What Is Front-End Web Development?



Name: Nick Schaden (@nschaden)
Occupation: Web Designer/Developer

1. In 140 characters or less, what is front-end web development?

A mix of programming and layout that powers the visuals and interactions of the web.

2. If a website were a house, front-end web development would be ______?

The pretty exterior that gives the house character, or the host that invites guests in and makes them feel at home.

3. What’s your favorite part about programming/coding?

That there are almost always multiple ways to solve a single problem, or achieve any specific functionality. On the outside I think programming can seem like a very prescriptive, direct, binary kind of job. But there’s actually a lot of creativity and ingenuity involved.

4. How would you explain the difference between front-end and back-end web development to a 5-year-old?

Pretend a website is a car. There are a lot of things inside of a car that help it run – make it speed up, slow down, even keep on the lights. All of these things you can’t really see – but are really important – that’s the back-end.

But then there are items that you directly use in the car to make it go: your gas and brake pedals, the steering wheel. And there are also a lot of things on that car that make it fun to drive and cool to look at: a racing stripe, a slick leather interior. All the stuff you can directly touch, see or hear? That’s the front end.

6. What are some of your favorite books, links, resources, for someone interested in getting started in front-end web development?

  • A Book Apart series, especially the books on HTML5 (Jeremy Keith) and CSS3 (Dan Cederholm). Great primers and reference material.
  • A List Apart is a bi-weekly web journal that I’d consider required reading for any web developer, newbie or experienced.
  • Smashing Magazine is a pretty classic web resource.
  • Hacker News is a consistent source of news articles and discussion.

For any developers who also design, I regularly read:

  • Beautiful Pixels for design trends in mobile and web apps.
  • Sidebar is a new link blog where I discover a lot of design related gems.

Finally for the audio inclined:

  • Shop Talk is a web design and development podcast hosted by CSS whiz Chris Coyier.

7. Any advice for an aspiring front end web developer?

  • Never stop learning. Web development (both front and back) changes quickly, arguably faster than almost any other development genre.
  • Have side projects. Especially ones that cover ground outside of work. It’s one of the best ways to really challenge yourself, and keep growing.
  • Be open to change. You might think you know what area of web development you want to go into, but you’ll definitely discover new interests along the way. Come to web projects open minded, willing to tackle any challenge (QA to database work to production design). You’ll form your strengths and specializations later in your career.

Learn More About Front-End Web Development at GA