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, from your experience?

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

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

Front end 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 languages or coding?

That there are almost always multiple ways and applications to solve a single problem, or achieve any specific functionality using programming languages in computer science. On the outside, I think programming can seem like a very prescriptive, direct, binary kind of job skill. But there’s actually a lot of creative elements, knowledge, and ingenuity involved.

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

Pretend a website is a car. There are a lot of pieces of technology inside of a car that help it run, make it speed up, slow down, keep its lights on—all of these things you can’t really see but are really important for performance. That’s what back-end development services are about.

Then, you directly use items in the car to make it go: your gas and brake pedals, the steering wheel. There are also many 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 front end development.

6. What resources—a favorite book, podcast, platform, tools, etc.—would you recommend for someone interested in getting started in front-end web development?

  • A Book Apart series, especially the books on HTML5 programming language (Jeremy Keith) and CSS3 (Dan Cederholm). Great primers and reference material for code.
  • A List Apart is a bi-weekly web journal that I’d consider required reading for developers everywhere, whether they’re new or have vast experience.
  • Smashing Magazine is a pretty classic web resource for most coding languages.
  • Hacker News is a consistent source of news articles and discussion.

For any front-end developer who also designs, I regularly read:

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

Finally for the audio-inclined:

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

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

  • Never stop learning. Webpage development (both front and back) changes quickly, arguably faster than almost any other development genre. Any client will appreciate and recognize this, too.
  • Have side projects. Especially a project that covers 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 a web application project 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