We’re Front End Developers: Don’t Call Us HTML Guys
Front end developers may not be as experienced or skilled in the principles of design or aesthetics as dedicated designers or as well versed in database programming as back end developers, but we play a role that combines the two and presents a complete experience to the user.
There are some who dismiss the contribution of front end developers and consider us just “html guys”, but there is so much more to what we are responsible and what we can do, when given the chance. Here are just some of the things front end developers are responsible for:
- Clean, semantic markup - We do write html code, and this is the foundation upon which we build our craft. Standards compliance, cross browser compatibility, accessibility, and the coding part of SEO all start here.
- Ensuring usability - Usability starts with design, but it falls to us to make sure that the designer’s vision is carried out properly, preserving usability. We must also be aware of and help resolve any usability issues that may arise as the site is built.
- Accessibility - The way the user portion of a site is coded and the interaction is wired up is our responsibility. The largest opportunity to effect accessibility for good or bad lies with the front end developer. We must ensure that a site is accessible to those with disabilities or with alternative devices or other special consideration.
- Cross browser compatibility - The poor suckers who have to deal with old versions of Internet Explorer? Yeah, that’s us.
- SEO - Proper use of title attributes, page heading tags, alt tags, and proper meta tags are our responsibility. SEO has much more to do with having great, well thought out content, but there are coding concerns, and we deal with those.
- Dealing with legacy code - We must frequently deal with existing sites that are constructed from tables or worse. It turns our stomachs, but if we are not being mandated to completely revise a site’s code, we must know how to understand and work with this old code.
This list is not exhaustive, as the extent of our job duties are constantly changing, but this does present the case that we perform an increasingly important role in web development. Our work has a direct effect on the experience of the end user, and good front end development can really help make a site successful.
More importantly, we deserve some respect for the work we do. So please, don’t call us HTML guys.