Where To Start As A Front-End Web Developer?

by Bradley Nice, Content Manager at ClickHelp.com — software documentation tool

Front-end development is like an ocean. You happen to have a ship, but no map. First learn the shallow waters, then go deep.

Becoming a front-end developer is one of the hottest and most lucrative jobs in the job market today. There is always a high demand for highly skilled developers.

Front-end developer is the most popular term for a web developer who focuses on code which is run by the web browser. For a front-end developer the average salary is $75k to $100k for 2+ years experience.

A few traits of being a good front-end web developer are:

  • Thorough
  • Empathetic
  • Strong communication skills
  • Good at working with diverse groups of people
  • Interested in design and aesthetics
  • The ability to visualize structure in a concept

When we talk about the Front-End we are referring to the languages that are interpreted by the users browser as opposed to the Back-End which are the languages being interpreted on the server (of the website the user is connecting to). The Front-End languages that are interpreted by the browser are HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language), CSS (Cascading Style Sheet), and JavaScript and each serve a unique purpose.

So tip #1 is

1. Learn HTML & CSS

I guess there’s no way around it. Learn HTML & CSS. Why? Because the basics matter.

HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) are the most fundamental building squares of web coding. Without these two things, you can’t make a site outline, and all you’ll wind up with is unformatted plain content on the screen.

There are all kinds of different online courses and books available on how to get started with HTML and CSS. For example, try out these:

Sites: Codecademy, FreeCodeCamp.com, SoloLearn (HTML), SoloLearn (CSS), Treehouse (HTML), Treehouse (CSS), Tutsplus, A to Z CSS, Dash, Web Accessibility, The Hello World, Khan Academy, HTML5 from Scratch, Sitepoint, Usersnap
Books: Mozilla, Dive into HTML5, HTML Dog, HTML & CSS, HTML Canvas
(c) The Best Websites to Learn Coding

I also recommend developing some small UI elements for practicing your newly learned HTML & CSS skills. Codepen.io is a great playground for that. Browse other people’s projects and participate in the community there.

2. Build Things

Playing around with (small) UI elements is one thing. Creating an actual landing page or website is something different. At some point, you will eventually start using JavaScript snippets.

JavaScript is a robust programming language and you can expect to spend much more time learning it than for HTML and CSS which are fairly simple in comparison.

After learning the fundamentals of JavaScript I would suggest learning more advanced topics such as JavaScript libraries like: jQuery, Underscore, React, Angular2, Riot, etc.

Check out a list of sites and books on them: The Best Websites to Learn Coding

3. Read, Read, Read

I guess there’s no way around this. Believe it or not. Your reading skills greatly influence your path to becoming a great front-end developer. Especially when starting out, there’s a lot of reading required.

At first you’ll probably read a lot of articles, guides and manuals on how to do different things. You’ll also start reading other people’s code.

You might want to check: Useful Docs and Guides for Front-End Developers

4. Front-End Development Is Not Only About Building Websites

If you followed my tips from 1 to 3, you have probably already done a course or have read a lot of tutorials and are now able to throw together a website.

However, that doesn’t equate to being a “front-end developer”. Knowing how to build a website is a very small part of the front-end puzzle.

There is a whole load of topics for you to learn. If we consider performance, testing, QA and many other areas, then you really need to become a deep diver as a front-end developer.

5. Know Your Tools

As you start your journey with front-end development, you will need to decide on your toolkit and the services you need to to make your life easier. Learning about the different tooling options is an important thing. Great tools will help you enhance and automate your front-end development workflow.

The following post might help you: The Ultimate List of Best Free Tools & Resources for Front-End Web Developers

6. Be The Middleman

As a front-end developer, you need to be aware that you put yourself in some kind of middleman role. As a middleman, you are in touch with QA people, clients, UX experts as well as other developers. You will need to take different perspectives into consideration.

That is why, besides learning the basics of HTML, CSS and JavaScript, you need to make sure to be able to communicate clearly.

7. Don’t Rush And Ask Questions

Along the way, you will ask yourself why you do this and you may want to just stop. It may be tempting to just give up. But don’t. If you’re at that point, I have only one advice for you:

DO_NOT_GIVE_UP

Set aside one or two hours every other day to learn. Take a lot of breaks and make sure that you really know the basics. And never rush.

The basics form the foundation which will help you get to the next level.

If you feel stuck, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Everyone goes through this phase and having the patience to stick it out will help you come out in the end as a pro in front-end development.

Wrapping up

The path to becoming a front-end developer will definitely take some time. As presented in this blog post, becoming a front-end developer is not only about learning various front-end frameworks and programming languages. It’s about the interaction, responsibilities and roles as a front-end developer.

Because the web is a rapidly evolving universe, great front-end developers should never stop learning. Even little things like following front-end experts on twitter will have impact on your learning curve.

You need to have some patience to get there. Rushing doesn’t make sense because it won’t make you happy. Never forget to have fun while learning and experimenting.


Have a nice day!

Bradley Nice,
Content Manager at ClickHelp.com — best online documentation tool for SaaS vendors