Job profile: Become a front-end engineer

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A front-end engineer works on all user-facing aspects of a website.A front-end engineer is responsible for building the user interface or UI of an application or website. The UI is what the user views and interacts with. Technological advances have made user interfaces more complex. Today, there are different devices, screen sizes, platforms, and browsers. And front-end technology keeps changing.

A UI needs to be visually appealing, easy and safe to use, highly-performant, and usable across different devices and platforms. It requires a thorough understanding of the mechanics of all front-end components and a refined design aesthetic to construct a UI that offers ease of use, fast execution, scalability, and security. All that, and it should look elegant, too.

Front-end engineering has evolved with the proliferation of different devices, a massive increase in the percentage of mobile browser users on different networks — such as Wi-Fi, 3G, and 4G — and the need to use websites and applications across desktops, laptops, smartphones, and tabs. These developments have resulted in an emphasis on providing scalability, flexibility, high-performance, and security.

Job responsibilities

A front-end engineer is responsible for ensuring a high-performance, accessible, scalable, safe, smooth, and delightful user experience across different devices, browsers, and network speeds. Specific responsibilities and tasks depend on his seniority, the size of the company, and the nature of business.

In mid-sized and large organizations, there are normally a number of engineers who perform different roles. Junior front-end engineers, those who have little or no experience, usually work under guidance. A senior front-end engineer can pursue different tracks.

A senior front-end engineer could work as a team manager or team lead, or as a tech lead. She or he could also progress to a management position, such as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or engineering manager.

A front-end engineer should expect to collaborate with product managers, UX designers, and clients to define the scope of the website or application. Additionally, there are a variety of different tasks and responsibilities connected to the position:

A front-end engineer works on all user-facing aspects of a website.Design the UI — Develop and implement a design system that defines the aesthetic of all company products. The design aesthetic includes the look of fonts, buttons, spacing, and other visual elements. The interface needs to be simple, elegant, and easy to use. It is important to ensure consistency in style.

Develop and Implement Coding Standards — This helps ensure the quality of the code. An engineer must know how to write clean code. She or he must also define and implement best practices and style, as well as ensure the maintainability of the code. Writing and running code reviews is necessary to make sure poor-quality code is not run on live applications.

Design, Build, and Maintain Application Interfaces — These must be highly performant. Performance here refers to page speeds, high availability, smooth animation, rapid execution, scalability, and accessibility. Users don’t like waiting for pages to load.

Ensure Security and Privacy of User Data — Bugs in code can lead to loss of valuable private information. It is the engineer’s responsibility to implement effective testing measures to weed out all errors. This includes writing and implementing unit tests.

Other key responsibilities and job tasks include the following:

● Implement front-end automation using current development frameworks.
● Build HTML layouts that are compatible with different browsers.
● Conduct reviews of existing code to identify flaws as well as areas that can be improved.
● Implement developer tools to monitor client-side performance.
● Work with the product and design teams to explore ways to enhance existing products and iterate on new features.
● Work with back-end engineers to design APIs and solve problems.

Staying current

A front-end engineer works on all user-facing aspects of a website.Front-end engineering is a constantly changing field. JavaScript is a dynamic language and is continuously evolving. Engineers need to be conversant with the latest changes.

Some browsers are upgraded frequently and some are no longer supported. You also need to be aware of deprecated APIs and refrain from using them. A front-end engineer must also be familiar with modern web development languages, tools, libraries, and methodologies.

Necessary training and employment background

Many employers require front-end engineers to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a relevant computer engineering discipline. There are front-end engineers, however, who don’t hold a computer science or engineering degree, but have developed their knowledge and skills through years of professional experience.

There are a number of different skills required to become a successful front-end engineer. The most important ones to master are as follows:

● Gain an in-depth understanding of the fundamentals of computer science.
● Gain professional experience in JavaScript. A front-end engineer must be able to write clean code in JavaScript.
● Gain expertise in using current front-end frameworks, such as Angular, React, VueJS, or Ember.

It’s also important to have an understanding of web and browser mechanics. A good front-end engineer must know how browsers parse and how web pages are constructed in order to optimize performance. Other key areas of knowledge master include the following:

● Know how to use of web tools and languages, such as CSS and HTML5.
● Know how to write automated tests using tools like AVA, Jasmine, Jest, and Karma.
● Understand how data is structured and be able to write algorithms.
● Know how to use Document Object Model (DOM), a cross-platform and language-neutral interface that defines methods for accessing documents.

The men are standing together on the street on a sunny day.

A front-end engineer works on all user-facing aspects of a website.

Good communication skills are also essential. A skilled front-end engineer must be able to communicate technical issues with clarity, propose solutions, and convince stakeholders. Similary, she or he needs to be able to detect optimization and performance issues, as well as diagnose and prevent the same

The best way to develop expertise in this field is through professional experience and by updating your knowledge of current tools and technologies. Also, work on projects in your free time and build your portfolio. Join a community of front-end engineers, network with other like-minded indidivuals on LinkedIn and other professional platforms, and attend events.

Open a GitHub account if you don’t already have one and start building a UI on GitHub. Once you’re on GitHub, you will have the opportunity to connect with experienced engineers, learn from them, expand your network, and get noticed.

Certification

Certifications can help aspiring front-end engineers learn the basics of the three foundational web programming languages — HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript — as well as responsive web design, data structures and algorithms, and front-end libraries. These credentials are generally introductory in nature, of course, and are no substitute for on-the-job learning.

Professional Certificate in Front-end Web Development — The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has designed this certification for beginners who want to learn the fundamentals of CSS, HTML5, basics of JavaScript, HTML5 Coding essentials and best practices, and HTML5 Apps and Games.

Additional details are available online.

Front-end with React — This certification from Code Academy is designed for professionals who want to develop an understanding of React. Though beginners are eligible for this certification, the curriculum requires some knowledge of HTML and CSS.

Additional details are available online.

Front-end Web Development Nanodegree — This course from Udacity has a substantial practical component. Participants are required to complete 5 hands-on projects. The course covers front-end fundamentals, JavaScript and DOM, and some current frameworks.

Additional details are available online.

Other certifications include Udemy’s Web Developer Bootcamp, Free Code Camp’s front-end development certificates, and credentials from major companies, such as Microsoft and Google.

Skilled front-end engineers are in demand and can look forward to a stimulating career, but competition abounds. You will need solid experience, deep understanding of front-end technology, and the enthusiasm and ability to keep learning to stay ahead of competition. More than anything else, employers will want to see proof of your work. Always be working on your portfolio.

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Reena Ghosh

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Reena Ghosh is an independent ghostwriter who writes promotional, developmental and explanatory content for individuals and businesses. She came to professional writing with work experience in financial services operations and corporate communication. Reena speaks three languages and hopes to learn Sanskrit. She is a wanderer who spends time in West Bengal, Goa and any place that pulls.

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