What is a frontend developer?

Omar Benseddik's photo
Omar Benseddik
Posted 2022-10-26 · Updated 2022-11-20 · 8 min

When you visit any website, what you are greeted by as a user is the website's frontend. The frontend of a website is essentially anything the user can see and interact with. Text, images, forms, web pages you can navigate through - all of this is part of what frontend developers create.

The confusion arises when other terms come into play, such as backend development or CMS. But, fear not, because in this blog, we'll clear everything up by answering the common question: just what is a frontend web developer and what do they do?

What is frontend development?

The frontend development process mainly involves transforming design mockups into web pages and functionalities users interact with, and integrating the user interface (frontend) with a backend or a CMS.

The primary focus with frontend development is formatting the various elements of web pages in a way that is understandable for the user. User experience (UX) is therefore one of the fundamental areas for a frontend developer to consider when looking at page layout and design (although most design inputs come before a developer starts implementing anything).

Frontend web development consists of three key technologies: HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Everything that a user sees will be a mixture of these technologies, all of which will be explained later in the article.

What is a frontend developer?

A frontend developer is someone who has knowledge of how websites fundamentally work, how optimisations can be made on the frontend to improve user experience, and is able to implement them.

Of course, there's more to frontend development than making code accessible. A frontend developer must also consider how the user interface (UI) will work across different browsers and devices. They will also likely have responsive design and inclusivity challenges, on top of working with a variety of technologies.

Successful developers have skills across various softwares, can fix bugs and test websites for usability, and of course, have expertise in HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

Frontend developers collaborate mainly with backend developers and web designers.

Frontend vs backend development

As you may have gathered already, the main difference between a frontend and backend developer is which parts of a site they operate across. A backend developer mainly works on building and maintaining what information gets sent to the frontend, by working mainly with databases and APIs, whereas a frontend developer will focus largely on how all of this information is presented to the end user from a visual perspective.

For example, on a web page where users can login, you can find an authentication page. While the backend developer works on the logic to enable the authentication, the frontend developer would focus on the implementation of the page that allows a user to be authenticated.

Such page is first designed by a designer, then implemented by a frontend developer that uses the logic the backend developer produced.

A full stack developer is a term for an individual with skills across both backend and frontend development.

What technologies and languages do frontend developers use?

A frontend developer will need to have knowledge of a variety of web technologies.

Below, we scratch the surface of some of the most basic elements of a frontend developer’s toolkit.

HTML

HTML is a computer programming language (also known as HyperText Markup Language) that allows a browser to display content correctly. With HTML, frontend developers can add headlines, imagery, text blocks, videos and other media types to a web page. This is done through "tags" which signal to the browser how to read and display the individual elements.

CSS

CSS (also called Cascading Style Sheets) is another kind of web technology that frontend developers must be aware of. It refers to the design and layout of the HTML elements of a web page. CSS also refers to how different elements are styled according to varying screen sizes (e.g. a desktop display vs mobile display).

CSS frameworks are another important part of a frontend development toolkit, as it can streamline development processes by providing a lot of the initial coding and styling groundwork as a template.

JavaScript

JavaScript is a scripting language that can actually be used across both backend and frontend development. JavaScript is what can help make a website (or elements of it) more dynamic and interactive. You will usually find JavaScript libraries or JavaScript frameworks available, which each offer slightly different functions:

  • Libraries are sets of prewritten code snippets to help developers add specific, dynamic features to a website. One of the most known library is React.
  • Frameworks act as a foundation, or scaffold, from which you can build an entire site or application with a variety of moving parts. Frameworks examples are Next.js and Remix.

Other technologies

Literally dozens of new technologies are created everyday, making the frontend development landscape more complex than ever. While we won't get into details, here are some of them:

  • Headless CMSes like Sanity
  • Deployment platforms like Vercel
  • Authentication solutions like Supabase
  • Search solutions like Algolia
  • Media management solutions like Mux

Why should I hire a frontend developer?

Think of the frontend of your site as your primary conversion driver. If your users aren’t interested in what you have to offer from the get go, there is no way around it. That’s why ensuring the effectiveness of your online storefront is so essential.

Frontend developers can help to optimise each web page and implement functionalities your users will be using. They can also ensure your site is performing well across different devices and browsers. By testing, automating and streamlining the usability of your web design and performance, web developers can help your business withstand tough competition and drive even more revenue.

Tinloof frontend development

At Tinloof, we’re proud to have ample experience in delivering design and development projects for our clients. Our expertise across backend and and frontend development means we’re well placed to provide solutions, however you want your site to look.

As a frontend web development company that also offers UX and UI design services we work collaboratively with you, offering multiple open communication channels, so that you always have a full view of how we’re working on your project and when you can expect output delivery. We can also support you with backend development.

If you’d like to get started, tell us about your project today or browse our web development services and we can discuss working together.

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