Frontend developer: one title, two specialisations

Frontend developer: one title, two specialisations

Helping hiring managers to understand the difference

Disclaimer: This article is highly opinionated on the role of a front-end developer. Although I have a decade of experience as a frontend developer and a few years as a manager, please keep in mind that these views are still my personal opinions. Also, you may feel like perfectly capable of doing both roles, if that is the case, you are my hero (and there will always be an open spot for you in my teams!).

Front-end developers are like pizza toppings - some people like them all mixed together, while others prefer them separated. As long as you don't put pineapple on it. (Yes, I am Italian, and I consider pineapple on pizza a crime).

Kryptonite for Italians

Let's pretend, for the sake of this article, that pineapple is fine. In the world of web development, there are two distinct types of front-end developers, and they're as different as parma ham and pineapple.

While this distinction may not be readily apparent to those who are not well-versed in the intricacies of front-end development or to hiring managers, it is crucial to recognize that front-end developers are not a monolithic group. In fact, they often possess unique specializations and skills that set them apart from one another, much like the contrasting flavours of parma ham and pineapple. It is a common misconception to assume that a front-end developer is just a front-end developer, without any particular areas of expertise or focus. This oversimplification can lead to misunderstandings and mismatches in expectations, which ultimately hinders the effectiveness of both the developers and the teams they work with.

First, let's talk about the JavaScript developer. These tech wizards are responsible for the functional side of web development, which means they make sure everything works behind the scenes. They're like the stage crew of a play, making sure all the props and scenery are in the right place before the show starts. They use frameworks like React, Angular, and Vue.js to build complex and interactive web applications. These developers are like the Batman of web development - they work in the shadows to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Then there are the "old school" front-end developers. They're like the Michelangelos of web development, focusing on the aesthetics of a website. They use HTML, CSS, and other technologies to create beautiful and accessible interfaces that cater to a wide range of users. They're like the chefs of web development, adding just the right amount of seasoning to make the website look and feel amazing. They also focus on animations and user interaction.

Considering the two archetypes, it's essential to recognize that there isn't a distinct boundary between them. Instead, it's more like a spectrum where various shades and combinations can be found. Furthermore, while these two types of developers have different skill sets, they're both crucial to the success of any website. Without the JavaScript developer, the website would be clunky and hard to use. Without the "old school" front-end developer, the website would look like a boring PowerPoint presentation.

The hiring problem starts here! In today's competitive digital landscape, should your organization prioritize recruiting an old-school front-end developer or focus on securing the talents of a proficient JavaScript developer?

The first step in addressing the hiring dilemma is to recognize and appreciate the distinct skill sets of these two types of developers - the "old school" front-end developer and the JavaScript developer - and to avoid falling into the trap of assuming that all front-end developers possess the same capabilities and expertise.

The second step should involve a thorough introspection and evaluation of your company's specific needs and requirements. What exactly does your organization need in terms of web development, and what would be the primary responsibilities and expectations of this new developer? To effectively answer these questions and ensure that you make the right hiring decision, I recommend the development of a comprehensive technical scorecard. This scorecard should outline the essential skills, qualifications, and experience required for the role, as well as any additional desirable attributes that would make a candidate stand out. By utilizing this scorecard during the hiring process, you can more accurately assess and identify the right candidate for the job, whether that be an old-school front-end developer or a JavaScript developer, ultimately ensuring that your organization's web development needs are met most effectively and efficiently possible.

Not only will identifying and defining the type of front-end developer your company needs to benefit your organization, but it will also increase the likelihood of having a satisfied employee. As I consistently advocate in every workplace: happy employees lead to better products.