Front-end development should cease to be a
Today I tried to provoke my twitter time line by stating that the discipline of front-end development should cease to exist. Part of it should become part of Visual Web Design, and part of it should become part of the discipline Web Development. Provoking worked, discussing the provocation is harder. I’ll try to explain what I mean.
I am asked to think about the future of the specialty front-end development as it is taught on the University of Applied Science in Amsterdam. One of the ideas I’m playing with is to make front-end development a part of two other courses that are taught there: Visual Design and Web Developer.
The reason behind this thinking is as follows: Visual web designers don’t really understand the web technically, they don’t understand that everything will look different everywhere. This must be part of their understanding. When they understand this, their designs will be better. I strongly believe this is the basic idea behind web design. This makes web design different from all other design specialties. Of course you could force designers to learn how to write HTML and CSS, but I don’t think that will work, designers want to see what they’re making. Instead we should make tools that force/help them in working with the web (instead of ignoring it). And until these tools exist we should teach them how the web works.
But it works both ways: many front-end developers right now don’t understand anything about design. They should.
There used to be a strict division between people who write code for the server and people who write code for the browser. But this division is not so clear anymore. Which is a very good thing. But this does have some consequences: I see so called back-end developers bringing their best practices to the browser. The problem here is comparable with the problem we have with designers: the browser is completely different from the server and many developers find it very hard to accept that. Not all best practices apply to the browser. I firmly believe that all web developers must understand how browsers work, that developing for the browser is fundamentally different from developing for a server.
But it works both ways: many front-end developers right now can and should learn a lot from classic developers.
So I’m not saying that Front-end development should cease to exist as a trade. It is a separate profession in many ways. It needs its own specialists for sure. But I do believe that in applied universities front-end development, or browser behaviour, should be taught as a part of other, broader disciplines.
Now, I’m really looking forward to reading your opinions on this matter.