Deciding whether or not code school is right for you is step one to starting a coding career. But the next most important decision is whether you want to focus on front end or back end programming. Both tracks offer advantages and opportunities. But pervasive myths about front end development might unfairly influence how prospective code students evaluate their options.
We talked to Will Mitchell, Director of Front End Engineering at Turing, about some of the most common front end myths, and what’s the real deal when it comes to front end development.
Myth # 1: Front end engineering is just graphic design
Front end engineers construct what the end user sees in their computer browser or when they open an app on their phone. That’s created a misconception that front end engineering is more closely related to graphic design than to actual code writing. But just because front end development is concerned with visual design, and just because front end applications feature a lot of visual elements, does not mean that front end programming is synonymous with graphic design.
Graphic designers use physical and digital tools to create assets that communicate ideas and concepts like visual layouts. They’re well-versed in subjects like color theory, kerning, typography and visual rhetoric, as well as technical programs like those included in the Adobe Creative Suite. You do not have to be a designer to be a front end engineer.
“As a front end engineer, you will likely work alongside graphic designers and use the visual assets they’ve produced as a reference for building a functional version of their initial mockup or wireframe” explains Will Mitchell.
You will also think a lot about user flow and the way someone experiences a website. For example, if you’ve ever filled out an online form and clicked the Submit button only for a message to pop up warning you not to hit the back button or press Submit again, you know it’s confusing and even disconcerting. A good front end developer will ensure the site functions in such a way that such messages are unnecessary and the user doesn’t feel like they’ve done something wrong.
Myth #2: Front end is easier than back end
Now that we’ve discussed what front end engineering is and isn’t, it’s time to tackle the myth that back end developers are the “real coders.”
Think about the sites you’ve encountered that were built using a platform like Wix or Squarespace—they have a basic, uniform look, feel and functionality. It’s a common misconception that front end isn’t much more complex than filling in your preferences on website builders like these. But there is far more to front end software engineering than simply selecting your preferences and templates in a WYSIWYG editor.
Myth #3: There aren’t as many jobs for front end developers, and only FAANG companies pay well
Gone are the days when only established Silicon Valley behemoths could pay competitive salaries for good UX and UE. These days, any brand that’s on the internet needs a competitive, highly functional web presence. Companies may try to get by with a plug-and-play WYSIWYG website builder, but as soon as you need a custom solution for customer behavior, such as specialized payment flows, you need a front end developer—and most are willing to pay for it
“You aren’t at a disadvantage if you start front end or back end,” says Will. “If you are becoming a software developer you are committing to being a lifelong learner. Eventually, someone will pay you to learn new things and that’s what a lot of people love about this field.”
The question of how many front end jobs are out there has an even fuller answer when you consider that front end developers aren’t limited solely to front end development roles over the course of their careers. Front end developers can become full stack developers as easily as back end developers. And at the junior, mid, and senior level compensation for qualified front end developers is on par with those back end roles.
Is front end development right for me?
Similarly, if you enjoy thinking less about the logic and language of computer systems and more about the intersection of human psychology and digital architecture, then once again front end programming might be right for you.
That’s especially true as of the publishing of this blog in 2023, when the tech industry is experiencing what some have described as a “course correction” marked by layoffs and unprecedented banking woes. While such recent turbulence may be alarming to prospective code students and current members of the Turing student body, it’s important to remember the success our alumni have seen even through the past five pandemic-marred years.