Frontend - a term that many have heard in connection with software development. But what does it actually mean? What does a frontend developer do and what does he work with? And how does a good frontend developer distinguish himself? We answer these questions in this article.
Definition: What is a front-end developer?
A frontend developer (or frontend developer or frontend engineer) develops and optimizes the functions and presentation of a website. When you open a web page, for example, everything you can see has been implemented by the frontend developer. The processes that run in the background, on the other hand, are implemented by the Backend Developer developed. For example, when you register on a website and as a result your data must be stored in a database.
Frontend: Integration into software development
Without a frontend developer, we don't see anything from the web page we visit. The frontend developer creates a graphical interface (also called user interface) for the program, making it accessible to the user. What the program does in the background and is not visible to us is done by the backend developer. Frontend and backend thus work hand in hand to provide a website. Sometimes developers take over both areas. These are then called full stack developers.
The development of graphical interfaces is also about design and UI/UX (User Interface / User Experience). After all, what we are supposed to see should look nice and balanced and not be cluttered. At the same time, relevant information and buttons must be easily visible and quickly findable for the website visitor. This area is usually handled by separate web designers, who then give instructions to the front-end developer on how to implement the design.
What tech stack do front-end developers use?
In addition, front-end developers usually use frameworks and libraries. These are, for example:
In addition, front-end developers use libraries (libraries) for visual design, that is, specifically for CSS. These include:
These lists are by no means exhaustive, and new technologies are being added all the time. However, they provide a direction as to which technologies we may encounter in connection with the term frontend.
What makes a good front-end developer?
A good front-end developer implements the design and integrates the functionality of the app or website. A developer who understands and can balance both worlds (design and function) is worth his weight in gold. Often, such developers are also familiar with design tools such as Photoshop, Figma or the entire Adobe product line (e.g. Adobe Illustrator). This allows him to point out any difficulties in later development while still in the design process.
In our modern world, the front-end developer is also faced with developing "responsive". Today, a website is accessed on many different devices. The size of the smartphone display is smaller than that of the tablet and even smaller than that of the laptop or PC screen. So the graphical interface of the website has to adapt. This adaptation is also done by the frontend developer when he develops responsive.
A good frontend developer thinks about the graphical user interface and its development process holistically. If we think responsiveness further, frontend development is also about compatibility. In addition to the adaptation to the display size, it is also about the different browsers (Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari,...), through which the website is opened. Or also about loading times of the website, error messages and the type of input devices. Does the website visitor use a mouse and keyboard or a touchscreen? In which languages should the website be available? And does the website visitor have fast or slow Internet?
So the complexity in frontend development has increased tremendously in recent years and a good frontend developer knows how to manage this complexity.
What should you look for as a tech recruiter?
Front-end, as we can see, is an extensive field. If we as tech recruiters are looking for frontend developers, we need to introduce more evaluation measures than just looking at the tech stack. Sure, the tech stack is relevant. However, new frameworks are learned quickly in proportion. It's more about understanding the big picture of what makes a good frontend developer.
If you are looking for a frontend developer, try to find out whether your counterpart simply implements design, or whether he also (co-)makes the design himself. Design tools like Photoshop, Figma or Illustrator mentioned in the profile can give you some hints. Also try to find out more about the person. Sometimes frontend developers refer to their own projects or websites. Here you can see their design talent. If there is a website, also access it from your smartphone. This way you'll find out if it's "responsive". If it doesn't adapt properly to the smartphone screen, the developer didn't think everything through.
If the front-end developer's talent is not in design, then they may have other strengths. The implementation of websites for touchscreen devices such as smartphones and tablets or the optimal availability of websites in countries with low-powered devices or poorer internet connections through an efficient deployment of the code.
The questions asked of a front-end developer should be based in particular on what the company needs. Does the company want to expand abroad and therefore have special requirements such as multilingualism or website performance? Then it is important to ask whether the developer already has experience with this.
However, if it is a start-up with very few employees and the front-end developer is responsible for the sole implementation of the website, then an additional talent in the design field can be very helpful, as it facilitates communication within the company, allowing the team to produce results faster.
So the questions to ask a front-end developer arise from the needs of the business. Here are some exemplary questions:
- The company is freshly started and looking for someone to implement a responsive website and also take a lot of responsibility in design. What experience do you have with this? Are your strengths in design? Are you able to implement such a website on your own without clear instructions?
- The company is looking to expand into India and is therefore looking for someone who is particularly familiar with website performance and smartphones as an end device. It is important that content loads quickly and efficiently. Have you already developed for such requirements? What challenges did you face and how did you solve them?
- The company is a large corporation and is looking for a front-end developer to implement forms for data retrieval within the corporation. Do you have experience implementing complex forms on the front end? Can you give practical examples?
Different requirements therefore result in different searches. An exchange with the business department is therefore enormously important. Strictly speaking, the exchange with the business department is more important than the exchange with the front-end developer, because the business department should define what exactly is being searched for. This then also results in the questions that should be asked of the developer.
This way, you can think outside the box and win over the really good developers. During the interview, they will also notice that you don't just ask for basic information about the tech stack, but understand what can be done with it and what is important.
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What do you do as a front-end developer?
A front-end developer implements the design of a website and integrates the functionality. In doing so, he makes sure that the website is provided optimally for the target group (different end devices, multiple languages, easy availability, etc.).
How much does a front-end developer earn?
A frontend developer usually earns around €50,000 per year. However, the requirements in the frontend have risen sharply in recent years, which can also justify higher salaries. Especially if the frontend developer has special niche knowledge or skills (multilingualism, performance or search engine optimization, design, ...).
Which programming languages do you use in the frontend?