What is a front-end engineer?

To begin, let’s talk about what a front-end engineer actually is. There are a number of different ways you can look at this, but to sum up — for anything a user sees or interacts with, a front-end engineer will have to work on it. This could include pulling in the content from the backend or a Content Management System (CMS) to display it to the user, style it, add any animations, etc., or it could be getting the data from the user and securely sending it to the backend. A back-end engineer is someone who is responsible for designing, building, and maintaining the server-side of web applications.

As the front-end developer, you are the rockstar of website/app development. No one will see the backend or database of the website. What they will see, however, is the front-end engineer’s work. So, you will need to have a well-stocked personal toolbox. This means being able to take the designs from designers and build an awesome and responsive user interface for the website.

Now we have got that covered, let’s talk about how to become a front-end engineer in 2023.

HTML, CSS AND JavaScript logos

Steps to becoming a front-end engineer

1. Learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are the essential building blocks for web and app development, so it’s important that you make yourself familiar with them. Fortunately, it’s not a very difficult undertaking. There are lots of online resources available out there that can help further your education in coding languages. Personally, I would start off with freecodecamp website, where everything is structured and free. You’ll start with HTML and CSS, and once you finish it, you can move on to the JS course. I like the way free code camp is structured because it eases you in. HTML and CSS are both relatively easy to grasp, then you can dive further in to learn JS.

Frontend framwork logos

2. Familiarise yourself with JavaScript Frameworks

For this step, you will ideally learn React, which is open-source and the most popular front-end library, with over 201k stars on GitHub. Web developers adore it because it requires minimal effort in coding and its ability to provide an outstanding user experience. React is currently the most in-demand framework and is used by 42.6% of companies according to Statista, but you can learn another if you prefer. Once you learn one framework, it’s easy to pick up another and transfer your knowledge. Now, don’t let me or anyone else tell you that one framework is better than another, because each web UI framework is unique in its own way and has its own advantages and disadvantages. The reason I recommend React is that it’s easy to learn and is relatively in demand by employers. To learn React, I’d recommend taking this course on scrimba — https://scrimba.com/learn/learnreact

person writing code

3. Keep practicing

Here’s where the old saying “practice makes perfect” comes into play. I can’t stress this enough! Start small, and practice what you’ve learned. Let’s say you’re starting to learn HTML and create a simple web page with a header, title, paragraph, image, and a footer. Once you’ve learned CSS, you go back to the HTML page you created earlier on and style it, practicing what you‘ve taken in. Then, when you’ve learned JS, you go back and add a few functions to the page and a bit more dynamic content to practice your JS. When you break things down into smaller chunks, it’s much easier to build on what you have learned, rather than trying to go big from the start. This is how we work in the industry too: start small and iterate. When practicing and building your own projects instead of following a tutorial, you’ll learn a lot of other things such as debugging and code structuring so it’s more readable, amongst other things.

screenshot of version control

4. Learn Version Control

There are so many reasons why you need to learn version control, but the most obvious one is that it’s used on every project. One of the issues that you will discover when learning to code is having it break when you change one small thing. Version control systems are tools that allow you to easily keep track of the changes you make to your code and undo them if necessary. It also enables multiple people to work on the same codebase. There are an impressive selection of version control systems to choose from, but if you want to go with one that is used a lot, go with Git.

laptop on a desk with code editor open

5. Enhance your skills

You’re almost there, so now it’s time to enhance your current skillset. Check out some tutorials, but try to avoid doing tutorials one after another - instead, try to build projects as this will help you to further your learning. Explore resources such as freeCodeCamp, scrimba, and Codecademy to help you learn to code. These tools are easily accessible online and can be a much-needed boost to your front-end development education.

Final words of advice

1. Take a course

If you are learning to code on your own, it can be overwhelming. I’d recommend taking a front-end developer course that covers the basics to help you advance. Scrimba has a very good course for front-end development. There’s nothing like learning from experienced people in a structured environment, and some of these courses offer just that. There are plenty of free online courses on offer, so take a look around and see what’s out there.

2. Stay informed

This means reading articles and books about front-end development. By getting an understanding of how things work on a website, you can make better sense of the various coding languages. Subscribing to newsletters such TLDR is a great way to know what’s happening within the tech world.

Good luck! As always you can reach out to me through my Instagram page (Hamad_4li) or my website (www.hamadali.co.uk) if you have any questions.

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