The myth of real frontend developer

The story of future frontend developement where writers, architects and designers meet each other.

Remember those days when HTML, CSS, and jQuery were sufficient for most of young and promising frontend developers? Me too. Only a little bit of JS with good jQuery knowledge or PHP basics, but as you can see the web is moving forward at a tremendous rate. Web standards continuously change, every month brings something new, someone unveils a new tool that resolves all your problems, and so on, and so on… Have you heard about Vue.js? Two years ago nobody knew it – today it becomes one of the most promising and trending JavaScript frameworks. JS – the language that was mainly created to support web browsers, now can be used even for solving hardware problems. JavaScript Renaissance – some can say. Opportunity to taste new things and put aside boring PHP projects. An adventure and at the same time a challenge. Your current or future employer also noticed that – web standards tends to JS because the industry doesn’t want anymore real frontend developers.

Dear frontend developer, you’re a programmer too

CSS Wizards or (pejorative in my opinion) coders – their time these two terms were mainly associated with most frontends, but as I mentioned earlier, the web is moving forward and the web that we remember has evolved – for the better of course. As a frontend, we like to taste new things and new tools. A number of solutions for entry level can turn around our head. The more they get into it, the more exciting and complicated it becomes. Because of the big movement in JS, our workflows and habits are constantly changing.

– Hey! Did you use Gulp? No? Try it, it’s super, extra, awesome […]

– Great! I’ll write all projects using Gulp!

but after few months:

– Hey! Webpack is better and has more features and […] and […]

– WOW! I can’t imagine my next project without it!

Funny, but real. In the ocean of new technologies and tools, most frontends are like testers leaping over new things. Angular vs React flame wars?

We all love it

Every minute there is yet another article trying to compare them. But when talking about frameworks and standards we cannot ignore our fundamentals – forget about a border between real frontends and even real backend developers, we are both programmers.

During my last SPA project, I was thinking deeply about the word programmer and parts of the development process that most us usually forgets. After that, I selected three areas of our work that can be referred to other, at first it would seem, not connected professions. Lets talk about programmers, writers, architects and designers and how they can correlate to each other in terms of programming:

A programmer who thinks like a writer. We all are writers. We write tons of code. But the point is that as a writer we should try to think more than writing another line of code. Mainly it all comes down to reading. In reality, the time spends ratio of reading to writing is like 10:1. We continuously read older code which is necessary for moving our work forward, where we always ask questions like Which way is the right way?, Can you give me a suggestion?, How to improve that? or mostly – Who wrote this shit?. Writing understood and clean code in terms of formatting, naming conventions and code structure is one of the most important things during development. We always should respect our teammates and a future developer that will try to read your code after few months. For sure it will appreciate your effort. Let it conclude the following scout rule:

Leave the camp cleaner than you came across it

A programmer who thinks like an architect. The architect who plans structures that can easily be maintained and exploited. The architect who builds structures that won’t fall down when you add or remove one column. Wrong decisions after beginning cause more troubles in the end of the development. Luckily some egghead developers invented design patterns – raw knowledge that your lecturer tried to get into our head while you didn’t listen to him. In practice, we can’t ignore them. Observers, factories, stores, singletons – all of them are worth to know and I can assure that your favorite framework or library uses some of the patterns very commonly. We should always remember one thing: faster !== better. There is one golden rule: think first, then programm it, but do not programm first and then think as many tends to do. Thoughtfully built solutions affect less buggy final product and less missed product release dates.

A programmer who thinks like a designer. We finally walked into the real piece of the frontend development that makes our hybrid frontend so special – programmer who takes care of the codebase as well as the visual part of his work. A programmer who should be pedantic in all visual aspects and who cares about his users – their interactions and experience. Users don’t look at your code, they don’t care if you used an observer pattern for creating notifications module – they evaluate your work mainly by visuals and interactions. Feel the design, be able to create new features based on existing components without the help of your designer colleague. Feel it and just do it.

Dear frontend developer, you don’t have to be a fullstack

You don’t need to be a jack of all trades. Our industry, technologies and tools are constantly evolving. Both camps tend into JS, so we cannot omit it, but I can be sure that frontend and backend will interfuse much more with the passage of time. Sooner or later the web will touch the point where there will be no visible distinction between them and then you will notice that you are a fullstack already even not trying to be. Words hybrid, progressive and universal gain in popularity. We shouldn’t be dinosaurs staying always at the same point – our industry requires from us that some kind of thinking – the thinking of both writers, architects, and designers.

But we should always remember one thing – we are both programmers, not stack-overflow developers, not CSS Wizards, and definitely not coders. We should try to think outside the bubble – the bubble of technologies and tools that we use every day. Dear frontend developer, start to build, write and design.

The idea for this article is inspired by Brenna O’Brien talk “The myth of the “Real JavaScript Developer” from Front-Trends conference that took place on May 24-26 2016.

Józef Flakus, front-end developer from Chilid

 

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