer

Here are the front-end developer skills needed to create an engaging and interactive website

Front-end development infographic

Pursuing a career in web design and web development is far from a walk in the park, as you need to ensure you’re equipped with front-end developer skills.

Think of back-end development as what happens under the hood, encompassing the technical aspects of a website. Front-end design, on the other hand, centres on how users interact with your platform, and the individual components that execute its functionality.

Everything from search bars to interactive buttons falls under the umbrella of front-end development, which spans the breadth of all elements a user could interact with on your site, as well as the overall design aesthetic and colour schemes used.

Studies have shown that a well-designed user interface (UI) boosts a website’s engagement levels and conversation rates, stressing the importance of prioritizing front-end development, especially if you’re running a small business trying to make a name for itself. 

In light of how crucial front-end development is in today’s age, we’ve rounded up the most important skills you need to master to kickstart a career in the field.

What is a front-end developer?

As summarised above, a front-end developer is a developer who is in charge of all visible content on a website. This includes the design, development, and implementation of the web page itself as well as the upkeep of code to ensure the website functions smoothly and meets user expectations.

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In short, the front-end developer has to ensure that everything a user could interact with works well, looks good, and represents their company to the best possible extent.

What are the responsibilities of a front-end developer?

Front-end developer responsibilities include making sure page speed and graphics are optimal for user experience, checking that the website is visually consistent in line with a brand’s identity, improving the experience of accessing the website on a mobile device

Front-end developers also have to test and maintain core website elements, and ensure that these elements can be reused not only throughout the website by them, but by their team and potential successor in the role. Front-end developers may also be responsible for search engine optimisation (SEO) for their website, though in larger organisations this is likely to be performed by a dedicated marketing team.

Every website has a front-end and back-end, which is why front-end developers never work alone. On a typical workday, front-end developers turn web designers’ ideas into responsive and fine-looking user interfaces.

Back-end developers, who operate and maintain the “behind the scenes” infrastructure of a website, such as servers and databases, complement front-end developers’ work.

Skills needed to be a front-end developer

It’s possible to become a front-end developer without a college degree, provided you acquire the right skills. Below is a list of top seven technical skills a front-end developer must possess.

1. HTML and CSS

Hypertext markup language (HTML) and cascading style sheets (CSS) are a website’s nuts and bolts. While HTML gives structure to web pages, CSS helps style the HTML elements with the color, fonts, typeface, and more. 

2. JavaScript

HTML and CSS fit the bill perfectly for a text-only website, as they’re predominantly static. JavaScript can be a useful addition to responsive websites.

This client-side programming language lets you add interactive features, including polls, slideshows, and forms, to a website. It also offers support for dynamic elements, including, but not limited to, page animation, scrolling, audio, and video.

3. Frameworks and Libraries

Frameworks are prewritten code modules for common website elements like login and search interfaces. They’re easy to incorporate and are reusable. Examples of popular JavaScript frameworks include AngularJS, Ember and ReactJS.

Libraries, an assortment of plugins and extensions, are useful for adding prefabricated elements to a website. A good example is a countdown timer on a retail website. jQuery is a commonly-used open-source JavaScript library with plenty of customization options. 

4. Version control

A version control system is software specifically designed to track changes made to code over time. Using this software, developers can compare earlier versions of the code with an older version, commit to changes or restore the previous version. 

Furthermore, version control systems can double as backups of original source code, making collaboration easier. Git version control system, for example, allows multiple developers or teams to upload or download source code changes. 

5. Cross-browser and device testing

Depending on various factors, a website’s appearance may change across browsers. Developers use browser tools to address this issue. 

Browser tools allow developers to test and fine-tune webpages in a way that is best suited to a particular browser. Additionally, developers use responsive design techniques to change site layout and design depending on the type of device accessing it.

For instance, when a PC accesses a desktop website, the site uses more screen real estate and small fonts than mobile sites, which use larger text and less screen real estate. 

6. Web performance optimization (WPO)

A slow-loading website can reduce user engagement drastically. Website performance optimization techniques help ensure faster loading times through automation tools. 

For example, Grunt automatically optimises images and makes page components lighter depending on the device without compromising website functionality.

7. Search engine optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization is the practice of increasing traffic to a website organically through search results. 

Generally, there is a separate team to supervise SEO practices. However, knowing the basics can help you determine where to place titles, meta descriptions, and text on a website so search engines can easily find them. 

8. Non-technical skills

On top of all the specific IT skills that one needs to become a good front-end developer, there are a number of soft skills that will carry anyone far in their career. Prime among these is good communication, particularly between the front and back-end development teams as changes are applied to a webpage. 

Just like how reskilling must also include ‘soft skills’, non-technical skills are vital to personal and professional development, but cannot be conveyed in a classroom or tutorial. Being able to balance technical knowhow with being personable, cooperative, and capable of thinking on one’s feet will serve any front-end developer very well indeed.

Web developer jobs predicted to grow 8% by 2029

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has previously suggested the number of web development roles in the US economy was likely to rise by 8% between 2019 and 2029. This is a much faster rate than the expected growth of all other occupations, driven mostly by the increasing popularity of mobile devices and e-commerce platforms.

Taking computer science, IT, and software engineering courses might be the most obvious route into web development, although you might also like to enrol in a UI or UX design boot camp to kickstart your career. These boot camps offer great opportunities for coders or programmers who are seeking ways to transition into a different career without needing to return to college. 

With many other occupations, gaining experience on the frontline is really important when it comes to improving your skills as a front-end developer. As such, you can start small by building websites using HTML and CSS before progressing to more complex methods, such as JavaScript development. Making a landing page might be a great place to start, too, while working on open source projects can help you keep up with how the industry around you is changing.

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