Have you ever been at the beach on a sunny day, and when you look out at the horizon, you can’t really tell the difference between the sky and the water? Rationally, you know that there is a line that divides the two, but you can’t exactly see that line. If you can picture this, then you can understand the role of a Front-End Developer. They exist between back-end development and designers, and they build the actual web experiences you interact with.
The reason Front-End Developers (FED) are so critical is because, more and more, we as marketers are concerned with the Customer Experience and the digital brand experience we create.
From where I sit in my office at work, I constantly see developers, designers and user experience folks huddled around a FED’s desk. Months of hard work planning a site can get derailed if a browser changes, a video isn’t properly autoplaying or a site isn’t displaying correctly on a device. FEDs are looking at all aspects of an experience, including the device type, screen resolution, accessibility needs, bandwidth availability and browser changes, all while bringing designs to life.
You’ll find that a lot of FEDs were previously designers or UX folks before they transitioned into this new role. Although there are a number of organizations that provide training for FEDs, so much of what they do is self-educated.
For one thing, they need to understand the ever-changing browser landscape. Can you imagine if Van Gogh had to deal with a constantly changing frame size or canvas shape? It could have driven him crazy. It’s no surprise that as browsers evolve, FEDs are relieved to find increasing consistencies across them, and older, more cumbersome browsers being sunsetted.
More so than browsers, front-end technologies, tools and approaches change rapidly. Front-End Development is a fluid discipline, and those best suited to it have to be curious and eager to learn.
So, what do FEDs see on the horizon that you should be thinking about?
- Increased focus on mobile and the mobile experience
- More powerful browsers with cross-browser consistency
- The ability to develop 3D interactions (think: maps and big data visualization)
- Of course, a lot more microinteractions
Written under the guidance of FED Extraordinaire, Jimmy Tsao.