I’ve found that in the web industry, a lot of job titles are so rigid. I’ve explained in previous blog posts about how the lines can blur between Front-end Developers and Back-end Developers. I think it’s far overdue that we introduce a more specific title. That of a “Front-end User Experience Developer”.
During the course of this article, I will elaborate on this new title of mine and how I see it influencing the industry, clearing up job specifications and helping companies hire the correct people for the job.
Lets first start off with the problem.
Every now and then, I jump onto job boards. I like to see what the industry is looking for in terms of experience and skillset. More often than not, I come across job advertisements that require Front-end Developers to be more than just Front-End Developers. In fact, according to the job spec itself, Front-end Developers tend to be required to know just as much as backend developers!! What can I deduce from this seemingly absurd predicament? HR really dont know what they are looking for. Similar to shooting fish in a barrel, at some point, after many pulls of the trigger, you will eventually shoot a fish. To me, this is a waste of time and energy.
As an HR person, if you’re looking for a Front-End Developer, it shouldn’t be a case of our fish in the barrel scenario above. Front-end Developers should be hired for their Front-end experience, not require years of experience in every possible PHP framework ever written or expected to know Object Orientated Programming and MySQL. Of course, you will get those who have experience in all of the abobe; but then you are looking for a Full-Stack developer, who will probably look at your job advertisement with a crude grin. Why would someone with such broad and competent skill ever apply to be a Front-end Developer?
Now that I’ve presented the problem, let us take a look at the solution
In my experience as a Front-end developer, I’ve always embraced the blurring of technical lines. I have a passion to learn as much as I can about the web. Anything from Angular to PHP, SysAdmin to Regular Expressions. Naturally, with limited exprience, I cant be proficient in all of these things. As someone who has coded up 100’s of HTML, CSS and JS files for websites, I want to make sure I put my skills to use – focus.
The majority of Front-end Developers I know are creative. They enjoy being able to be stimulated by the creativity that the front-end provides. Most, don’t like the back-end: It’s scary, confusing and incredibly overwhelming, requiring a far greater understanding of technology, the internet and the services related to those concepts. For the most part, I have found that 90% of my fellow comrades have begun developing a more acute understanding of user experience. Which makes sense right? When you’re so involved in making sure your page loads properly and efficiently, that you’ve accounted for users of different platforms, browsers, versions and more, are you not providing a better user experience? The answer is yes, you are.
So, what if Front-end Developers start to take on these more “abstract” concepts that move away from pure development? What if Front-end Developers begin looking at: Layout, colour, typography, visual language, spacing, interaction, harmony, symmetry, balance, contrast, negative and positive space, in order to create a better user experience? Not only consider them, but amalgamate these design principles into their development in order to create a strong bond between development and communication.
Let’s take typography: Often designers spend many hours selecting font faces. Even Steve Jobs had a serious interest in typography and how fonts could be selected by users on MacIntosh’s first word processors. Typography has a world of subtle information just waiting to be released. How different fonts provide for better legibility or readability, or how they can subtly give you a better understanding about the visual language or tone of the brand. What makes Front-end Developers so easily applicable to this situation is the fact that they understand how Web fonts work: Which browsers have a problem with certain fonts? If it’s better to user Google Fonts rather than using @font-face? How to get @font-face working on legacy browsers using Modernizr? Sound familiar?
I can even testify with regards to my own career how my insight in design, user experience and understanding of HTML, CSS and JS have benefitted the projects I’ve worked on. My peers have considered me more knowledgeable, more holistic and trust my opinion when we are critical of user-centric components. Though, I feel like I have contributed more than just my opinion on Front-end development, so without further ado:
I introduce to you the Front-end User Experience Developer.
Let’s run through a dry example of how a job advert would look like for this individual:
- HTML: Using HTML5 and a semantic hierarchy of elements to build the structure for well thought out, search engine optimised websites that considered user experience at its very core.
- CSS: Using CSS3 to create visually appealing sites, with minimal server load.
- Experience working in AGILE based teams – Using sprints, standups and spikes.
- Experience working with Version Control Technologies like Git and Bitbucket.
- Experience in UX based concepts. Considering Design Elements like Form, Shape, Harmony, symmetry, Typography, Colour, Layout, Flow, Hierarchy, Responsive Web Design, Load Time, Content communication and more in order to create a holistic experience for users.
With this snippet in mind, as an HR person looking to fill a spot in a company that requires a Front-End Developer, you can now hire someone who really fits the bill, that will be part of a team or work alone developing well-thought out, user-centric websites that not only have a considered and structured code base, but also have a well-thought out and analytical user experience which can be split-tested in an instant.
To me, this person is an asset. A person that I can rely on to make sure we’ve ticketed the boxes of two very closely related fields, not fields that require every specialization under the sun. Due to this individual’s closely related specialisations, he will be able to provide something very special. He could close the link between User Experience and Front-end Development. Meaning that not only would receive a great website that works unanimously across the board, but you would have considered the intricacies of user-centric design.
A few may ask: Where does visual language come in? Well, a graphic designer can still have influence over this, maybe they are better at choosing fonts or creating colour schemes than a developer would be, which is not a bad thing. In fact, they can fit in even more efficiently and practically than they would have in the past. Working side by side with someone who understands not only how to communicate with users but who can input on the design side of things and provide wisdom when it comes to the trickier aspects of design for web, like grids for instance – something that is totally overlooked by the majority of graphic designers.
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts and opinions on this article, so please feel free to get in touch with me and start a conversation at @dainemawer on Twitter and Medium, or you can use the comment section under this article on my blog as well.