Thinking about becoming a front-end developer? Well, it is a fantastic career pathway. For starters, it is a lucrative and in-demand profession. But, even if you leave that aside, there’s a lot to like about front-end development. You get to express your creativity. You play a crucial role in how an application or a website looks and feels. Most importantly, your efforts will have a direct impact on the lives of your customers.
So, if you are interested in crafting user experience and design, becoming a front-end developer might just be for you.
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What is front-end development?
Front-end includes every aspect of a website or a web application that users can read, see or interact with. That means, everything that a user can interact with directly — text, colours and styles, images, graphs and tables, buttons, colours, and navigation.
What does a front-end developer do?
A front-end developer is expected to use different front-end languages and tools to develop the user-facing side of an application or a website. They are responsible for everything from implementing visual and interactive elements, making the site responsive, satisfying user experience requirements, and maintaining and improving the performance of the website on the whole.
Why should you become a front-end developer?
For starters, the earning potential is immense. Here’s a quick breakdown of how much front-end developers earn based on their experience:
That’s only one half of it. According to the popular online course providers, Edx, front-end development is one of the most in-demand skills out there. At the time of writing, there are 1423 front-end related job posts on the popular job portal, Naukri, in the Bangalore region alone. And, there are around 35 front-end freelance projects listed every month on TapChief.
How to get started as a front-end developer?
Getting started as a front-end development can be an overwhelming prospect. But, when you break it all down, you will be able to see it as a step-by-step journey rather than one insurmountable mountain.
You can become a front-end developer in two ways, study front-end development formally or by self-learning.
If you are looking for a long-term or medium-term course in front-end development, you may not find too many. The reason being that it is considered as a part of computer sciences and web development. Instead, you can do the following:
- Do a masters in web development or a bachelor’s in engineering or computer sciences.
- Signup for an online front-end development certification program.
- Attend a coding boot camp where they teach you the fundamentals of front-end development.
If you are opting for the self-learning path, you need to start the journey by learning front-end languages such as HTML and CSS and front-end frameworks such as ReactJS, VueJs, and AngularJS.
We have broken down and explained all the steps on the path to becoming a front-developer below — from learning HTML to landing your first front-end development gig. Irrespective of the path you are taking, you can follow this framework to make your journey smoother.
1. Learn HTML
HyperText Markup Language or HTML is one of the most popular markup languages out there. Most web pages and applications are written using HTML. It plays a critical role in front-end development, as it helps to make the page interactive. Learning HTML is essentially the cornerstone of your front-end development journey.
The best part is that you don’t need to be a computer science nerd to learn it. You just need to know how to use a text editor and how to create, edit and save files. Really, it is that simple.
These are the topics you need to cover to get started:
- Learn the syntax and structures
- Understand how to embed images, videos, among other things to your web page
- Learn all the syntax you need to create tables in your HTML documents.
- Learn how to create your own form and integrate HTML5 validations.
- Write clearer, more accessible HTML using Semantic HTML tags.
- Learning HTML: Guides and tutorials by Mozilla Developer Network
- HTML for beginners the easy way By HTML
- Introduction to HTML By Codeacademy
- Friendly web development tutorials for complete beginners By InternetingIsHard
2. Learn CSS
Once you have learned HTML, the next step in your journey to becoming a front-end developer is learning Cascading Style Sheets or CSS. It is a design language that helps you build on top of the web page structure you created using HTML.
Simply put, use HTML to build the webpage structure and CSS to design the way it looks and feels. You’ll be able to adjust everything from the colour of the text, the background images, to the way the web page looks on different devices.
Here’s how you should go about learning HTML:
- The basics — Syntax and Selectors
- How to apply CSS to an HTML document
- Learn the building blocks of CSS — from cascade and inheritance to styling backgrounds
- How to style HTML text content
- Fundamental layout tools and techniques available in CSS
- Learn to style HTML using CSS By Mozilla Development Network
- CSS Tutorial – Zero to Hero By Freecodecamp.org
- Learn HTML & CSS Correctly By I Love Coding
- What are APIs?
- Client-side storage
- Learn Web Development By Hackernoon
4. Learn front-end frameworks
Few things to keep in mind while learning front-end frameworks:
- The most popular front-end frameworks are Angular, React, Vue, Preact, Ember, and Bootstrap.
- Make a call on what framework to learn based on your skill level, availability of learning resources, the trends in the market, the ease of integration, among other things.
5. Pickup allied skills
As a front-end developer, every freelance project or full-time job you get is going to bring its own set of requirements. For instance, most jobs need you to have a solid understanding of version control tools. Whereas some other roles may require you to know front-end testing frameworks or CSS preprocessors.
Here are some of the most critical allied skills that you should pick up along your way to becoming a front-end developer:
- CSS preprocessors – It is a program that allows developers to enhance the capabilities of default CSS. Some of the popular CSS preprocessors out there are Sass and Less.
- Version control tools – These tools help you create code backups and compare different versions. GitHub and Beanstalk are two of the most popular version control tools out there.
- Wireframing – It is the process of creating an outline of the structure of how a website or application should look like — the page layout, header placement, banners, sections, and more. Popular wireframing tools are Sketch and Zeplin.
- Responsive design basics – Mobile devices are becoming more popular than ever, so having a basic understanding of native development frameworks, progressive web applications, and app-makers.
It is not mandatory to learn all of this. Instead, learn whatever that is relevant to your focus area and the sort of jobs that you want to take up.
6. Sharpen your soft skills
Here are a few soft skills that might improve your chances of landing a front-end gig:
- Cultivate a design mindset – Makes it easier to grasp the bigger picture, understand the client’s problems better, and deliver a fulfilling user experience.
- Develop attention- to-detail – You are responsible for the way an application looks and feels. So, it is imperative to be detail-oriented. Otherwise, it might just spoil the experience of the potential user.
- Write readable code – Code reviews and code readability tests are taken more seriously now than ever. So, every line of code you write must be easily readable and maintainable.
- Build empathy – You must understand the user’s needs, demands, and behaviour. This means you need to be familiar with user research techniques, how to interpret user behaviour data and UI/UX best practices.
- Learn to work collaboratively – Front-end developers can’t operate in silos; you have to work with the product, design, and backend teams. So you have to be collaborative, receptive, and clear.
7. Build things on your own
Like almost everything else, practice is what makes you a better front-end developer. It helps you understand the nuances of the domain and makes you more street smart and quick.
Consequently, you will be much better equipped to deal with the complexities a full-time job or freelance front-end project might bring.
Here’s a list of things you can build on your own to improve and prove your front-end skills:
- Create a simple online game using HTML5. It now supports a whole range of game engines, so you can use them to create simple 2D and 3D games.
- Create a simple note-taking app which helps you save, edit, and delete notes.
- Build a simple Chrome extension that changes the way your ‘new tabs’ look.
- Create a simple quizzing app that displays questions and options, allows users to select their answer, saves high scores locally, and also shows their progress.
8. Take on projects
Once you have completed a few projects on your own, the next step is to get some work experience under your belt. This is a catch-22 situation; people may be reluctant to hire you due to a lack of work experience. So, what do you do?
- Reach out to a local business, tell them that you can help improve the look and feel of their website. Pitch them with a few mock-ups of how the redesigned website would look like.
- Reach out to Non-Profit Organisations that work for a cause that you are passionate about. Tell them that you can help redesign their website and improve their visitor experience.
- Contribute to open-source projects on GitHub. This is a great way to get your feet wet. If you are planning on doing this, start with small code-commits first.
- Sign-up to different internship portals such as Internshala and MakeIntern, create a profile, and start applying for relevant internships.
You may or may not get paid for these projects. But, don’t insist on monetary rewards, but make sure you get credited for your work. You can ask them to write recommendations, give you testimonials or even referrals.
9. Build your network
For starters, your network acts as a support group that you can rely on. And everybody needs support, more so when starting. You can get your queries cleared, get feedback on your work, get guidance or directions from experienced developers, stay up-to-date with the latest trends, and even gain referrals.
There are a variety of ways you can build these connections:
- Follow senior front-end developers on Twitter and LinkedIn who are working with big companies or up-and-coming startups.
- Join the Front-end Development Subreddit and other related Subreddits.
- Become part of communities such as TapChief, Stack Overflow, GitHub, and Site Point.
- Use event curation apps such as Meetup, EventsHigh and EventBrite to find out relevant seminars, conferences, and workshops happening in your city.
- Be an active member of your alumni network, get in touch with relevant people, see if you can work for them temporarily or if they can recommend you to potential clients.
10. Build a portfolio
Whether it is to get a full-time job or a freelance project, you need an impressive online portfolio. It is easily the most critical marketing tool in your arsenal.
Remember, a portfolio is not the same as a resume. For starters, it is an encapsulation of your work experience, background story, values and beliefs, offerings, contact details, qualifications, and much more. It is much more visual and detailed compared to your resume.
Few tips to keep in mind while building your portfolio:
- Don’t limit yourself to just displaying all the mockups you have worked on. Instead, explain your reasoning behind them – why you designed it the way you did, how will it improve the user experience, the tools and frameworks you used, and more.
- Always categorise your samples and explain the context of each one. Moreover, if you can, share your code samples. Let them know that you can write robust and clean code which can be reused.
- Write posts about your views on development, the challenges you encountered while building or learning something, or critiques of popular applications and the changes you would like to make.
Here are a few excellent front-developer portfolios that you can check out:
11. Land a freelance project or a full-time job
You learned the necessary skills, built a few things on your own, built a portfolio, and now you have to land a job. You can either opt for a full-time job or look for freelance projects. As we mentioned in the beginning, there’s no dearth for both.
Here’s how you should go about securing your first project/job:
- Build a complete and professional-looking LinkedIn Profile.
- Build a great resume that stands out from the crowd.
- Sign-up to different job portals (Naukri, Indeed, Angellist, InstaHyre, Updazz) and freelance websites (TapChief).
- Search for projects/jobs relevant to your skills, and start applying.
In most cases, they will ask you to complete a coding test. The best way to prepare for them is to sign up to competitive programming platforms such as HackerEarth, Spoj, and CodeChef, and actively participate in different contests.
The key to becoming a successful front-end developer is to ensure that you don’t stand still. Keep learning; every year, new technologies and frameworks are coming out, so stay up-to-date. Nothing impresses a recruiter like someone who is proactively trying to improve themselves.