Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Is a front-end developer really a ‘developer’?

Now that HTML has risen back to the surface as a (the) first-class citizen of the web, along with it's siblings, CSS and JS, it’s time to revisit its place in the developer landscape.

Several recent projects have suffered from a lack of attention to the subtleties of the front-end code, but the ubiquitous use of AJAX, the emergence of HTML5, and the enforcement of good HTML practices by Google’s indexing process (see previous posts) mean that we can no longer ignore the value of good front-end developers, and that we should appreciate that a “good” front-end developer is worth considerably more than a “cheap” front-end developer. It’s no longer a commodity, and those at the top of their game should expect to earn as much as their back-end platform peers.

All of which leads to the question of the day – is it easier to teach an HTML/CSS/JS developer some basic PHP/C# etc., or to teach a C#/Java developer HTML/CSS/JS?

I think the answer today is the former – I would expect anyone claiming to be a front-end web developer these days to have a deep understanding of languages (not just how to use JS, but a real understanding). Hard-core platform developers have to stop looking at the front-end team as being involved with the fluffy stuff.

[Best analogy I can think of is Rugby union – to quote Peter Fitzsimmons (NZ), back in the 1970/80s:

Forwards are the gnarled and scarred creatures who have a propensity for running into and bleeding all over each other.”,


backs can be identified because they generally have clean jerseys and identifiable partings in their hair"”.

And then along came Jonah Lomu, and now you can’t tell the difference – the backs are 6’7” tall and the front row endorse ‘male grooming’ products.]

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