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What Is Front-End Web Development?

General Assembly
February 20, 2023

So, you’re interested in learning more about a career in frontend web development?

You’ve come to the right place. 

As the web development industry expands, so does the demand for web developers worldwide. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for web developers is expected to grow 23% between now and 2031 in the U.S. alone. In Europe, more than half of companies that recruited or tried to recruit IT professionals had difficulties filling vacancies— meaning there are more jobs than people.

Undoubtedly, it’s an excellent time to enter a web development role. The real question remains: Is it the right fit for you? If so, how do you actually become a frontend web developer? Read on to learn more.

What is Frontend Web Development? 

Frontend development refers to the process of creating the user interface and user experience of a website or application, including:

  • Designing and coding the layout
  • Creating interactive features 
  • Ensuring the site is responsive and works well on various devices and browsers

The frontend developer is responsible for the visual and interactive aspects of a website or application and works closely with backend developers and designers to bring the final product to life.

Frontend vs. Backend Web Development 

An important distinction to make when discussing frontend development is how it differs from backend development. Frontend developers work on the part of the site that users see and interact with, often referred to as the server side. While backend developers focus on the server side — in other words, behind the scenes. The two roles work in different languages and leverage different strengths. 

 Nick Schaden, UI Engineer at Square, compares the two roles to building a car:


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

So where does frontend development fit in? Nick continues, “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, and a slick leather interior. All the stuff you can directly touch, see, or hear? That’s frontend development. “

The Benefits of a Career in Web Development 

In addition to the profession being in high demand, there are plenty of benefits to becoming a frontend engineer. 

Firstly, no matter where you live, there’s the potential to make a good salary. For example, the average base salary for a frontend developer in the United States is $109,107. While more experienced developers in Singapore make up to $96,000/year. And in the U.K., the median average salary is $94,000. Not too shabby. 

Moreover, the job often offers a high degree of flexibility, with remote and freelance work opportunities. So if you’re looking to carve your hours or avoid a commute to an office, you’ll likely find a job that fits your needs in software development. 

What Skills Do You Need to Be a Frontend Web Developer?

To become a frontend engineer, you need a wide variety of skills, combining both design and technical strengths. And while our mind often jumps to hard skills like coding, soft skills like communication and problem-solving are also imperative to success as a frontend engineer.

If you take a look at live software development job postings, you’ll start to see common skills emerge, like:

  • Proficiency in JavaScript and React
  • Proficiency in HTML and CSS
  • Strong communication skills
  • Capabilities of learning new technologies such as interfaces, languages
  • Offer creative and efficient solutions to challenges that arise 

Below we dive into five core web development skills you’ll need to start your career transition journey.

Programming languages

Frontend web developers use programming languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to build the bones of a website. Knowing these languages is essential for creating and maintaining web pages.

According to Nick, there’s more to programming than meets the eye: “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.”

Web design

Design is a crucial part of frontend development. After all, you’re creating the part of the product that people directly interact with. Understanding front-end web design principles, such as layout, color, and typography, is essential for creating visually appealing and user-friendly websites. 

JavaScript Frameworks and Libraries

Javascript libraries are sets of pre-written code that can be plugged into any website, while frameworks provide templates to build the entire product. Frontend engineers should be familiar with popular frameworks like React, Angular and Vue.js, and libraries like jQery and Lodash, which can help simplify and speed up the development process. 

Problem-solving

Most things you work on won’t be black and white. Problem-solving is a vital part of being a successful developer. Frontend web development can often involve solving complex problems. Strong problem-solving skills allow you to troubleshoot and find solutions to the many issues that may arise. 

Communication and Teamwork 

It takes a village. As a developer, you’ll work with a team of designers, developers, and project managers. Good communication and teamwork skills are important for effectively collaborating and completing projects effectively and efficiently. 

How Do You Become a Frontend Developer?

Becoming a frontend developer can feel intimidating — especially if you have no prior experience with software engineering. But don’t let this stop you. There are many paths you can take on your journey to learning the skills you need and landing a job as a frontend web developer. 

The great thing about software engineering is that it applies to so many industries. Whether you want to work in healthcare or education, travel or law — almost every field needs web developers. 

No matter the industry, here are three steps to take to become an entry-level frontend developer from scratch:

Learn to Code (AKA the basics)

Essential to getting started in frontend development is mastering the “holy trinity” — otherwise known as HTML, CSS, and Javascript. These three languages work together to run a simple website. Here’s a breakdown of the differences.

  • HTML: Technically, HTML isn’t a programming language, but for those just starting in software development, it’s a great thing to learn. After all, it’s the foundation for the entire internet, and almost every website relies on it in one way or another. 
  • CSS: You use CSS to change the appearance of your website — like font colors and sizing. Similar to HTML, it’s not an actual programming language, but is used on almost every website. 
  • Javascript.: Javascript is one of the most popular programming languages. It allows users to interact with a web page and input information. 

There are many resources to help you learn the basics of coding, including General Assembly’s free online courses. 

Build your skills

Once you grasp the foundational skills needed to become a frontend software engineer, it’s time to hit the ground running. To land a job as a software developer, there’s a lot more you need to know — especially with no prior experience. The good news is that you don’t need a college degree in computer science. 

You can take a software engineering course at any age to immerse yourself in knowledge and gain hands-on experience. 

It’s worth noting: learning new skills as a frontend developer doesn’t end when you land a job. Nick Schaden shares advice for aspiring frontend web developers: “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.”

Network

While there’s a lot to learn, it’s important not to get too caught up in heads-down work. Talking to people in the industry is an essential piece of the puzzle. It allows you to build relationships that’ll open the door to future opportunities, gain access to job opportunities that might not be publicly advertised, learn about different company cultures, and get personal referrals and recommendations. Beyond those valuable benefits, networking will also give you more insight into what it takes to be a frontend engineer. 

Moving Forward

Web development is a job in high demand globally — and that demand is increasing yearly. With a great salary and a lot of flexibility, it’s a great option if you’re looking to transition careers. 

While there’s a lot to learn, you’re not alone. So many General Assembly Alumni have been in your shoes before and have transitioned through the wide range of courses we offer. 

If you’re interested in becoming a frontend web developer, a workshop is a great place to start. Become more familiar with a career in frontend web development by signing up for an upcoming workshop.

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