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What does a front-end developer do?

Thinking about a career in front-end development? We spoke with John Pham, a front-end developer at Smartsheet and formerly at Microsoft, to find out more about his day to day and what he works on in his front-end role. John was a subject matter expert on our brand new Front-End Engineer Career Path.

John got hooked into programming when he participated in a hackathon in college. He was creating art assets for a game and had to learn how to program the art assets into the game. He describes front-end development as “a great combination of being artistic and being able to program.” In our interview, John defines front-end development, talks about how he got started on his path as a front-end engineer, and shares some tips for aspiring front-end developers who are just starting out.

If you’re interested in becoming a front-end developer, the Front-End Engineer Career Path is designed to prepare you with everything you need to get an entry-level job in front-end development.

What does a front-end engineer do?

In the world of web development, there’s front-end and back-end work. On the back end, programmers do the hidden work and processes that run behind the scenes, that the end user doesn’t see.

Front-end development, on the other hand, deals with the parts of a website or application that the end user actually sees and interacts with. As a front end developer, you’ll be working to make websites beautiful, functional, and accessible. A common thing you’ll do as a front-end engineer, says John, is “working with program managers and designers and customers to figure out what’s the best way to implement a solution for a customer problem.”

Is front-end development right for you?

When it comes to deciding between a career in front-end development or back-end development, the creative and visual nature of front-end is often a determining factor. Back-end development relies a lot on problem solving, but you don’t always get the opportunity to see your work, since you’re focused on the processes that happen behind the scenes.

Front-end development, on the other hand, focuses a lot more on creating a beautiful and engaging user experience. Do you view yourself as a creative person and enjoy bringing things to life visually? “A front-end engineer is someone that likes being at the intersection of art and logic,” says John. “So if you like programming, but also like the artistic side of design and working with customers, being a front-end engineer is the perfect role for you.”

Front-end developers are also very involved in the user experience, and oftentimes work closely with designers and customers to help create the best solutions for customers. “My favorite part about being a front-end engineer is being able to work directly with customers and designers to figure out all of the fine details that end up creating the best user experience,” John says. “That’s one of the most rewarding aspects of being a front-end engineer.”

Advice for aspiring front-end developers

Interested in pursuing a career in front-end development? Start with learning the basics — HTML. CSS, and JavaScript. Then, put what you’re learning into action by building real projects.

“One easy way to get started is just to build your own personal website,” says John. “Your website can be an expression of who you are or what you want to do.” As you work on building your website you’ll learn by doing and gain confidence through experience. Once you’ve built the website, says John, “That’s an awesome way to start marketing yourself.” It’s an example of your work and shows potential clients or hiring managers what type of work you can do for them.

Getting started

If you’re ready to begin your journey towards becoming a front-end developer, our Front-End Engineer Career Path is the path for you. This Path will take you through everything you need to know, from how to build and deploy static web pages to design skills to make your webpages beautiful and usable. You’ll also learn interview techniques and build your portfolio so you can start applying for front-end development jobs. Get started here.

Get more practice, more projects, and more guidance.

What does a front-end developer do?
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