The Great Divide

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It works very well, two years and running now. I personally am happy this has arisen. That need is an indication we do indeed need two different disciplines defined on the front end:. I have no true design background or training. My job title is Front End Engineer, but I always introduce myself as a Front End Developer, because even though I am pretty solid with React and spend a ton of time working on JS, I do not think I am an Engineer in terms of greater architectural understanding.

I think it is just a spectrum, and to a certain degree, most of us will be living somewhere in the middle. My best guess as to the asymmetry is that one is better able to satisfy bullet-points. But when a business person comes up with the project requirements, the items in that list translate more directly to what the JavaScript developer does. The current job titles and recruiter knowledge of who does what is getting pretty bad too. These fundamental languages are being treated as entry-level knowledge, but like others have said, the quality of the code has suffered.

As someone who learned web development coming from a design position, and through HTML and CSS, I can immediately tell when a back-end developer or JavaScript developer has written the stylesheet. I see it on Stack Overflow too; simple CSS solutions for problems are often ignored, whilst people will readily recommend pulling in jQuery to solve a layout issue.

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Using JavaScript to fix a layout issue should be an absolute last resort, and pulling in an entire library to solve an issue that can be resolved with CSS or a better HTML structure is utterly absurd! This means that so little focus is given to properly laying out the document, and the markup suffers as a result. Websites become clunky and over-reliant on JavaScript — dependent even — and the responsive side of some websites is an absolute nightmare.

Maintainability is utterly devoid at times, and adding additional content into layouts can completely break them as the layout was not properly structured to be able to adapt and respond to its context. By all means, it is important to separate out development so that peoples talents are not stretched too thin between what are syntactically very different coding conventions. We need to treat those who write it as developers, and instil the already existing and readily available principles in our projects. In short, we need to become less obsessed and focused purely on JS. Sure, JS can solve many problems.

Sometimes JS is essential, but sometimes — if the document can be more meaningfully structured in the first place — by using JS we are simply sticking plasters over a gaping wound. Moreover, in response to Keith point, there is a substantial monetary divide when it comes to types of front-end devs, due mainly to supply and demand, and justifiably so. Cross-train yourself. Or more practically, become at least moderately skilled in PHP and basic jQuery.

Those skills are both easy enough to pick up.

How do you stay up to date in this fast⁠-⁠moving industry?

Basic understanding of jQuery is typically expected in classical front-end roles, and PHP devs make far more than non-PHP devs, though PHP is bound to benefit you in many more ways than income and may even inspire you to continue learning other languages. This pushes the price phenomenally low.

This is pretty much my life the last 3 years. In course of a day, I may switch from visual prototyping to coding or vice versa. Javascript lets me build very custom experiences thru functions and continuity of the space. I find CSS a great compliment and sort of a ruler to manage the discrete existance and relations on the page. The first crew, often, in fear of complex coding, seeks refuge and safety in basic tools with an excuse of keeping things simple. Simple is great, but arriving at simplicity thru a tool or process that has the power to create complex beauty is the real art.

They are often engineer types who have much less exposure and practice in design thinking. I personally gave up on collaborating with an alpha-coder on UX or Visual aestatics or execution styles.

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By the way the same frustration exists in other fields, for example Architects vs Structure Engineers. Many engineers, just because they have the skills to execute things, are delivering the crap we all see live in. The nature of free markets and current economical ecosystem makes it hard for the real thinkers and doers to reverse the power dynamics. When there is a demand for production and to produce more things, the crew who has the prominent skills in executing fast and scalable products, becomes the front runner. The system cares less about the best way to do it, or who is doing it right, because there are no reward attached to practice of such values.

Ending on an optimistic note, I imagine in near future, with a lot of disruptions in classic education, we will have a generation of talents who are less biased towards their degrees or titles and have spectrum of skills and interests in building things that matters.

The Great Divide

They are all the same kids in playground. The fear and division bell is conditioned in education, workplace, job-titles, job-postings, etc. Great read. Also as a newbie really motivated by all this actually. With so many different avenues it can be intimidating to keep plugging away at times.

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Chris, thank you for putting this article together, it was a cathartic read. A JavaScript developer is someone who solely focuses on the JavaScript aspect of things. JavaScript nowadays has become an entirely independent language in and of itself. Much like a back-end developer who writes code in PHP or Ruby and then also does bits with databases and servers.

Can we settle on developer? Great post.

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This year I started my first full stack role; prior to that I had spent about 7 years working in various front-end roles. Are we not allowed full stack developers that aspire to learn both sides of the coin but are only at a competent level for now? I believe we need more job titles, but also a set that are universally identifiable across the industry. Front-end and backend is not the same as clientside and serverside. Simply put: front-end handles how it looks and feels and how you can interact with it, backend handles the business logic of your application.

These are 2 completely different things which require very different set of skills. They are backend developers who choose javascript as their main language.

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Just like some backend developers use PHP or Go. Holy moly batman! JavaScript and myself have never been friends.

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Never have been. Just not programming! Next, just need to have the confidence to own it! Thank you for this! I love you.

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  7. Thanks Chris for this great article and video. The web started with static web pages. As soon as they put TDD on the job spec then I found this filtered down into the other larger organisations in the city. To counter my own argument I made a small brochure site the other week and used Gatsby and WordPress.

    This is such a beautiful post and it resonates so well to most of the other roles titles? I will use this post as a reference in my team! This article enshrines the struggle in my career. Heavy JS knowledge has always been elusive to me. I gained my skills and knowledge in the change to the semantic web and continue to hone those skills. To see the front-end side split up is quite sad for me especially when things like JavaScript have made progress. It seems to make more sense now to split the titles different. Has familiarity with NodeJS.

    I think that by splitting them up into more manageable roles related to the front-end , then it clears things up. Great snapshot of the current state of affairs in front-end web development, Chris. Keep up the great work in your articles and podcasts, we need wise voices to help us deal with this massive change with compassion and intelligence. I think this illustrates a larger issue with business and these converging disciplines. It just underscores the importance of speaking up for the neglected but necessary elements before organizations learn the hard way.

    Middleware, remember that term?

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