Working as a Front-end developer in 2015 – interests, fundamentals and theory


So, just before Christmas I decided to clear out what had become quite an excessive design and dev magazine/book collection. Years of build-up stretching back to my uni days, for long enough hidden from view, had begun to overflow into plain sight.

As I was sifting through them I did start to think why I hadn’t chucked them out before. Laziness? Perhaps, more likely though was that these magazines represented accessible sources of knowledge. Each one had a coding technique or cool Photoshop effect I thought I might need at some point. The thing is I didn’t ever ‘need’ them, they were just taking up space. It made me think about the present state of working as a front-end developer.

I buy .net magazine every month, it’s a great way to keep up with the industry trends and a fantastic resource. Here is an example cover highlighting just what developers are facing at the moment:

Net Magazine

The feature highlights 23 javascript libraries and frameworks recommended to front-end developers. Now without clear thinking this could be enough to induce panic: where’s the time to learn all this? If I choose a framework to use, which one is the best?


The fact is realistically you can’t learn all this and still live a normal human existence; in fact there simply aren’t enough hours in the day even if you wanted to.

This industry is fast paced and it is par for the course that as a front-end developer you’ll have to continually grow your knowledge base, but you have to play smart. The magazines I owned represented a massive overabundance of information. I needed to clear out and ‘start again’.

‘So the magazines…yeah they had to go.’
- A fed up me

With what remained I managed to filter the stuff that is useful to me regardless of project, client or current trend.

Yep they all fitted on one little unit now, so how about we run through the categories shown in the image a bit here.

Your skillset


It’s obvious to say but everyone is different. Sure we have things in common, we maybe front-end developers but away from that it’s likely our interests vary. Whether we realise it or not, that will affect our approach to projects, designs and how we code.

I grew up drawing pictures and cartoons. My brain tends to function in that capacity, visually. No I don’t walk around seeing cartoons but I do appreciate styling synonymous with street art, graffiti, line art and portraiture. So for me, having interests away from what you traditionally would do at work is crucial, they will influence your work and will help you create a style that is your own.


It doesn’t matter what project we tackle at work, it will invariably involve HTML, CSS, Javascript, UX, UI and graphics. A knowledge of these are what I feel are the fundamentals to my every day work. Having reference to these skills is always essential, whether that is a book or more common now our good mate Google.

A UX recommendation from my ‘stack’, and a favorite of our CRO Team, Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug


This can align with fundamentals perhaps, but it is more to do with mental approaches to projects and implementing code. I was lucky enough to stumble upon a great book, from which I have some extracts I would like to draw your attention to.

The book is ‘Spark for the Fire’ by Ian Wharton and I recommend anyone involved in the creative industry reads it.

‘But one thing I learned relatively late in my career is that you don’t have to choose what you do straightaway. After all, how many app designers knew that’s what they wanted to do ten years ago? Apps weren’t invented then. The moral is, we should take our time and keep an open mind.’
- Paul Brazier (excerpt from ‘Spark for the Fire’)

This is a great example of building yourself a solid foundation of skills. If you are skilled in traditional design then when technology does move forward and new roles are invented you will have transferable skills. Likewise, knowing the fundamentals of coding will allow you to pick up a new coding language much more easily.

‘Some may say, “Do one thing, and do it well!”’
- excerpt from ‘Spark for the Fire’

More and more in the digital industry the ‘do one thing well’ is becoming obsolete. It is now common for companies to have in-house digital teams; Designers who understand how to code their designs and Developers who understand the considerations of design. Embrace being multi-skilled and the skillsets of those around you that you can draw knowledge from.

‘No single individual and no single organisation has all the skills to get everything done.’

‘Anyone who has ever succeeded did so with the help of someone else.’

‘He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who doesn’t ask is a fool forever.’

Michael Wolff - ‘Be suspicious of anyone who thinks they are right.’

- excerpts from ‘Spark for the Fire’

It’s vital to have a learning mentality in this industry, you can’t know everything! Respect the knowledge that is available all around you in your peers. If you work for yourself then embrace messaging boards like stack overflow and the communities that exist within such useful resources. We are lucky that the people who work on the web share so much of their knowledge online. Remember it’s very rare that the wheel is completely reinvented, it is often just adjusted. If you need to do something, chances are it’s been done before and someone has posted about it online.

It’s on top of this knowledge – interests/fundamentals/theory - that you will begin to build the capabilities to cope with the endless new options available to build websites/apps/games.

Back to the task at hand

So back to our initial problem, how do we solve the issues of all these new things to learn and find the time to do it?

Firstly, it’s the wrong industry to assume that your working day finishes at 5pm; don’t panic! It’s not that bad, you can still live a ‘normal’ life.

Industry research

Use Twitter to your advantage, it’s not just a popularity platform where you try to outdo the next person’s follower count; it’s a great creative resource. Follow people in your industry and this will fill your feed with all the latest technologies and who is using what. Chances are you look at social media during the day anyway so make it benefit you. It will act as a form of research and you’ll start to see what frameworks/libraries are worth investigating further.

Personal projects

As front-end developers it’s in our nature to create, so don’t put off that project you’ve wanted to explore outside of working hours. Keep it fun but use that as a chance to test out new technologies without the pressure of a deadline driven work environment.

Test on projects

Where possible try a new technique on projects at work. If it seems to make sense to the project and can be seen as being beneficial to future work, go for it - just do your research first. Maybe it’s something you can implement on a page that isn’t the focal point of a site. See how something like a new animation technique works and it might be so well received it gets repeated across the whole site.

Inside the Actors Studio interview, Bradley Cooper – “I just want to get better. That’s basically what it is, I really just want to keep getting better and better and better – and work harder, and learn [more]. There’s literally no difference in my mind-set from when I was a student. Zero.”
- excerpt from ‘Spark for the Fire’

So be smart about how you approach your work and remember everyone is in the same boat, go with the attitude that you’re always learning and be enthusiastic about all the growing options available to us front-end devs – just don’t try and learn it all!

One of the most legendary Blues guitarists was once asked, “How long did it take you to learn the guitar?” He paused for a moment. Then smiled and replied, “I’ll let you know when I’ve learned.”
- excerpt from ‘Spark for the Fire’

This entry was posted in Content, Design by Gavin Hyam. Bookmark the permalink.

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About Gavin Hyam

Gav is a Front End Developer at High Position with a passion for creative work. Away from that he suffers the highs and lows of supporting West Ham, going to gigs and travelling to as many countries as his money will get him! You can follow Gav on Twitter (@Gavin_Hyam)

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