Where do I belong?

Controversies has been going on in front-end development for a while, there has been delibrations to whether or not the title should remain what it used to be or have a more specific ones. Maybe, just maybe with the specifications, everyone would be fine having their own speciality. Perharps, we should just stick with the common title “front-end development” and level up our skillsets.

What you are about to read is the summary of my talk at Full stack Developers, Lagos and I believe we all would be able to find our specialty after reading through this.

I am somebody, HTML, CSS, and Javascript was my tools for the web when I was in High School. Created so many cramp wap sites, would delete the whole source code, and to re-do it. Don’t mind me, I started coding using mobile phone because there was no capability to get a PC. But I didn’t stop beacuse I wanted to know how those popular sites are being created, I wanted to know what really was behind those sites, mother would scold me for spending too much time on phone but I’m glad she didn’t prevent me from using it. That was how I journeyed till I got admission and started a career as a front-end developer, and I was made the head front-end coach of a programming hub in my school.

Lately, I started meeting more developers and I realize something. Front-end development is no longer the front-end development I traditionally knew, many other things has changed and learning it all at once seem impossible (or so I thought ). I realized I needed to determine where I want to belong in the niche and I’m glad I am on the track, of which giving this talk is one.

Earlier before 2010, The term “Markup-ers” is what was being used to describe front-end developers because, for the most part, their work was limited to creating HTML and CSS views. Back then, the most valued skills for the position revolved around attention to visual details, semantic knowledge, and CSS management. The highest was adding some interactions with Jquery.

Whereas the back-end guys are some folks who are responsible for tasks like data handling, dynamic functionality of the page. Aside from finding your way around the web, handling core back-end tasks, database management, and front-end technologies, web development, http and kits like Photoshop and the likes must be something you are good at before you could be regarded to as a full-stack web developer.

Gradually, everything around the web and browser began to change, hundreds of technologies were flooding our day-to-day life: package managers like Bower, task orchestrators like Grunt and Gulp, frameworks and libraries like Backbone, Knockout, Ember, Angular, React, Nodejs, Vue among others. It was a new world for front-end development and we were invited to the party.
With these tools, the skills and responsibilities of front-end developers started becoming ambiguous and at the same time fun to do.

It came as opportunities to grow wings and wide within the niche and since we are developers, it’s part of our attributes to learn and move on with every new tool that arises.

The whole thing just looked like there’s no end.

Everyone tried hard to balance the space between the visual details and the new skills (Javascript Engineering) but not all saw the root, instead, they keep seeing new things, today this, tomorrow that,… that they sometimes got worked up. Apparently, what they see are options from which they are to make choice.

Of course, there’s no limit to what to learn but the fact that majority couldn’t match up doesn’t reach a conclusion that they are incapable, but human beings are different and have specialties just as we all here have settled for programming out of all that life has offered.

Jina Anne, in a conversation, referred to herself as a past front-end developer. Not that she doesn’t code again or she moved to a new programming language, but because she was part of the people that settled for the visual option of front-end and she felt when talking of front-end, we refer to the Javascript engineers that can manipulate their ways using different front-end frameworks.

Great devastation has aroused in this kind of people as every organization now require that its front-end employees should learn at least one of the frameworks and its even rare to find a job listing that doesn’t require these technologies.

Several other discussions have been going on lately, people have been saying what they feel, some say we need to split, some said it’s a way for us to grow wide, some this… some that…, however, front-end development still remains what it used to be but in a wider context. We are still responsible for how the user interacts with web applications.
Another person from an online discussion had called this identity crisis, in her opinion, she said we need to split, that front-end is now something that sounds more like camouflage. I would agree there’s really more to the term than what people say about it but how far can we survive

I acknowledge the fact that everyone has a different thought, here today we have people that will think now is the time to split whereas, some would say WHAT? Developers are known to adapt to changes. Either way round, it’s time we talk about the future which is even here.

But, are there room for more specific titles to distinguish skills and responsibilities?

  • Front-end engineer: front-end (maybe middleware) functionality developer,
  • Front Developer: front-end visual/interaction developer, and
  • Front-end full stack developer: fully competent in both of the above.

Front-end engineer : In my opinion, this title refer to people who are more of Javascript. Because in early 2000, we weren’t familiar with Grunt, Gulp or Yeoman which automatize front-end workflows and make a developer’s life easier. The revolution has occurred mainly because of the JavaScript server technology – NODE.js

Front Developer or UI Developer, these set of people either start working with a pre-design Photoshop or sketched wire-frame to develop layout putting high priority into the Visual layout, accessibilities, the DOM, e.t.c

Front-end full stack developer, Somebody with advanced learning capability with fast pace can take up these two mentioned above. In gist, you need years of practice or learning background in order to master all of the technologies related to front-end development.

If you can use a jQuery plugin, you’re a developer. If you can make a jQuery plugin… you might be an engineer. If you can make jQuery… you are an engineer.

Frank M. Taylor.

To know where you belong, ask yourself the question.


Do you have a different opinion or something you want to share with us? Let’s here from you.

2 comments on "Where do I belong?"

  • Hello OP, I’m a UI/UX person with over 4 years experience. In the process of getting this job, I remember the kind of feeling I had when I was asked what JS framework I’m used to, though it didn’t take me off guide because I was sure something of such would happen and I had prepared for it.

    To me, the greatest advice I’d give to anyone in this is to show them what they have got, which was what I did. I frankly told them the reason I hadn’t learn any of the javascript frameworks as at then, I made them know the importance of visual details just as you described above. And when I got a response from them, I knew it was a dream come through. I was able to secure a job with what I know.

    I use React now though but that was after some years of experience.

    Jane Adewale. wrote on
  • Nice job,
    more grease to your elbow
    programmers like no other

    Zainab wrote on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *