Behind the Code:

A Day in the Life of a Front-End Developer

28

JANUARY, 2018

Written by Katherine Pendrill

Picture a front-end web developer.

You’re probably imagining someone sitting by themselves, hunched over a laptop at a desk scattered with so many coffee cups that you’re a little concerned about their health.

In actuality, this caffeine-fuelled dev that you’re imagining is more of a myth than reality. In fact, the world of front-end development is dynamic, collaborative, and far more creative than you ever imagined. So to bust some myths and find out what being a front-end web developer is actually like, we talked to SapientRazorfish’s Experience Developer Kristen Nakamura and Manager of Interactive Development Zoltan Hawryluk.

As any front-end developer will tell you, no two days are the same. Instead, each work day unfolds based on where the dev team is in a given project. If things are in the early stages, Kristen starts by meeting with the designers to ensure their ideas are feasible, and to figure out which technologies and architecture to use. While Kristen says that having a handle on coding languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript is essential, what’s more important is a desire to learn because when you’re a front-end developer, there’s always more to know.

“I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that, in order to start as a front-end developer, you need to be an expert in all these different frameworks and technologies. I think what’s more important than the coding languages themselves is a love of learning, and being a strong problem-solver.” – Kristen Nakamura

While Zoltan also consults with designers in the early stages of a project (devs sit through a lot of meetings), his focus is primarily on accessibility—meaning anyone, regardless of disability type or severity of impairment, can use a given web product or service. As he explains, accessibility is something that’s becoming an increasing priority for front-end developers and “will be the industry’s biggest challenge” in the years ahead. When it comes to accessibility, Zoltan stresses that front-end developers should have a solid understanding of WCAG 2.1, as it not only makes online experiences more inclusive, but also saves clients from potential lawsuits.

Once development is underway, Kristen spends much of her day building the actual components of the project or website. Though this might sound like it would involve a lot of head-down coding time, Kristen notes that it’s actually a pretty collaborative process. As she explains, front-end developers must work with everyone from UX and back-end developers, to quality assurance and the designers—a far cry from the lone wolf developer stereotype.

“A web developer who can’t collaborate with a group of creatives, QA professionals, and other programmers will not create good work because it requires a team to make a good website.” – Zoltan Hawryluk

As a manager, Zoltan spends less of his day programming and more time mentoring young devs. As he explains, “I make sure I’m giving them the right advice to move their career forward, how to deal with issues they’re having on their own projects, and how to contribute to our company’s culture.” For Zoltan, this can include everything from teaching technical skills, to explaining how to approach a problem from a different point of view.

Of course, it’s not all team lunches and flexible hours (although those are definitely perks). As projects near their end, front-end developers are responsible for fixing any bugs that pop up. For Kristen, this can be both the best, and the worst, part of any project. As she puts it, “the process can sometimes be really discouraging, but there isn’t a better feeling than finding the solution—it’s like solving a really difficult puzzle.” Or as she jokes, “Being a dev is often feeling really dumb for a long time, followed by a very, very short period of feeling like the smartest person in the world.”

With even just a glimpse into the professional life of Kristen and Zoltan, it’s clear that the day-to-day of a front-end developer is anything but routine. It’s an ever-changing role that not only requires a firm grasp on technical skills, but also a keen ability to communicate and collaborate with others. But for born problem-solvers who love to be challenged, it’s a dream job (that also pays pretty well). As Zoltan sums it up, “I get to come to the office every day and work with the best and most talented professionals in the industry. I get to learn new things every day in an industry that demands that you keep learning to be relevant.”

Considering a career in one the fastest growing industries? Get there faster with Miami Ad School’s 15-week Front-End Development course.

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