26 TIPS TO BE A SUPER FRONT END DEVELOPER
Want to maximise your productivity as a Front-End Developer?
We asked the team (Ryan, Dean, Mike, James, Sam, Jamie, Lauren and Dave) for their top tips on what it takes to succeed in the world of Front-End.
1. Make a list and prioritise
Agency life is fast, fast, fast so your typical day is going to be full of tasks. You need to prioritise, so make a list, make several lists, make a list of your lists. I guess what I’m saying is use lists. Now that you’ve got your list – prioritise the tasks and tick things off as you go! Every ticked-off task is a mini-achievement and will give you just a little bit of satisfaction and the feel-good factor.
2. Minimise Distractions
As a Front-End Developer you could have 2, 3 or even 4 monitors on your desk and will spend a lot of time cross referencing and trying to concentrate. You’ll be comparing business requirements against what’s on screen to make sure everything has been ticked off; you’ll be relating SASS and JS code to what you see in the browser; you’ll be comparing the look of websites and apps across different browsers and devices. In short, you could do with as few distractions as possible, so pop your phone away, tidy your desk, get those noise cancelling headphones on - and crack on.
3. Stay on top
Front-end development is forever evolving. Stay on top of things by following industry experts on all the usual social channels. Attend workshops and events, read, listen to podcasts, watch tutorials, be a speaker at events if you can and introduce your learnings and new concepts to the team.
4. Know when to ask for help
It’s fine, and expected, for you to try and work things out but don’t take too long and don’t be too proud or embarrassed to ask for help. That can be a massive time saver whether you’re a Junior, Mid-weight, Senior or even Principle developer!
5. Make it fail
Good developers spend time proving their code works. Better developers spend time trying to break it and find defects. There is a difference! So rather than focusing on making things work, have a think about how you could break stuff and try to make your code bulletproof.
6. Be Proactive
Anticipate problems before they happen and flag potential issues with Project Management before they are set in stone.
7. Learn something new
See every new project as an opportunity to learn something new - and don't forget to share your new-found knowledge!
8. Mentor and be mentored
Accept that no-one knows everything and that the landscape is constantly changing.
Everyone has something they can share and everyone can learn from others - however experienced or inexperienced you are.
9. Be open-minded
There are so many ways to tackle the same problem, keep an open mind and realise that your way isn’t necessarily the only way.
10. Comment your code
Even if it makes perfect sense to you, it might not make sense to everyone who works on the project. Commenting your code helps other people pick up your code quickly and understand what is going on.
Those comments can always be stripped out in a build task for your production-ready code.
11. Make your class names meaningful
Giving elements meaningful class names will help anyone working on the same project. Having abstract naming conventions will confuse other developers and make the code incredibly hard to understand.
12. Keep informed
Sign up to newsletters, the more the merrier. Web development has always, and will continue to be, a fast-moving industry. Even if you don’t learn every new trend that appears, it’s important to have sight of them.
13. Build, build, build
Reading course materials and watching videos is a fantastic way to learn, but cement that knowledge by putting things into practice. Even if you rebuild an older project in your spare time, just to see how it could be improved by newer tech, it will inevitably help better retain this new knowledge.
14. Introduce new tech slowly
It’s important to keep an eye on and learn new tech, but it’s also important to know when to fully commit to it. Incrementally introducing new development techniques and libraries allows you to better understand the benefit of them and also keeps your code readable / workable for all your colleagues that may have to pick it up.
15. Don't be scared to go out of your depth
Life is about change so don't be scared to take a plunge into the unknown. Learn something new even if it doesn’t make sense at first. You'll get there.
16. Write, rewrite and refactor
Constantly think about improving your code. That thing you built that was brilliant 2 weeks ago... well you can probably do it better, so think about it and do it!
17. Take time to get things right first time
It's easy to see a problem and solve it in the simplest way, but is that really the best way? A stitch in time saves nine and all that shizzle.
18. Discuss your problems and solutions
Get down your local watering hole and find out what your peers are up to.
19. Be curious
If you’re working on a legacy piece of code or learning something new, spend time understanding how it works and explore the code. This could lead to you finding ways of improving the way it works and/or making it more efficient.
20. Learn to communicate – well!
Whether it’s with your team or with your client, good communication is essential, and poor communication can be detrimental to a project or piece of work. Listen to your client/team without interrupting and speak confidently.
21. Be patient
Web developers are people too and everyone makes mistakes. Don’t let errors dishearten you; learn from them. In my experience, you rarely make the same mistake twice and the reason for this is you’ll gain much more from fixing an issue than you would if you had no issues. You spend time trying to break the problem down, look at it from other angles, look at alternative ways of writing the code and it’s during this time where you’d gain better understanding of the language.
22. Make mistakes
Don’t beat yourself up about mistakes. The best developers have made the most mistakes and as a result they have the most learning opportunities. That’s what makes them better. If you’re not making mistakes, then genuinely you’re doing something wrong! Every fresh mistake is a new learning opportunity.
23. Have fun!
I cannot stress this enough. You should always enjoy your work, it shouldn’t feel like a chore.
Always find time to have a laugh and joke with your peers – at the end of the day, you spend the majority of your life at work so good friends will make this way more enjoyable.
These are a lifeline as a developer. They are the universal sign for “I’ve got my head into something, please don’t disturb me”.
25. Reward yourself
You fixed that bit of code that’s been causing you to pull your hair out all morning... now how about getting yourself a posh coffee from the coffee-shop over the road (#lifeattwentysix) or organising a drink after work with colleagues to celebrate your brilliance?
26. Always say goodbye
It’s the end of another day in the world of Front-End development. You’ve probably had some highs and some lows too no doubt. We know it’s hard and you’ll miss your colleagues like crazy but try not to be too sad that it’s home-time and don’t mooch off silently like “The Littlest Hobo”. A “goodnight” or “see you later” shout is a great way to cap off a good day.
Got more to add?
Do some of these tips apply to your role too? Have we missed anything you think should be included?
Leave a comment below and let us know!