Websites these days have various different visual and interactive elements that make them appealing and easy to use. If you’re a creative thinker, and looking to make your mark in the tech world, then a career as a front-end developer could be a great option for you. Building websites from scratch and seeing your ideas brought to life is always rewarding—and you’ll be helping businesses to connect with their customers in a powerful and dynamic way.
As the name suggests, front-end developers interact with the front-end or the client-side of a website. There’s another team of coders that work on the website’s functionality with the database and server-side; they’re known as back-end developers. Front-end developers also use back-end data to create a user-facing functionality. Everything that we see on our website screens, everything we click and touch, is created through markup languages, designs, scripts, and frameworks that have been put together by a front-end developer.
This article runs through the typical role of front-end developer, the best ways to learn the trade and tips for carving out a successful career in this fast-moving industry. If you want to find out how to become a front-end developer, then look no further.
Role of a Front-End Developer
Front-end developers focus on user experience. They work to eliminate bugs and errors on the front end and ensure that the design appears as it’s supposed to, including across different platforms and browsers. The job of a front-end developer demands both creative and technical expertise. Their major responsibilities include:
- Production and maintenance of websites and web application user interfaces
- Building tools that enhance interaction with the site in any browser
- Implementing design for mobile sites
- Maintaining software workflow management
- Implementing best practice SEO
- Testing the site for usability and fixing bugs and errors
Learn Front-End Development
To become a front-end developer, you can either enroll in a college program (an associate bachelor’s or master’s degree), train through a tech bootcamp or learn the necessary skills through self-learning.
Some of the most reputable universities offering courses in software engineering and computer sciences are Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California at Berkeley, Georgia Tech, California Institute of Technology, and the University of Washington. You can find out more about the admission process, score cut-offs, financial aid, tuition waivers, application prerequisites, and deadlines on each university’s website.
Learn Via Online Courses
If a hectic schedule, high tuition, or time constraints are making you think twice about the college experience, or if you’re making a career switch from another field, then an online bootcamp or certification courses could be great options for you. Most online courses are specially curated, focusing on front-end development in line with industry requirements. This helps to ensure you’re highly employable after you finish the course.
Courses can be full-time or part-time and usually consist of video lectures, audio lectures, and live classroom interactions. While some courses are free, others offer significant financial aid and flexible payment options.
Thinkful’s full-time and part-time web development courses offers a job guarantee within six months of program completion or a complete fee refund if you don’t land a job within that time. The beauty of learning with thinkful is that you’ll also receive support with things like preparing your resume, LinkedIn profile, and portfolio, as well as vital job interview preparation and industry referrals via their recruitment network.
Supplement Your Knowledge
When you’re just starting out, it’s helpful to supplement your learning through a few different sources, and pick up tips from those who are already active in the industry. One of the best ways to do this is by reading books, listening to podcasts and subscribing to a few relevant blogs. Below are some of the best books about front-end development, for experts and beginners alike.
- HTML and CSS: Design and build websites, by Jon Duckett
- You Don’t Know JS by Kyle Simpson
Be sure to also check out our guide to the top software engineering books and our guide to web design books. (There may be a little crossover here, but you can be sure it’s a good one if you see it mentioned twice!).
Develop Your Soft Skills
Alongside your technical acumen, strong base in mathematics and logical reasoning, front-end web developers also need to be good communicators. This is important because they have to interact with clients, understand their wants and needs, and interpret the needs of their clients too. In your day-to-day work, there may be times when a client disagrees with your vision or approach. This is when you should be able to help the client understand the issues with their approach and convince them why your idea may work more effectively than what they originally had in mind.
Web developers usually within a broader team, which could include peers, managers, clients, marketing, web and user experience design, software testers, and documentation specialists. So a collaborative attitude and team spirit is a must for successful front-end web developers.
You should always be willing to sharpen and expand your skillset by learning new languages, programs, and algorithms. To be an expert in the IT industry requires regular updates to your existing skills to keep pace with developing technologies. Additional knowledge of back-end coding languages is also a huge plus for any front-end web developer.
A Career as a Front-End Developer
The strong availability of freelance work makes web development one of the most flexible career choices. Additional benefits like high demand, high salaries, and job security make it even more lucrative as a profession. The markets of web applications will further bloom in the coming years, increasing the demand for front-end web developers.
As per the latest report of Indeed.com, an average entry-level front-end developer makes $61,512 per year while working full time in the US. After gaining three years of experience, this can rise to an average of $108,409 for senior and mid-level front-end development positions. Further hikes depend on certain factors including location, expertise, and experience.
Career Tips for Front-End Developers
Below are a few tips and tricks that will help you gain experience and boost your front-end developer career.
1. Practice by working on mock coding projects
Don’t wait for the perfect job to come and find you. Put your coding skills to good use right off the bat by working on personal projects. Whether it’s a model website for a fictitious brand or redesigning a real website for an NGO, put your plans into place and get started. This experience will come in handy and you can add these projects to your portfolio and resume when applying for jobs. You can even reach out to friends and family seeking solutions to website-related queries and see if you can address their problems.
2. Use your portfolio to display your work
Building a stellar digital portfolio is a great step in the direction of a successful career in front-end web development. You can publicly publish your work on sites like CodePen, Stack Overflow, and GitHub. This gives potential recruiters a chance to assess your work and coding skills. This in turn further improves your chances of landing a good job. Make sure to include the right web development samples that will resonate with your clients and employers.
3. Draft your resume and cover letter
It’s important to write a custom cover letter before you apply for any job. This helps you in your research about the company or client you are going to apply for. You can highlight the skills that they are especially looking for. Notice the trends in their projects and include your observations in your letter. If you have any personal experience with the company, you can include that too. A sound resume along with a strong portfolio and a cover letter set the right foundation for job placement.
We hope this article helped provide a general overview and some tips and tricks on how to become a successful front-end web developer. If you’d like to know more, reach out to us at Thinkful.
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