Have you ever wondered who actually builds websites and specifically how it’s done? When I first started building websites, most companies—smaller companies, anyway—typically had one person handling their entire site. The job title for this person was often “Webmaster,” and they were usually a programmer that had slapped a website together strictly to have something accessible to the few geeks using the Internet for whatever the heck it was geeks used the internet for. This was a time when people still questioned why anyone would use the internet when they had the yellow pages—needless to say, the industry and the internet have evolved a lot since I started. The term “Webmaster” eventually turned into “Web Designer,” and “Web Designer” evolved into “Front-End Engineer (or Front-End Developer).”
As the term changed so did my career path, and I’m proud to say I was hired as a Front-End Engineer at Launch. This makes me sound like I’ve gone to engineering school, which I haven’t. However, I don’t mind the title, because every time I build a website there is an element of engineering that goes into it. There are a lot of problems that need to be worked out before a new site can go live, much of which falls under a Front-End Developer’s responsibility.
What is a Front-End Developer?
Front-End Developers often work in conjunction with Back-End Developers, sometimes referred to as “Programmers.” Someone once asked me what the difference was between my job and what a programmer does, and I like to use the construction industry as an analogy when describing what I do. I replied that I am the carpenter and the Back-End Developer is kind of like the electrician. I put up the framework and build the site in such a way that the electrician/programmer can go in and make it possible for the homeowner to pull in resources from a larger network.
In the case of building a website from scratch, a Front-End Developer takes on several roles when compared to the construction industry, assuming the responsibilities of the excavator, carpenter, bricklayer, siding contractor, roofer, etc. The programmers would be the electricians, plumbers, heating and A/C contractors, etc.
A Front-End Developer mainly deals with HTML (often referred to as markup) and CSS. HTML tags are used to structure a website in whatever way best suits the specific business’ needs. There are many important roles and responsibilities that come into play when planning and building a website, even before a Front-End or Back-End Developer starts to type the first characters of HTML and/or CSS. A successful modern website is always going to be the result of collaboration between a number of different people working in specific areas of expertise—here is a clear breakdown of the different major roles involved in creating and maintaining a website. The website css-tricks.com is also a great resource for Front-End Engineers. I refer to it all the time.
Building a website is a challenging but very satisfying process for me from beginning to end. I especially like finding solutions to common problems, like making the interface intuitive to end users on different mobile devices with different screen sizes. It’s challenging, but that’s the part that makes it fun. Where’s the satisfaction if you don’t have challenges to overcome?