The front-end developers burden

by Cedric Dugas on September 23, 2008

What burden you might ask ? Well front-enders, are seen like jack of all trades. We sometimes do what the designer or the back-end developer don’t have time to do. Because, well, we are the middle guy, we can do all this, don’t we?

It’s not that I don’t like to do either of these. I have interests in both actually. I really like web design, even if I am not that good at it. I visit mostinspired.com 3 times a week, and I always want to learn new stuff about programmation and new cool scripts. Ajaxrain and Ajaxian are great for that.

Even in our own company, some peoples don’t really understand what we do, i can’t frikking design professionally don’t ask me too, some front-end might, i don’t! I am not a designer nor a fully experienced c# or php developer. I’m glad to help, but when you put me under pressure for these things it’ s just not fun anymore.

Most of the time we also have to integrate all the website content in the CMS. Which sometimes means 50 pages+. And I can tell you that it’s not going to make us throw big smiles of fun. Being in a small company, that often happens to me.

That is our burden.

We are the masters of XHTML/CSS, PSD slicing, website architecturing, HTML semantic, Javascript and CMS. We know what’s possible and what’s not from the start as term of design and features. We are the masters of debugging every browser, even internet explorer 6…

But we’re sometimes designers, developers and secretaries. Just don’t expect us to code a back-end application in an afternoon or to become a traductor/writer because the content guy didn’t do is job properly.



25 comments

My respect for good front-end guys has really gone up over the years. Your job can be just as tough as the what the backend guys have to deal with, but in its own way.

by beppu on September 22, 2008 at 8:34 am. #

Thx for the comments guys, I was really unsure about posting this article…

by Cedric Dugas on September 22, 2008 at 11:53 am. #

I just got a job at a rather large advertising company as a Front-end Developer. I have been there for 2 months now, and I have done nothing else than Back-end coding so far…
But then again – I’m the closest thing they have to a Back-end coder, since everybody else is ADs, DTPs, Flash-designers and so on.
I should really tell them, that this is not what I was hired to do.

by Jint on September 22, 2008 at 12:43 pm. #

Jint – Yea I was wondering how many front-end are quite not doing what they want exactly,
I’m pretty much doing what I like most, but then again I got my frustrating moments too…

by Cedric Dugas on September 22, 2008 at 4:43 pm. #

Yeah, I am in the position of being the only front-end and back-end guy. Suffice it to say that life can suck sometimes.

by Craig on September 22, 2008 at 8:48 pm. #

Hey Dude,
your article just hit me in the mark, you really name it. Besides that I see a problem of our kind, that we have to be fit in so many areas so that it is quite tough to be really good in something. Dont get me wrong: Our job is to be better in every aspect of our knowledge, but we will never be the best in a specific area (compared to e.g. a specialized flash-developer), since we have to many topic to cover. Yeah, life is hard sometimes.
But the fun side is that we never have to do the same job for years ;-)

by Yoche2001 on September 23, 2008 at 5:33 am. #

Ha. It’s better than being asked to fix a computer by a friend. I don’t understand how people think that because I develop websites I know how to fix your computer…I don’t. I know just enough to turn it on and open the programs I need to use to design or develop a website. I fully understand how browsers work and what I need to do to beat my or someones design into submission, but I can’t get your CD drive to work, or get your internet back up and running…I just tell people to restart their computers.

:)

Great article…got me fired up early in the AM.

by Seth Aldridge on September 23, 2008 at 6:59 am. #

I agree Yoche2001.

I love packing a variety of knowlege in my head which makes it hard to become an expert in more then a few favorite subjects.

I see front end guys more in line with management and or team leadership. We have a very good understanding of the web development process and are very ressourceful so can lend a hand to anyone who needs it.

by chris on September 23, 2008 at 7:29 am. #

I always tought that front end would make good project manager, you can’t bullshit us and we understand every part of the web conception.

Too bad I never saw one in charge.

by Cedric on September 23, 2008 at 9:41 am. #

For me, I consider myself a hybrid developer. I can design a site from scratch, code the markup and CSS, add the interactive ish (jQuery), develop a CMS in PHP/MySQL from scratch to serve up the content, and even modify .htaccess files for pretty urls. Does this have a proper job title?

http://www.subprint.com

by Joe on September 23, 2008 at 10:42 am. #

Hi dear;

I have a same story. I was hired as a Software Engineer in UI. In my early days of my job I do the work for which I was hired. But after 3 months I was given a task to do integration of payment gateway for application. It was the backend task, I did that well after studying heavy manuals of integration. The backend guys even didn’t know the difference between rowspan and colspan they just know to write Java code. Whereas UI developers contains a lot of things in the basket from HTML, AJAX, Java, Struts, Java Script, CSS and much more. So for me UI guys have better job opportunities rather backend people.

@Joe
You can call yourself Code Poet. :)
Yes you should

by Tahir on September 23, 2008 at 12:55 pm. #

Same here, Cedric.
Also, I can also find myself in Joe’s words, jack of all trades :) . But it’s a good thing, you know how every aspect of project works, what can and can’t be done in reasonable time, etc. Too bad that “monitoring” can’t let you focus on one particular thing most of the time…

by Ivan on September 23, 2008 at 12:59 pm. #

Here here brother. Not extreme at all. From experience, it can be like the sandwich in the vending machine. Stuck between the graphic designer (who was our team leader) and programmers (I know zero ASP but a little PHP) and with managers who don’t understand web technologies at all.

Let’s say graphic designer team leader trumps everyone on that gameplan.

And who gets the shuffle of merging static sites into the CMS? Half the time you have to actually rebuild the layout to some extent because they didn’t think anything about stuff like it all had to work with the back end editing layout – ie. widths on body tags, general table and list styling. So it’s a bit of a shove.

Then you get all the flotsam odd jobs – hey we need a Moodle solution on the Intranet. Or should we unpack the SCORM with Reloader?

Yes, I think you nailed it on the head. The funny thing is it’s our position that seems to understand the context stuff like best practice, and what can or can’t be done.

OK sorry for the long comment. Very true.

by Steven Clark on September 23, 2008 at 3:50 pm. #

[...] Dugas hits the mark with his article Front End Web Developer’s Burden when he points out that we’re often in that sandwich between graphic designers and back end [...]

by nortypig » Blog Archive » Front End Web Developer’s Burden on September 23, 2008 at 3:57 pm. #

Steven, I really understand what you are saying.

by Cedric Dugas on September 23, 2008 at 4:07 pm. #

Represent.

by Dan Masq on September 23, 2008 at 10:02 pm. #

I landed my Front End Developer position a while back, and I have to say, It’s awesome. I enjoy that I don’t get pigeon holed into one or two menial tasks. While it can get chaotic and frustrating, I would have to say it’s never really boring. Front End Development is good work if you can get it.

by Dylan on September 24, 2008 at 7:18 am. #

Nice article Cedric, I feel your frustration. I have been doing front end dev for the past 5 years, and I still struggle with this. Lots of companies try to label you this or that, and as front end guys we focus on the browser, but at times have had to do a little of everything. When my new company asked if I see myself as a developer or a designer I said a “Hybrid” of both, but more towards the design. I can look at server side code and sometimes understand what it is trying to do. As front end we have to be visual designers and coders. Just know, we dominate the browser render engine, regardless.

by Edward Meehan on June 2, 2009 at 11:24 am. #

Exactly! hmmm… maybe I should send this article to that back-end cum team lead guy who thought being a “web developer” means being able to do both front and back, without even knowing what type of web developer one is.

by whoa! on June 8, 2009 at 7:43 am. #

So true. My current position us UI/UX engineer but too I’m often working on “backend” java classes and even the platform database. Personally, I like having a good understand from front to back – often its easier to just fix something then wait for a “backend programmer” to do it.

by Jon on June 12, 2009 at 10:49 am. #

Glad to know Im not alone!

by Kelly on June 23, 2009 at 10:39 pm. #

I test in 13 different browsers, and many people know of only two or three (all of them being from a single vendor – guess which one). Explaining why testing in so many browsers is important and neccesary, explaining why there isn’t just one browser, explaining why we test in browser that aren’t officially supported by the contract….

That too, is our burden.

by Thany on June 26, 2009 at 4:27 pm. #

Great article, trying to land a stable gig in this economy ios tough, when you are not a jack of all trades/ Web Designer…

by Daniel on July 13, 2009 at 12:30 pm. #

It’s nice to be able to read and connect with other front-enders. I worked as an all-purpose developer at a medium sized newspaper/publishing company (handling external client sites as well as all internal web operations) for a couple years before moving on to a strictly (ha!) front-end job about a year ago. In addition to implementing designs with consideration for web standards, I find myself doing tasks that could be categorized as project management, architecture development, design, quality control, and even copy writing and back-end maintenance. I think a good front-ender is a well-rounded developer.

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