How to become a Frontend Developer!

Today we are going to be covering some key steps you need to take to become a front-end developer. Now of course there are many ways to reach your goal of front-end development, but these I will outline are what stick out most to me. This is coming from someone like myself who is self-taught and then went to a coding boot camp so I definitely know what it’s like starting out in front-end development. I’m going to share with you some of the steps that I’ve taken.

Before we start talking about how to become a front-end developer let’s go over what a front-end developer does. A front-end web developer is someone who is responsible for the design and implementation of the interface. Front-end developers do a lot of very difficult and complex things. The interface is what the user interacts with and what they see on the screen. However, today the differences between front-end developers and backend developers are becoming more blurred. A lot of times front-end developers are also starting to handle more and more things that the backend developers would traditionally handle. This trend seems to also be growing, but for the purpose of this, we are going to focus only on the keys to making it in the front-end world.

1) HTML @CSS

The first thing you are going to need to know is simply the basics of HTML and CSS. This isn’t the most exciting and groundbreaking idea, but it’s a must. A lot of times people want to start with python or javascript and get right into it but the reality is before you do anything you need to go back to basics and start with HTML and CSS, once you have a strong foundation of these basics you can move on to the next step which is the programming language. Learn the difference between flex-box and grid. Understand what a px and a rem are. Really know what these are so you truly understand what you’re doing.

There are many different languages you can learn to start. Ruby and Javascript were the languages that I first learned and I’m happy I did. Javascript is a language that is heavily used on the front end and there are so many different frameworks and libraries that are used with it. That makes it a very in-demand language that you should pick up.

But where do you start with the language? Well, there are a few options. Personally, I think if you are going for a front-end job and career, start with these. First javascript building blocks. These are things such as variables, conditions, and functions. Also, there are JavaScript objects and prototypes and how to add javascript to your HTML. These are all key. Focus on these, master these. The rest will come but this is the foundation. Now the question is how do you start learning all this stuff. Well, there are tons of different free resources online. When I was learning I used freecodecamp a lot on YouTube. They have a lot of different tutorials on javascript but also they have really great resources for solving algorithms around javascript. Algorithms are more back-end, but again the lines are starting to blur. Freecodecamp is only one resource. There are tons and tons of resources on Youtube and online in general, plus there is always the option of a boot camp which I did. The boot camp is going to be a little more immersive and expensive, but if you find the right one with the right teaching style it can be definitely worth it. It was for me. Go Flatiron!

Now don’t be afraid to look at all of your options, and ask around. Ask friends how they learned, get on Linkedin and ask engineers what resources they would recommend, and don’t forget about books! Great books like Eloquent JavaScript can completely change how you see the language. Always remember self-teaching is always going to be harder and require more discipline, but the topics I’ve outlined above are all entry-level ideas that can be learned all by yourself.

2) Framework Time

Okay now we know the basics and we’re getting closer to becoming a front-end developer. The next step would be to learn a front-end framework. The big ones are going to be React, Angular, and Vue.

There are so many out but these are probably the top three. However, when it comes to frameworks they are always coming out and changing. It is a very fast pace. This was hard to figure out and keep up with when I started. When I was starting out I was learning React but then I learned about Vue and it was gaining popularity so I thought, should I switch and learn Vue? At times it will feel like right when you start learning a front-end framework something else comes out that’s the new best thing. So what do you do?

My advice, don’t switch. Stick to something and commit to learning the framework or library front to back. Learn it because once you learn one inside and out, learning the others will be substantially easier. In my experience, if you already have the foundation, and some of the basics carry over, the learning curve is just not as sharp. This way when you’re looking for a job and there is an opening that says you need to know Vue but you took the time to learn React, don’t let that stop you from applying. Your foundational skills on frameworks and libraries are there, and your learnings can be transferred over to learning Vue quickly.

3) Put up or Shut Up

The next step is what do you have to show for it? Okay, so your resume says you have these skills but can you show me? That’s where building mini projects come in. I emphasize the word mini because a lot of times people start by thinking they need to build these huge projects before their first jobs to really prove themselves. The problem with this is the big projects are probably too big. They get overwhelming and you start to doubt or not finish your projects. So now you’re stuck with a couple of half-complete ideas but where does that get you?

Start small and don’t be afraid to keep doing small projects. Show that you’ve completed things. Show that you can follow through and produce an end project. Executing them to completion will feel like you’re actually getting somewhere, and those mini-projects are things that you can put on your GitHub and put on your portfolio and most importantly speak about end to end during any interview process. If you can accurately explain your code and explain the process behind how you got there, that’s what’s most important in interviews. You can have the resume but you have to be able to prove it.

Lastly, I wanted to touch on GitHub and what they call keeping it green.

This is important because it shows hiring managers that you are working daily to create, learn, and sharpen your skills. I won't go into the details of GitHub, as that’s its own blog in itself, but to keep it simple, every time you make a commit to your code your GitHub square for the day gets a little green. The greener it is, the more work you’ve done!

There you have it! Those are my tips for becoming a front-end developer, and better yet, you can definitely do it by self-teaching or going to a coding boot camp! Happy Coding!

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Kevin Michael Johnson

Kevin Michael Johnson

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