JavaScript development is not fun for me anymore

I’ve been working on the web for just over 10 years now. I’ve started out as a .NET developer that also did some front-end, without any education (but don’t skip school, I just got lucky). But after a while I figured that the part I really liked was user interactions. And putting stuff on the screen. And fixing accessibility problems. After I was done with the front-end of a project, I hated that I had to do the back-end. I also was not good at it.

And then a colleague of mine (Pascal Vree), said to me something along the lines of

You should go to the Fronteers Conference, I know you’ll feel right at home there.

So I went, and I did. I realised that I wasn’t the only one that just liked front-end. And front-end developer was actually a real job. I learned about HTML5 and fixing browser incompatibilities with the help of a new tool called Modernizr. About SVG and about Responsive Design. And finally, I got inspired by Christian Heilmann’s talk “Reasons to be Cheerful”, who talked about why front-end development was as awesome as “Chewbacca fighting Nazis with a crossbow while riding a giant squirrel”.

So that was it, I was going to be a front-end developer (and I wanted to go on stage in the future, to be a rockstar like Jake Archibald). And I loved it. I finally got to do what I liked. I learned all the ins and outs of HTML elements and WAI-ARIA. Read the specs on the latest CSS feature. Learned to write SVG by hand. And read books on optimizing my JavaScript code to make sites faster. Life was good.

Fast-forward to 2017. I’m slamming my keyboard in frustration as another mysterious error appears in my build script. I don’t know how this works! I also don’t care. Plus, now I have to learn what Redux is, and how Vue is the next best thing that happened since Angular 2.0. How to use styled-components to make JavaScript in React do what CSS can do on it’s own. And whenever I switch projects, something has broken because I don’t understand how Node works. And I should know, because I’ve been a front-end dev for 8 years, and Node is JavaScript, so I should know Node. And who cares about accessibility? Sure, you can make accessible React web apps, but that takes effort.

Sorry, it’s just not what I want to do. It’s looking more and more like the back-end I used to loathe. I get that some people love it, it just not my thing. And I only just realised that after learning React and Vue.

So what now?

I took a step back and looked at what brought me to front-end in the first place. And that was the close proximity of the users, and being a bit more creative than I actually thought I was.

Over the past years, I enjoyed doing animations the most. I just love how a simple transition can help a user stay focused, and get less tired. Thinking about how to find the perfect balance between useful animations and gratuitous animations. And I like thinking about how users use products. Figuring out how to best help them. Focus on the details.

So that’s why I’m now learning to be a Web Animator and UX Designer. Doing both of these right now might help me find what I truly want. It’s a bit scary, because I don’t know if I’m any good at either of these, but I don’t know if I don’t try. And luckily my employer supports me in this transition.

Paul Verbeek-Mast — Boy Animator @ Werkspot