Terms like web designer and web developer were very popular in the past, but nowadays there are many different labels.
The current state of technology is different from a decade ago. Terms like web designer and web developer were very popular in the past, but nowadays there are many different labels for them: UX designer, UI developer, UI designer, client-side developer, UI engineer, design engineer, frontend architect, designer/developer, front-end engineer, prototyper, front-end designer, unicorn… So which type of front-end developer am I?
About 10 years ago, when the world of web development was changing a lot, I was starting my web career as a web designer. Several new technologies and concepts have emerged, such as Web 3.0, tableless, CSS3, CSS Reset, plugins for transform PSD into HTML / CSS, flash death, jQuery, Wordpress, HTML5 (the future is now, as the slogan said), SEO, responsive design and more. In the midst of all these transformations, I developed my first website and it was so amazing because I could find my passion as a professional.
I was the person who created beautiful interfaces on PSD and then coded using HTML/CSS, JQuery and Wordpress, focusing on browser compatibility, SEO, semantics and accessibility. I could motivate myself to get involved with all these technologies by creating a blog and twitter to talk about it all and helping the community to organize various events on all these new trends.
I was really excited being a web designer.
Web development was fragmenting into specialized areas, and the traditional idea of web design was being replaced by a focus on user experience and complex interface solutions instead of just aesthetics.
I felt a strong identity crisis because I loved creating interfaces and then coding them. I felt I had to make a choice about continuing as a traditional web designer or becoming a front-end developer. But to be a front-end developer, professionals needed to have a much deeper understanding of the back-end programming concepts such as MVC, high-order functions, APIs... So I kept improving my design skills, learning a lot of UX and things like psychology to understand user needs and at the same time I tried to bridge the gap in advanced development knowledge. But in the end, I kept feeling a web designer and very confused.
And that other piece of his thoughts translated exactly what was happening to me:
“There’s a fundamental misunderstanding that all coding is ultra-geeky programming, which simply isn’t the case. HTML is not a programming language. CSS is not a programming language. But because HTML and CSS are still technically code, frontend development is often put in the same bucket as Python, Java, PHP, Ruby, C++, and other programming languages. This misunderstanding tends to give many frontend developers, myself included, a severe identity crisis.”
And then I found that I could keep doing what I love: improving people's lives using all my knowledge as a web designer to create experiences that look and function beautifully, but being a Front-end Designer.
Now you know that is possible being a Front-end developer with design or back-end skills (or both, full-stack?), let's talk a little more about these two types of professionals:
I will use two explanations from a post published at the beginning of 2019 by Chris Coyier (creator of CSS-Tricks) and you can also check different opinions about this subject in his post:
“On the other, an army of developers whose interests, responsibilities, and skill sets are focused on other areas of the front end, like HTML, CSS, design, interaction, patterns, accessibility, etc.”
I love creating amazing experiences on beautiful and functional interfaces that help people on the web, mobile devices, or anything else. I love planing every detail of a page that can guide users' eyes to find what they are looking for. I am very interested in concepts and techniques such as Donald Norman's Emotional Design and Tim Brown and Stanford d.school's Design Thinking. I like a lot to spend time analyzing website galleries, reading about UX, discovering new trends in the world of web design, creating prototypes...
And I also love code.
I think I'm on the way to calling myself only the front-end developer, without the complement of the words engineer or designer (maybe full-stack instead?). I'm looking to be a front-end that knows both sides. And that is what I am focused on now.
How about you? Which type of front-end developer are you?