How to: Become a Front-End Developer

Not sure where you'd fit in a development team? If you're creative and consumer-focused, chances are you could find your place in tech as a front-end developer.

Written by Nology Team - 02.01.20

In this how to, we’ll take a quick dive into what a front-end developer is, and what you need to learn if you want to become one!

Front-end Developer
Definition

A front-end developer is a programmer who creates the user interface of software, a website or application. From attractive graphics to buttons, forms and other features, a front-end developer creates all the visual elements which users interact with.

The traits of a Front-end Developer

User-focused – You need to create the customer journey and experience

Visual communicator – To apply graphic and text elements intuitively to the customer journey

Commercial intuition – You understand the impact of client-facing programs and applications

Problem-solver – You’ll troubleshoot and solve fragmented or ill-conceived client experiences

Able to collaborate in a team – to deliver projects with designers and the development team

What does a front-end developer do?

In a development team, the front-end developer is responsible for:

What you need to learn

You may possess all the traits needed to become a front-end developer, but all of these will fall flat unless you have the right toolkit for the job. Working on the client-side of development means you need to know the programming languages, UI libraries and frameworks required to build attractive and intuitive interfaces, while also creating the necessary API calls need to collect data through the website or program your building. Essentially, you need a specific skillset to apply the visual ideas of the creative team and connect the application to data it needs to provide the desired experience or service.

Three essential things a front-end developer needs to know

One of the first questions most people who want to learn to code ask is: what programming language do I learn first? Front-end development offers a clear and reassuring pathway, which will arm you with the skills you need to build your first projects. The best way to get started? Just get stuck in! All you need a code editor and browser open where you can test your code; free code editors include like Sublime Text or Visual Studio Code.

HTML

You may be familiar with HTML (HyperText Markup Language), but if your not, you will be very soon! It is the most fundamental and essential skill for a front-end developer. HTML is the bare bones and structure you need to start your build, and will create the framework blocks for text, image, video and menu elements, for example. Because HTML is just the skeleton onto which you will apply visual elements, don’t worry if your first week of practicing produces less-than-pretty results!

CSS

CSS is an abbreviation for Cascading Style Sheets. CSS adds more visual elements to your program or application, such as colours, text fonts, and even animations. Using CSS, you can set margins, spacing and the positioning and alignment of blocks or elements on the interface, to achieve the desired layout or look. A couple of weeks of practicing, and those barebones you constructed in your HTML practice will start looking a little more attractive, now you’ve dressed them up with some CSS. and will deliver truly beautiful and visually-captivating technology products; be it a app-based puzzle game or a high-fashion e-commerce store.

Javascript

Javascript is the programming language capable of making your projects sing through great functionality. Javascript is all about going a little deeper and so will take longer to master than HTML or CSS. Javascript allows you to create image sliders, form validations, pop-ups and the API calls necessary to send and receive data through the program or application. You need to practice a lot, but don’t worry, there are plenty of online communities where you can find support for learning Javascript.

So you’ve got three essential programming languages under your belt. Now would be a good time to take a look at UI libraries, such as Bootstrap. Bootstrap is very popular and will help you build mobile-friendly and responsive application using HTML, CSS and Javascript.

_nology’s top tech tip

Build projects you love! Focusing on subjects, topics, and formats which appeal to you will keep your coding journey to front-end development professional fun, but also rewarding. Project work to present at your first interview will demonstrate your capabilities as a good developer capable of seeing ideas through from conception to completion.

Three most popular front-end frameworks

You make think – why do I need to learn Javascript frameworks? The answer is they will help you, they are designed to provide guidelines and structure: a springboard upon which to start your builds. Here are three of the most popular.

React.js

React.js is a component-based UI library built and maintained by Facebook, and is one of the most powerful frameworks out there. Find out more about how to build user interfaces with tutorials on the React.js website. With Javascript knowledge, you’ll pick it up quickly!

Angular

Angular is another popular framework which makes it easy to create attractive user-interfaces across mobile and desktop. It is built and maintained by Google. Find supporting docs and resources on the Angular site, and try it out for yourself!

Vue.js

Vue dubs itself as the ‘progressive’ Js framework, and is versatile enough to be a UI library to full framework, depending on your tech requirements. Discover the core principles of the framework on the Vue.js site, and start your build.

Not sure which to learn first or use for your project? We’ve taken a look at what the difference between React and Angular is in our Learn to Code Guide.

So there you have it, a checklist to inform your foray into front-end development. If you’re motivated to secure a job, but need a practical and supportive learning environment – take a look at _nology’s 12-week Web Development focused course: the most efficient and effective way to start your career in technology.

Not sure where in a development team you might feel most at home? In our How-to guides, we explore the essential traits and skills of the main roles in a software development team. Take a look at what it takes to become a Junior Developer, the entry-level role where most tech careers begin, or take a look at how to become a UX developer.

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