Learn what a front-end developer is, what they can do for your business, and how to break into this lucrative field as an Independent.
By now, most companies have some kind of online presence. But a simple Facebook or Instagram page can only take a business so far. Most companies find growth difficult to achieve without a website and the ability to run online sales or engage mailing list contacts.
DIY website builders exist, but the results won’t be as polished as they would in the hands of a professional. For business owners without the time or requisite skills, hiring a freelance web developer for assistance is a fantastic idea. But what is a front-end developer, and how do they help a business prosper?
What is a front-end web developer? 🧑💻
Front-end developers often work with a team of web developers to ensure the frameworks and interfaces a customer uses function as intended. The team includes backend developers, who build a site’s basic infrastructure, and user interface (UI) developers, who focus on the usability and flow of the interface.
Frontend developers bridge the gap between backend and UI developers, creating smooth functionality and preparing the site for branding by a web designer or user experience (UX) designer.
What are the responsibilities of a front-end developer? 📋
The responsibilities of a front-end developer include:
- Design and structure. They ensure that clicking a button takes the user to the desired landing page. One way developers do this is by using “markup languages,” code tags that tell a site how to arrange text and graphics in a virtual space.
- Create reusable codes. If a front-end developer is an Independent hired for a set amount of time, they may be responsible for creating code the client can use to enhance their website in the future.
- Enhance speed and scalability. Freelance front-end developers can also revamp an existing website, reducing lag on the interface and expanding code parameters so the site can be upgraded and expanded.
- Responsive design. Because consumers use all different kinds of computers, tablets, and mobile devices, websites need to be optimized for every possible screen size. The front-end developer and UX team code and design a site to conform to the user’s device.
- Brand consistency. A front-end developer sometimes works with branded aspects of a website’s content, ensuring any branded artifacts are deployed appropriately and in line with brand guidelines.
- Function vs. aesthetics. While front-end development is separate from UI/UX design, front-end developers also work to ensure that function and form are balanced and complement one another so they don’t cause user problems on the site.
How to become a front-end developer 🧑🎓
Most freelance front-end web development careers start with a bachelor’s of computer science. A computer science degree confers all the skills needed for front-end or backend development. Generalists in this field are known as full-stack developers. Education in web and software development provides the coding basics front-end developers will use throughout their freelance careers.
Some examples of the various programming languages and front-end developer skills include:
- Hard skills: Web performance optimization (WPO), testing and wireframing, and search engine optimization (SEO). These skills help the front-end developer visualize how a site will work, what it will look like, and how it will drive traffic.
- Soft skills: Pitch delivery, portfolio creation, and presentation skills, all vital skills for those pursuing a career as an independent front-end developer. The ability to connect with potential clients and convince them that you’re the best fit for their needs is an essential part of growing a freelance career.
Why should I hire a front-end engineer? 🤝
With knowledge in the core programming languages mentioned above, front-end engineers ensure a functional user experience on a website or web application.
Hiring a front-end engineer can help you:
- Bring coding and design together by understanding the importance of the user's interactions and experience.
- Write clean, organized code that future engineers can read, use, and edit.
- Perform regular testing and debugging to optimize and improve a website or web application.
Are freelance front-end engineers worth it? 🧐
Without a front-end engineer, your designs will be little more than ideas. It’s worth hiring a front-end developer who can package the work done by backend engineers and various designers to deliver an inviting user experience.
If you're unsure about hiring a front-end engineer full-time, consider hiring an Independent instead. This route gives both parties more flexibility, but it can always turn into something more if you find someone who brings the company enough value.
- One task at a time: Since independent front-end engineers are usually hired for a single project, they can put all their focus on the task at hand.
- Shorter terms: For short-term projects with a definite end date, independent front-end engineers are the perfect alternative to bringing on a permanent employee.
Even if you’re interested in hiring someone long-term, starting with a contract allows you to learn how the Independent works with you and your team. If everything goes great, you can discuss turning the position into something more permanent when the project ends.
How do I start working with a freelance front-end engineer? 👥
Whether freelance or full-time, front-end engineers will take your website or web application to the next level! Here’s how to get started:
- Do your research: Understand that front-end and backend engineers work in tandem but are their own distinct roles. Frontend engineers work on the visual aspects of a website. Backend engineers maintain databases, APIs, and more to ensure everything runs smoothly.
- Share your opportunity: You never know where you’ll meet your next collaborator. Share the opening with your community, or post an opportunity at contra.com/hire to get matched with independent front-end engineers who are perfect for your needs.
- Set clear expectations: Before working with an independent front-end engineer, knowing what you need from the beginning is important! Give the Independent as much information as possible before they start (e.g., hover states, current designs, and font styling)
- Pair them with the rest of your team: Frontend engineers work best when they can collaborate with cross-functional partners. Pair them with UI, UX, or product designers, backend engineers, and PMs to help get a project to the finish line.
- Pay them what they’re worth: The Independent will propose a rate (either hourly or per project). If you can’t honor their rate, prioritize the proposed deliverables so they can get paid what they’re worth.
- Stay in touch and offer references: Keep your line (or DMs) open and the Independent in mind for projects that pop up within your company or with people you know. And since Independents often work with collaborators, don’t be afraid to ask them for recommendations if they’re unavailable to help with future projects.
Start your journey with Contra 🔥
Contra is the Independent-first community and commission-free hiring platform empowering the future of work. We match Independents with flexible opportunities and clients with the perfect pitch for any project, from content creation to coding.
To post your first opportunity on Contra or find an Independent to help build your brand, visit Contra to learn how to hire the perfect freelancer. Or check out the talented pool of independent front-end engineers on Contra to find the perfect match.
Best Practices for Working with Independents by The Contrarian