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The Role of Front-End Web Development

In website development the role of 'front-end web developer' (and sometimes referred to as 'client-side' or 'UI' developer) is a relatively recent addition to web development teams, originating and still most prevalent within digital marketing agencies (although also growing in popularity within internal website development teams).

The term 'front-end' in the context of web development is most commonly used to refer to anything which you can see and interact with on a website, all of which is provided to the visitor's browser as static code (in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript). This display markup and code is then processed on that computer rather than backend or middle-tier technology (most commonly .NET, PHP, or Python) which is processed on the web server rather than locally.

Unlike the more technical back-end or middle-tier development roles, front-end development most often requires more creative and artistic qualities (including the use of PhotoShop and Illustrator) as well as an intimate knowledge in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Front-end web developers most commonly slot in-between an agency's creative and technical teams: advising creatives and designers on user interface, usability, and accessibility whilst also later developing the finalized designs into cross-browser compatible and fast-loading web application front-ends which are then integrated into the technical team's backend development.

The key technical challenges that front-end developers should be competent in addressing are in ensuring that front-end web development is not only pixel-perfect to the final designs, but that it is also consistent across all browsers. In particular the way that Microsoft's Internet Explorer browsers render websites can often differ considerably to other internet browsers - particularly older versions (IE6 for example is still commonplace despite being ten years old) which do not support more modern front-end technologies such as HTML5 or CSS3.

In short a front-end developer should at a minimum, be an expert in developing in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript; capable of using the newer techniques afforded by the recent adoption of HTML5 and CSS3 but without ignoring less-capable internet browsers. They should be able to develop efficient and optimized code and graphical elements which will download and display the website quickly, and in a fashion that individuals will be able to interact with and use, regardless of their hardware and software choices, and the capabilities of their individual machine.

This role has become more prevalent in recent years as the roles of web developers have become more segregated: a PHP developer, for example, will not necessarily be able to produce a front-end for the website they are developing which will display correctly, and a designer or creative may not know the first thing about front-end coding. There is no doubt that there are highly talented individuals out there who are capable of doing all three: from design, to front-end and back-end development, but those individuals are few and far between and generally aren't as talented in all three areas as three specialists would be.

Manchester in the UK has become a hug of digital and web-based creativity: with well over a hundred digital and marketing agencies in the city-center alone . With a rich heritage of creativity as well as Northern England (cheap!) costs, it is unsurprising that more and more 'web shops' are appearing within Manchester and more will follow as the BBC moves to Manchester before the Olympic Games and more London-based agencies realize how important Manchester is becoming.
via The Sequitur
i22.in is publishing this article under the Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 License by Creative Commons.

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