Front End developer – Now and then
Written by Lazar Lazarevic 15 September 2018

What is a front-end development? What does an FE developer do? What was the road of front-end development from its beginnings?

Well, those are just a couple of questions for which you can find answers here.

Front-end developer start of the road

Front-end development first appeared alongside appearance of HTML and CSS. So it’s fair to say that the first front-end developers actually appeared in the early 1990s. It was not that popular at the moment, but with the expansion of the internet, HTML, and CSS it started to grow up as a really important part of web programming. At its beginnings, front-end developer didn’t do much. Their job was to just create a static website and make it look good. At the time until early 2000s front-end developer was called a web designer. A real breakthrough and the bright future for Front end developer started on 22nd of December in 1995. On that day, JavaScript as scripting language appeared for the first time. And then it was clear that front-end developer, oh sorry, the web designer is going to do much more than just making websites look good. After JS appearance new era for front-end development started.

css - code

What is a front-end development?

Since I am mentioning that term front-end development all the time, why shouldn’t I explain it a bit before we continue on with FE developer road? Front-end development is part of web development which code is executed on the client side. That actually means that code written by FE developer is served like that into a browser of the visitor of that web location and executed there. Throughout the time, that actually changed a bit, but I will speak about it when we reach that place on the front end developer road.

The second part of the FE developer road – Rapid expansion

From moment JavaScript first appeared it wasn’t long after when the potential of it got on the surface of the web. Many people used JavaScript the way they wanted so it was very important at that time to actually create some ground rules and form standards and guidelines for use and its development. So, in 1997, ECMAScript first appeared as a standard for JavaScript. That was the beginning of a new Era for FE developers, still web designers at the time. ECMA did a lot concerning JavaScript evolving, but the road they had was very bumpy. Especially with version 4 which was supposed to be very innovative at the time. It got abandoned due to some political reasons about the complexity of update in 2008. Some people even had an opinion that it could break the internet, so it was abandoned. In December of 2009 ECMA released version 5, and on that version, JavaScript became what we know today.

I took a bit of detour from FE road, just because of the importance of JavaScript and ECMAScript, but I back on road again. In early 2000s JavaScript already was very popular, but still didn’t become an important part of FE developers. In 2006 one thing appeared that changed everything in FE developer (still web designer at the time). It was an appearance of jQuery, as cross-platform JavaScript library. That was the year in which web designer found a crossroad. They got 2 roads aheadone was to stay a designer and just design websites, and the other one was to become a programmer – WEB programmer – Front End Developer. And that is how web designers got divided and that’s how we became FE developers that we are today.

js-code

Now, we who took a programmer road, well, we still had very bumpy road ahead of us. With jQuery, we had a lot of new possibilities to add to websites. Websites were no longer static. We have a dynamic part of a website. Sort of speak, we brought websites to life.
So FE developers were then programmers, using JavaScript, HTML, and CSS, building much more than just web page, but still it wasn’t enough. We wanted to do more. ECMAScript continued to grow, new versions were released, but what made us today an important part of WEB development process, wasn’t just ECMAScript.

New FE era – Frameworks and preprocessors

Beside ECMAScript and jQuery, frameworks made a boom in FE development.
The year was 2010, and that year made the great impact of FE developers. The first frameworks that we use today appeared. For example, it was Angular and Backbone. But why they made such an impact? Well, a difference between libraries and frameworks lies in how its implemented. When you use a library, you just call predefined functions from it and that’s it. What frameworks give you is much bigger. It gives you a set of rules, guidelines, frames in which you can create apps and websites with a lot of more possibilities. It allows you to design entire apps, combine it with libraries, manipulate DOM and much, much more. So today we have a lot of frameworks around us, and we can choose which we want to develop our apps. There is a lot of them and the most popular ones are Angular, Vue and React.

fe-skills

In the new era, the late 2000s also made a breakthrough for FE developers when CSS is in question. As CSS is well, a bit uptight when developing is in question. Something had to happen in order developers get a chance to do more with less code. That Idea was the most important link in the chain that gave us CSS preprocessors. They give us an opportunity to do many things, have functions in CSS, have variables, entire parts of code used on multiple places, divide code into smaller pieces. And what’s the best in it: when you are done it gets compiled in plain CSS, and works like a charm. So today, preprocessors are used all the time. We also have a variety to choose from. We have the stylus, LESS, SASS and much more, but those 3 are the most used.

One more thing was worth mentioning in this era: HTML expansion. Throughout years HTML evolved a lot too. Today, we have HTML5 which way more powerful than before.

FE developer today and a new crossroad around the corner

Today, FE developers do a lot, not just make the website look good. FE developer today creates the structure of websites and apps. Makes the site have its life: creates all possible interactions of users with apps. He manipulates the DOM on the much higher level, a not just that. Creates virtual DOM and manipulates the content displayed. Communicates with a server to pick up data, but if needed, formats the data as needed or even creates data independently from Server.
All that makes FE developer a very important link in the web development process.

The new crossroad, what did I mean with that? JavaScript became so powerful that today, FE developer took one step from client side to server side. Today with JavaScript we have a possibility to create apps executed on the server, so are we going to stay Front End developers or we are stepping into Back-end part? JavaScript gave us that but also gave us Node.js. With JavaScript, we can now create REST structure…

That is our next crossroad, where will FE developer go, only time will tell. Let’s see what years to come to have to offer.

FRONT END Developers, let’s buckle up and enjoy the ride we are on!

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