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Essential Front-End Developer Skills Needed in 2023

Discover essential font-end developer skills needed to get hired. Explore front-end development job opportunities and learn how to grow your front-end developer portfolio.

12 min read

November 04, 2022

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If you're considering a technology career, front-end development is a lucrative and in-demand specialty. This type of programming is an essential part of the app and web development process — it bridges the gap between user-facing design and back-end programming. As you decide whether this career is right for you, it's helpful to measure your interests and abilities against the most important front-end developer skills.

What is a Front-End Developer?

A front-end developer builds the parts of a website or application that you can see, click on, or interact with — the user interface. Using programming languages, such as HTML, JavaScript, and CSS, front-end developers ensure that the site displays correctly and that each interactive element functions as it should.

Front-end developer vs. Back-end developer

The front-end developer handles the client-side components of a website or app; the back-end developer is responsible for the things that happen behind the scenes. They handle the server-side programming that allows the front-end functionality to work. Back-end developers ensure that the server, databases, and application programming interfaces (APIs) interact seamlessly to exchange, store, and serve the required data. They may also implement data-security systems.

A person who's skilled in both front-end and back-end programming is called a full-stack developer.

Front-end developers bridge the gap between user-facing design and back-end programming.

Essential Front-End Developer Skills

At first glance, it might seem that the most important front-end developer skills are purely technical. While it's true that developers rely heavily on hard skills, they also need soft skills. This is particularly true in jobs that involve regular interaction and collaboration with designers, programmers, and other team members.

Soft Skills

  • Communication: Front-end developers often work closely with graphic designers and UI/UX designers. The developer must be able to communicate clearly and translate the designers' requests into code.
  • Problem-solving: Developers need advanced problem-solving skills to get around obstacles that arise in terms of code, functionality, and appearance. These skills are also useful when something breaks — an inevitability in the world of app and web development.
  • Adaptability: Things can change quickly when you're building a website or an app; developers must be able to take in the changes and adjust their workload accordingly.

Hard Skills

  • Hypertext markup language (HTML): HTML is a common coding language for front-end web development. It's used to structure the content of webpages. 
  • Cascading style sheets (CSS): This code works with HTML to control and standardize certain visual aspects of a website, such as fonts, text size, header styling and link colors. You can also use the CSS to adjust spacing, layout and the background color. HTML and CSS work together to create responsive designs that look great on every screen size.
  • Javascript: is a language that helps you create interactive features, such as animations, hover effects, dropdown menus, and carousels. It's also used to update content dynamically. coding coding
  • Frameworks/libraries: Frameworks and libraries help streamline the coding process by providing structure and reusable code; that way, you don't have to write it from scratch for every new project. Popular options include the CSS framework Bootstrap, JavaScript library options such as React or jQuery, and JavaScript frameworks such as Vue.js and AngularJS.
  • Version control: This process, which is typically used in large web applications and software development, tracks and manages changes to the code. One of the most popular version control systems is Git, an open-source option with a small footprint.
  • Web design: It's a good idea for front-end developers to have a basic grasp of web design. Understanding design principles makes it easier to create attractive pages.
  • Debugging: As you build different parts of a project, you must test each block of source code. If it doesn't work as intended, you'll need to know how to find and fix the errors (or bugs) in the code.
  • Cross-browser web development: Front-end developers should know how to build websites that display and function correctly across all popular web browsers.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO): It's important to understand how to write code that improves factors such as page speed, web performance, visibility, and mobile responsiveness to improve the SEO of a site.
  • Additional technical skills: Depending on the company and industry you want to work in, you might benefit from learning programming languages, such as Java and Python, and scripting languages, such as PHP. It's also useful to understand browser developer tools, command line interfaces, and the popular runtime environment Node.js. 
front-end developer

Front-end developers vs. UI/UX designers

Front-end developers and UI/UX designers both work with the front end of a website or app. The user interface (UI)/user experience (UX) designer comes in at the beginning of the project. Based on the needs of the company and the users, they determine a structure, information hierarchy, and navigational flow for the site. Then, they create the layout for each individual page or screen using wireframe diagrams. Finally, they design visual elements, such as buttons, icon sets, and graphics.

The front-end developers, sometimes called UI developers, take the wireframes and visual elements and use code to transform them into interactive pages. They ensure the pages render correctly on computers, tablets, and mobile devices and verify that each element functions in a way that supports the user experience.

How to become a front-end developer

The path you take to a front-end developer job can vary based on your starting point. If you're beginning with university, you might consider getting a degree in computer science; the highly technical coursework prepares you for the rigors of a development job. If you're already established in a different career, there's no need to go back to school for a new degree.

Instead, use these steps to become a front-end web developer:

✔️ Learn programming languages

Start your journey by learning HTML, CSS, and JavaScript; these three languages are the building blocks of most front-end web development jobs. If you're interested in app development, you might also look into Java, Ruby, Python, and C++.

The way you learn to code depends on your budget and time frame. If you're on a budget, or you simply want to test the waters, try a free online course. One good option is freeCodeCamp, which provides well-structured classes on topics such as responsive web design, JavaScript algorithms, and front-end development libraries. You can also find lessons through W3 Schools and Codecademy. As you're learning the fundamentals, YouTube video tutorials can provide valuable explanations, examples, and context.

When you're ready to invest in your career, consider fee-based coding classes. When personal interaction and real-time feedback is a priority, consider an in-person class at a local college. If you prefer to work at your own pace, you can find online courses through services such as Coursera, Skillshare, and Udemy. Some programs offer professional certificates.

If you're serious about becoming a front-end developer in the shortest possible period of time, a coding bootcamp could be a worthwhile investment. These intense training programs offer a structured curriculum and expert instructors, so you can learn critical skills in a matter of months. They aren't cheap — prices usually range from $8,000 to $19,000 — but they can pay off in better employment prospects down the road. Check out options through Fullstack Academy and Springboard.

✔️ Get familiar with web design 

While front-end developers don't typically handle web design, it's helpful to be well-versed in the principles. You'll be able to speak fluently with UX/UI designers, which makes it easier to execute the product design strategy.

Experience with web design can also expand your career possibilities. Some companies blur the line between design and development, so it pays to be familiar with both areas. Get started by taking an online web design course.

✔️ Learn Technical SEO

To make yourself more marketable as a front-end developer, take the time to learn SEO. After all, the code has a big impact on how a website shows up in search engines. If you're able to write SEO-friendly code on the first try, you can be a valuable asset to an employer.

Some of the development skills that are critical for SEO are:

  • Writing lightweight code
  • Using tags to structure content
  • Using critical CSS
  • Adding schema markup
  • Optimizing image load

✔️ Get familiar with developer tools

In a full-time front-end developer position, you probably won't have time to write brand-new code for every new app or website. Instead, most companies use developer tools. Before you apply for jobs, you should have a working knowledge of popular options. Start with frameworks and libraries; you might learn how to customize CSS frameworks in Bootstrap or Sass and build them into your development environment. Do the same with a JavaScript library, such as React. If you're new to version control, learn Git and find out how to use GitHub to host your Git repository.

Not sure which framework or library to use? Research the front-end developer jobs in your area or desired industry, and see if you can spot a trend in the required qualifications.

✔️ Create a professional portfolio

Once you have a solid base of education, skill development, and practice, it's time to start applying for jobs. If you don't have a computer science degree or a professional certificate — and even if you do — a portfolio is the best way to prove your skills to future employers. Include a link when you apply for jobs, so hiring managers can see what you're capable of with a single click.

Don't limit yourself to full-time jobs. When you're just getting started, freelance projects are a good way to build experience and gain professional contacts. Impress the client, and a one-off job can lead to a full-time position.

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What to include in a front-end developer portfolio

Your portfolio is your most important job-search tool, especially if you're switching to front-end development from a different career. A solid portfolio gives you more credibility as a candidate and builds trust with potential employers.

For front-end developers, portfolios are always digital. Typically, the easiest option is to build your own website. Keep in mind that employers will likely consider the website itself as a sample of your work — the code, design, and functionality should be flawless. Alternatively, you can increase your exposure and maintain a portfolio easily with a platform like Dribbble Pro.

Some of the things you should include in a front-end developer portfolio are:

  • Samples of your work: Include a selection of your best websites and apps. Choose projects that show off the most in-demand skills, including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and SEO. If you have any related work, such as plugins or e-commerce systems, feel free to include them. When formatting an entry, include a screenshot, a short description that mentions the tools and languages you used, and a link to the published site.
  • Interactive elements: Showcase your skills by integrating custom interactive elements into the portfolio website.
  • Resume: Create a page that displays your resume in a visual format. Make sure to include a link to a downloadable PDF, so employers can print the document for review.
  • Testimonials: If you've done client work or volunteer projects, include positive testimonials.
  • About and contact information: Create a page that offers contact information and a short summary of your professional experience. This is a great place to explain how your past professional experience translates to front-end development or makes you a more valuable employee.

If you don't have samples, take heart — you can create them. Dream up imaginary clients and build a website or app for them. Even better, volunteer your services to a local community organization or nonprofit. They'll get the work for free, and you'll gain portfolio items and invaluable experience in real-world front-end development. When the project goes well, you might even gain a professional reference to use during the job search.

Front-End Developer Job Opportunities

Front-end developer jobs are available at companies of all sizes across a range of industries. Large technology companies, such as Microsoft and Meta, have an ongoing need for developers. If you prefer a broader range of responsibilities, look for jobs at smaller companies. Web development agencies can also be an interesting place to work; they have many clients, which means you have the chance to work on a variety of projects.

Front-end developer positions can lead to career opportunities in back-end development, UI/UX design, product design, and product development. With the right training and experience, you could also move into a position as a software engineer.

Front-End Developer Salary

Web developers make an average of $78,300 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The profession is growing quickly; the number of jobs is expected to increase by 23% between 2021 and 2031. Indeed has an even more optimistic outlook; it finds that front-end developers make an average salary of $92,660.

Common Front-End Developer Interview Questions

The interview is a chance for a potential employer to see how you communicate in a professional setting. It's also a chance to test your development skills and get a sense of how you approach a project.

As you prepare, consider how to answer these common front-end developer interview questions:

  • What languages do you have experience with?
  • Can you describe your experience with coding and front-end development?
  • What process do you follow to write clean, maintainable code?
  • How do you adjust your practices to increase accessibility?
  • What's your preferred JavaScript framework?
  • Do you have a preferred development environment? If so, why do you like it?
  • What steps do you take to eliminate errors in your code?
  • What version control systems have you worked with?
  • How do you integrate SEO practices into your development workflow?
  • Tell us about a technical challenge you've encountered recently and how you solved it.
  • How do you approach communication with nontechnical team members?
  • Do you have any specific skills or traits that make you a strong front-end developer?
  • Are there any languages or tools you're particularly interested in learning?

Keep in mind that an interview is a two-way street; you're also evaluating the company and the job to see if they're a good fit for you.

It's a good idea to prepare a few questions to ask the hiring manager:

  • How does the front-end developer fit into the rest of the team?
  • Are your web designers and back-end developers in-house, or is that work outsourced?
  • How much of the position is spent maintaining code versus creating new code?
  • Does this position involve client interaction?
  • What is the working environment like?
  • What platform do you use for team communication and collaboration?

Build a Front-End Development Career

If you're interested in a career as a front-end developer, now is a great time to start. Learn essential front-end developer skills at your own pace using online courses, or go all in with a boot camp. When you're ready to search for jobs, check out freelance projects and full-time positions on the Dribbble job board.

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