Front-end Web Development: Skill Sets, Frameworks and Languages
Front-end web development: The definition
Web design and development is separated into two sides: the back-end and the front-end. Back-end is the underlying architecture that handles the website operations, completely hidden away from the users. On the other hand, the front-end is the presentation layer of a website from the users’ perspective. It is the area where Internet users can see, interact and communicate with the website to gain the information they are looking for.
The final goal of front-end web development is to create a seamless user experience, which is realized by making the website attractive (in terms of design) and interactive (in terms of functions) for targeted audiences.
It is important to note, however, that the main scope of work of front-end developers revolves around the technical aspect rather than the artistic one. While there are cases where front-end developers create the visual elements themselves, most of the time, their front-end web structures are developed based on the mock-ups provided by UI designers.
Hence, the tool stack of developers is a combination of different front-end web technologies, not Photoshop nor any other graphic program.
Another focal point in front-end web development is to provide a universal on-site experience for users across different devices. The screen size, resolution, web browser, operating system, etc. of a device (computer, phones, tablets, etc.) all have an influence on how the website is being displayed. Thus, a website design optimized for one device may not appear correctly on another device. For example, a menu bar on a computer screen may appear to be too large for a phone screen and has to be resized and repositioned accordingly.
Therefore, front-end web developers must take into consideration those subtle differences among a variety of electronic devices during development to ensure that users receive the best and immersive experience regardless of the platform they use to view the website, especially when more and more devices with varying specifications are making their appearances on the market.
Front-end can be a make-or-break component of your website: an attractive user interface invites visitors to stay, and the convenience in web navigation flow contributes to leaving a good lasting impression of your business in them. Failure to create an intuitive surfing experience risks driving the target audience away before they even have the chance to do business with you. Hence, it is crucial to take the development of the website’s front-end seriously to ensure the success of the whole web design & development project.
Read also: The Complete Guide for Business Website Development
Having discussed the definition and the importance of front-end development in building a website, in the following section, we shall go briefly through the technology stacks that front-end developers utilize to achieve the aforementioned objectives.
The front-end web development skill sets for developers
The front-end languages
Similar to any other area in the field of Information Technology, the technology stack of front-end web development is always changing as more and more advanced technologies are being introduced to the community.
Nevertheless, there are still 3 programming languages in the front-end skill set that have stood the test of time and proven their irreplaceable competency as the cornerstone technologies in the constantly-evolving IT landscape:
- HTML (Hypertext Markup Language): HTML is the programming language for laying down the structure of a website. Specifically, it defines the format and the position of various contents such as texts, links, images, etc. that make up a website. The language was released back in 1991 and was utilized in creating the first website of the world. Since then, the language has developed tremendously. The latest major update of HTML is HTML5, greatly enhancing the capabilities of the language in creating powerful websites.
- CSS (Cascading Style Sheet): CSS is a style sheet that adds styling to the website in terms of the colors, the fonts and the positioning of different elements. While HTML is enough for you to create a simple text-based website, to make the web interface beautiful and appealing requires the application of CSS in front-end development.
The front-end frameworks
Thus, frameworks come to existence as the key to accelerate the front-end web development. They act as the foundation structure which developers can base on to expand and develop unique front-ends for websites without having to waste time reinventing the wheel for basic components.
Below are some of the most popular frameworks in front-end web development that businesses should consider to include in their technology stacks. Depending on the nature of your web development project and the IT competencies of your in-house team, the right choice for the front-end frameworks may vary.
Released by Facebook in 2013, React has grown tremendously in popularity thanks to its capability in producing stable websites that can handle high volume of traffic. Moreover, the reusability of components offered by React allow developers to process their work faster and effectively shorten the time-to-market of a website
Nevertheless, due to the many updates being released and the lack of proper documentation, it proves to be a little challenging to get familiar with the framework and is therefore not a recommended option for inexperienced front-end developers.
Angular was launched by Google back in 2016. Being the framework that delivers a comprehensive solution for front-end web development, it is not hard to explain the popularity of Angular in the developers community. Even giants like BMW, Xbox, Forbes entrust the development of their enterprise-based and dynamic web apps to Angular.
However, the minus point is that Angular possesses quite a steep learning curve. Despite the availability of a robust community for support, this framework is not suitable for minor web projects due to the complexities presented in learning and implementation for front-end development.
Vue.js (or Vue for short) is a simple and dynamic framework that provides great flexibility in building the front-end for websites and web apps. The learning curve for Vue is quite low with extensive documentation and simple syntax, making it an appropriate option for beginners.
Vue’s drawback lies in the small size of its community. Hence, it is not easy to get support from experienced developers in the process of development. Moreover, the structures and components provided by the Vue framework have yet to reach a stable state and thus may affect the long-term operations of the website.
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