What is a Front-End Developer?

Are you interested in web development? Would you like to approach your work from a more pragmatic, human level? You may want to consider a career as a front-end developer!

A front-end developer is a web developer that codes the front end of a website. While web design is the way a website looks, front end development is how that design actually gets implemented on the web.

What does a Front-End Developer do?

The pages of the internet are a sum of layers — structure, data, design, content, and functionality. The web would be a dust bowl of HTML and "Under Construction" GIFs without front-end developers taking the backend data and creating a user-facing functionality.

By integrating markup languages, design, scripts, and frameworks, front-end developers create the environment for everything that users see, click, and touch.

A front-end developer working on his computer.

A front-end developer links together the world of design and technology, packaging up the utility of the back end in an inviting way for users to interact with. They take website design files and convert them into HTML, JavaScript (JS) and/or CSS code — the core elements of front-end development. This includes design/layout, content, buttons, images, navigation, and internal links.

Everything a user sees, clicks, or uses to input or retrieve information on a website is the work of a front-end developer. This takes being both creative and tech-savvy. Their focus is on user experience, and the technology they implement hinges on how well it will accomplish that efficiency, speed, and smooth functionality. They also make sure that there are no errors or bugs on the front end, and that the design appears as it’s supposed to across various platforms and browsers.

Typically, a front-end developer’s responsibilities include:

  • Prioritizing user experience
  • Bringing a concept to life with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Production and maintenance of websites and web application user interfaces
  • Creating tools that enhance interaction with the site in any browser
  • Implementing design for mobile sites
  • Maintaining software workflow management
  • Looking at SEO best practices
  • Testing the site for usability and fixing any bugs

Are you suited to be a front-end developer?

Front-End developers have distinct personalities. They tend to be investigative individuals, which means they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive. They are curious, methodical, rational, analytical, and logical. Some of them are also artistic, meaning they’re creative, intuitive, sensitive, articulate, and expressive.

Does this sound like you? Take our free career test to find out if front-end developer is one of your top career matches.

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What is the workplace of a Front-End Developer like?

Decent salaries, high demand, job security, and plenty of options for mobility are just some of the perks that come with a career in front-end web development.

Employers look for problem solvers, not just people who can code, but people who can sit down with visual and user experience designers to solve major challenges.

Front-end development is a pretty flexible field in terms of where and when it can get done. The amount of freelance work available tends to be just as plentiful as full-time openings.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between a front-end and back-end developer?

Within the context of web development, front-end developers generally tend to work on the user-facing portions of a website or app. They generally spend their time working with client-side technologies that make up a website, such as HTML, JavaScript, and CSS.

Back-end developers tend to work with the server-side technologies that power the site’s functionality.

The two roles are closely related in that they must generally work together to create a fully functioning website. The split itself comes from how the web is architected at a fundamental level, where the client-side is generally referred to as the browser, and the server-side is the technology stack that receives requests and generates responses.

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What software and tools does a front-end developer use?

Front-end developers can choose between a large number of tools to do their work, but these typically fall into two categories: graphical design tools, and code editors.

Graphical design tools are useful for building a prototype of the application, experimenting with the user interface, and creating the final design. Depending on the size of the team, the front-end developer may be more or less responsible for the graphical elements of the application. Regardless of the size of the team, however, front-end developers will likely find themselves using at the very minimum several prototyping tools. These tools can range from a pad of paper and pencil, to dedicated prototyping tools like Balsamiq Mockups, to full graphical editors like Photoshop or Sketch. Front-end developers who are responsible for more of the graphical elements of the application will find themselves using full graphical editing tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketch, or Figma far more often.

There are a range of code editors, ranging from incredibly lightweight editors like Notepad all the way up to feature-heavy 'integrated development editors' (IDEs) like Eclipse or Visual Studio. Some of the more complicated editors - such as emacs or vim - can take months to master, and can even lead to fierce loyalty by their users. A developer's code editor is a highly personal choice, and there is no one perfect solution; most developers will experiment with several code editors before settling on one.

Almost all development takes place on a computer, so a front-end developer will likely put a lot of thought into their chosen machine. Very few other tools are required, although some front-end developers may chose to surround themselves with notepads and whiteboards.

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What programming languages does a front-end developer use?

Front-end developers are responsible for implementing designs and concepts on the web, meaning that their primary tools are HTML, CSS, and Javascript. HTML is used for laying out content and the structure of the document, while CSS is used for styling it before JS is applied where anything beyond basic interactivity is required. Oftentimes front-end development is very heavily Javascript-oriented, particularly when working on modern, highly-interactive, web applications.

Front-end developers tend to make heavy use of libraries built on top of these three languages to ease development, whether it be design frameworks like Bootstrap or Foundation, or Javascript libraries like AngularJS and React that are intended to ease web application development. More powerful extensions of CSS such as SASS have also increased in popularity in recent years, and offer front-end developers a lot more power and modularity in their styling.

Oftentimes front-end developers may reach into PHP, Ruby, or Python code in order to connect data with a back-end, so familiarity with web-oriented languages beyond just the standard HTML, CSS, and Javascript trio is also quite important.

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Front-End Developers are also known as:
Front-End Engineer Front-End Software Engineer Front-End Web Developer Client End Developer Front-End Coder