If you’re looking to hire a front-end developer, you might want to review what makes a programmer an expert on the front-end, as opposed to the back-end. In the simplest terms, a front-end developer is in charge of building all the parts and elements of a website or a web application that end users directly interact with, while the back-end developer takes care of the aspects that users don’t normally see, like the database, storage, core computing logic, and security.

Having understood that difference, you can now move on to finding out what skills a front-end developer must possess in order to be considered quite good at his job. So without further ado, scroll down below.

Mastery of basic front-end programming languages. JavaScript, HTML, and CSS are generally considered the three most essential programming languages when it comes to front-end development, and with good reason. Let’s tackle the last two first — HTML (which stands for Hypertext Markup Language) is the standard language used in building web pages, while CSS (cascading style sheets) is the language used in presenting documents (in their proper fonts, colors, layout, etc) on HTML-generated web pages. Mastery in HTML and CSS is a must because without knowing the tools to create web pages and the means for implementing style (in order to be easily digested by end users), you simply can’t put up a website or web application.

Now let’s talk about JavaScript. This programming language basically allows the front-end developer to integrate specific additional functionality. Websites are getting more complex nowadays — users usually don’t see just plain text and images anymore, they are also getting used to interactive elements with lots of moving or animated parts, as well as various forms of multimedia like video clips, audio, and even games. Thus, a front-end developer who has mastered JavaScript can enjoy access to lots of tools that can make the website or web application more interactive and user-friendly.

Knowledge of responsive design. What is responsive design? It is a design approach that that takes into account the type of machine that will be used in accessing the website or web application, making sure that no aspect of the presentation of content is compromised, regardless of the machine (personal computer or mobile device) being used.

Consumers may take this for granted these days, but for any skilled front-end developer, it is already a given that the website should look good on any screen size (whether it’s on a laptop or an iPhone), ratio, or even orientation (the website should adjust automatically when viewed on portrait or landscape mode).

Familiarity with different levels of browser compatibility. Apart from knowing device compatibility, a skilled front-end developer should also be familiar with how web browsers work. Depending on the end user’s preferences, the website could be viewed using Safari, Chrome, or Firefox, just to name a few. No browser is the same, and each one has a different way of interpreting and rendering the developer’s code.

This is why it is important for a front-end developer to know how to use the developer tools that are offered by web browsers. That way he can test the web pages he has built if they have any issues when presented on a specific type of web browser. The really good front-end developers can even make allowances for different versions of the same web browser.

Well-versed in style sheet optimization. While it is true that mastery of CSS is a must, seasoned front-end developers also display proficiency in style sheet optimization. This involves the use of CSS-transforming tools and CSS preprocessors. Basically what they do is not only create advanced ways of rendering style sheets (in order to fine-tune how elements of a document are presented on HTML), but also transforming them into a format that can be easily supported on CSS (the most basic method for rendering style sheets).

Proficiency in using UI frameworks. UI, of course, stands for user interface, and UI frameworks are simply pre-designed UI elements that already come with preset styles as well as compatibility with most web browsers and mobile devices. For front-end developers, it is sometimes quicker to take a pre-existing UI framework and integrate it into their web project, as long as it is consistent with what the end product is supposed to do.

Sure, front-end developers can create UI elements from scratch if needed, but knowing how to use available UI frameworks is a big advantage, especially when the objective is to fast-track the prototyping process.

Implementing web templates. Web templates can come in handy, especially in projects that involve web publishing and content management. If the website or web app allows users to post new content or update existing ones, it would make sense for a front-end developer to take full advantage of web templates to provide end users with options and tools in generating content of their own, and publishing them in a manner that is consistent with the overall UI and behavior.

Knowledge of basic graphic design and typography. Graphic design plays an important role in building web pages, mainly because websites are visually-driven as much as they are functionality-driven. The same thing goes for typography, especially as it relates to projects that involve some considerable amount of text. In terms of aesthetics, much of the heavy lifting is done by a graphic designer, but skilled front-end developers also must have a good eye for what constitutes great design, or at least be knowledgeable in using graphic editor software.

Skilled in implementing 2D and 3D graphics. Although web UIs are viewed (mostly) through a flat computer or mobile device screen, certain elements can still jump out at you via the appropriate use of 2D or 3D graphics, which is a skill that great front-end developers also need to have. By using SVG (scalable vector graphics) or JavaScript libraries, the developer can integrate even more 2D or 3D visualizations to great effect.

Testing and debugging capabilities. What makes testing and debugging skills so critical for front-end developers? Only the fact that the front-end developer’s job in the first place is mainly about making sure the overall user experience is seamless, from basic navigation, down to every button and functionality present in the website or web app. True, no project is perfect from the onset, but a good developer is one that can make adjustments and fixes as needed during the testing phase.

Understanding of SEO concepts. Search engine optimization (SEO) practices typically evolve over time (usually according to how Google’s latest search algorithms work), and part of the front-end developer’s job is to craft web pages that should have a better chance of ranking on Google’s search results.

Now that we have gone through the qualifications of a good front-end developer, you should be ready for the next step: hiring one. Recruiting a skilled front-end guy in America may not be easy (not to mention cheap), but if you can find an equally skilled professional from other countries (like the Philippines, where labor costs are lower), better grab that offshore software development opportunity while you can. But if you need somebody who can handle the hiring process for you, we can definitely help. Contact us now, and we’ll find your man.