Top 5 engineering skills front end developers need to master

11 minutes

For creative, tech-savvy professionals, choosing a career in front-end development is an ide...

For creative, tech-savvy professionals, choosing a career in front-end development is an ideal option. Experts in transforming lines of code into eye-popping works of art, front end developers are responsible for giving websites a striking, visually appealing finish. However, to truly excel in this profession, there are various engineering skills that you need to master. With a balance of technical aptitude and outstanding soft skills, you have every chance to carve out a rewarding career in this fascinating field. 

So, get comfy, grab your favourite coding beverage, and let’s delve into the top 5 engineering skills you’ll need to brush up on to become the rockstar front end developer you’ve always wanted to be. 

1. An in-depth knowledge of core programming languages 

Ask any front end developer  about the most important engineering skill they utilise on a daily basis, and they’ll most likely answer you with this - an in-depth knowledge of core computer programming languages. Front end developers excel in blending artistic vision with engineering principles, utilising their innovative skills to bring their eye-catching web designs to life. However, without a firm grasp of coding languages, none of this creativity would be possible. 

The world is governed by a set of universal truths. Cars wouldn’t run without fuel, fish couldn’t live without water, and website designs couldn’t be realised without computer programming skills. It's really that simple. Whether you are at the beginning of your front end developer  career or you’re a seasoned pro, enhancing your understanding of computer programming is a surefire way to succeed in the engineering world. 

It’s no secret that there is an abundance of programming languages out there. Should you stick with the software development classics like HTML, CSS, or JavaScript? Or try your hand at some of the modern options like Rust or Golang? While learning new and emerging languages can certainly benefit your career, refining your knowledge of the more traditional picks may be a safe bet. 

Why do we say this? We took a look at the data. According to Statista, JavaScript is the most widely used language, with 63.6% of developers using it professionally. HTML and CSS come in at a close second, with 52.9% of those surveyed claiming that they use these languages in a work setting. Most front end developer jobs require expertise in this trusty trio of long-established programming languages, but why?  

Here is a breakdown of each language’s role in front-end development: 

  • HTML: As the foundational markup language, HTML defines the content and structure of a webpage, including links, paragraphs, headings, and images. If your website were a human body, this would be the skeleton. 
  • CSS: CSS is a styling language that allows front end developers to manage a website’s visual appearance, such as its colours, positions, animations, and fonts. To extend the human body metaphor, this language would be the clothing and jewellery. 
  • JavaScript: Developers rely on JavaScript to make websites dynamic and interactive, utilising the language to design animations, create intricate web applications, and handle user input. So which part of the human body would this be? Probably the brain and muscles (OK, we’ll stop now.) 

Knowledge of these core languages is essential, as they constitute the main building blocks behind front-end development. Without being well-versed in this trio, it will be tricky to get your head around the other hard engineering skills we explore in this guide. 

2. A deep understanding of the various frameworks 

Next up on our list is a deep understanding of the various frameworks. Like coding languages, frameworks are something that front end developers need to get to grips with. Although they don’t sound especially exciting, frameworks play a crucial role in modern web development, giving developers the tools they need to design the front end of a web application or webpage. 

For those at the back who don’t know, frameworks are powerful tools that provide libraries, structures, and collections of reusable code that enable developers and engineers to build efficient and eye-catching user interfaces. So, we’ve established that frameworks are key to developing a killer website, right? That leads us to a common problem that can affect even the most talented of go-getting front end developers - choosing which one to pick! 

Many web development veterans will have you believe that traditional frameworks like jQuery and Backbone.js are the best ones to learn. With their adaptability, maturity, and fine-grained control, these are worthy mainstays of the framework scene for good reason. And yet, they do have significant drawbacks that may make developers think twice about using them, including their steep learning curve and maintainability issues. 

When deciding which frameworks to commit to, we recommend that you apply the same principle we used in the previous section - look at the data. Not got enough time to look for yourself? No worries, we’ve got you covered. Stack Overflow’s 2023 survey into the popularity of front-end frameworks revealed that React is the most widely used option, with 40.5% of developers claiming to use it. Angular and Vue.js took the second and third spots, accounting for 17.4% and 16.3% of those surveyed.

In the world of front-end development, these frameworks rule the roost. Without further ado, let’s examine each of these frameworks: 

  • React: React is a JavaScript library that focuses on creating user interfaces, especially single-page applications where the content is updated in real time while the user interacts with the app. Known for its exceptional performance, flexibility, and large community, React is a trusty framework that developers can rely on. 
  • Angular: With an array of top-notch built-in features, Angular is ideal for large-scale projects. Its tools and libraries are perfect for building robust and scalable web applications, while its defined development pattern ensures code consistency. In layman’s terms, this framework is one of the most comprehensive on the market. 
  • Vue.js: With its finely tuned balance of power and user-friendliness, Vue.js is a fantastic option for novice front end developers. Its gentle learning curve and accessible tools make it a breeze to learn, and thanks to its simple integration, developers should have no trouble incrementally adding Vue components to existing applications. 

Are you a fervent front end developer  looking to put your top-notch engineering skills to the test in a brand-new role? If so, we encourage you to check out our 10 of the most cutting-edge jobs in engineering guide. 

3. Testing and debugging 

Now that we’ve covered the theoretical, knowledge-based engineering skills, it’s time to get into the more practical, nitty-gritty side of things. Of course, it goes without saying that a mastery of coding and frameworks is an absolute necessity for front end developers, but to really guarantee that a website functions to perfection, testing and debugging skills are needed. 

Every front end developer will tell you about the perils of bugs and glitches, but by employing the right testing and debugging strategies, zapping away these pesky bugs should be a walk in the park. What kind of bugs are we talking about? Fortunately, we’re not referring to the creepy crawly kind that ruins bedtime. Front end developers may encounter all manner of bugs, such as:  

  • Visual and layout bugs, such as broken layouts, missing or broken images, and inconsistent styles
  • Data and logic errors, including API integration issues and incorrect data display
  • Interactivity bugs such as broken links, JavaScript errors, and slow loading times
  • Unexpected or inexplicable website behaviour like inaccurate calculations or poorly handled user input

The good news for developers is that none of these technical irritations are insurmountable. In fact, there is a wide variety of testing and debugging strategies that they can utilise to effectively combat them. Think of it as digital pest control; the front end developer works their magic to rid their website of any glitches that affect user experiences. 

Here are the most effective testing and debugging methods every front end developer should learn: 

  • Unit testing: Unit testing involves assessing individual functions and components of a webpage in isolation. Front end developers may use frameworks to carry out this testing procedure effectively. This technique is intended to catch glitches early on and prevent them from spreading. 
  • Integration testing: Every cutting-edge front end developer worth their salt will be familiar with integration testing. This method involves checking how components interact with each other, thereby ensuring a seamless data flow and system functionality. 
  • Leveraging browser developer tools: If you are new to the profession, you’ll quickly learn that browser developer tools are a front end developer ’s best friend. Why? They are purpose-built to inspect programming language, track network requests, and log information to accurately and swiftly identify the source of errors. 
  • Utilising debugging tools: front end developers have access to a wide array of debugging tools. Think of them as your special weapons in the fight against bugs and glitches. Examples of widely used debugging tools include Chrome DevTools, Fiddler, and Augury. 
  • Error reporting: You’ve heard of the well-known adage ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’, right? This is what makes error reporting such a pivotal proactive debugging strategy. To achieve this, front end developers use integration tools such as Sentry to receive user-reported errors much quicker, allowing them to resolve the glitches more efficiently. 

It’s important to remember that freeing your website of bugs and glitches isn’t a simple fix. On the contrary, it is an ongoing process that requires consistent attention. However, by learning these testing and debugging techniques and knowing when to use them, you can ensure that your website and web applications are as efficient, secure, and glitch-free as possible.

4. Web performance optimisation

When going for front end developer jobs, candidates with a winning combination of coding chops, framework knowledge, and debugging expertise are pretty much guaranteed to reach the interview stage. And yet, even for candidates who boast programming prowess and debugging dexterity in spades, employers will be very keen to know whether they have an eye for web performance optimisation. 

Web performance optimisation is arguably the most significant of all the engineering skills we’ve discussed in this guide. To design and build a visually appealing, user-friendly webpage is one thing, but to keep it running efficiently? Now that is a tricky task that requires an abundance of talent. Most front end developer jobs require the postholder to have a solid grasp of optimisation, so why is it such a key skill? 

Let’s explore some of the reasons why effective web performance optimisation is so essential: 

  • Improved user experience: All companies operating online will tell you that facilitating seamless, fun, and interactive user experiences is the name of the game. In today’s fast-paced world, where users are looking for quick solutions, a laggy website may result in higher bounce rates, lower conversion rates, and poor brand perception. Without detailed optimisation processes, achieving memorable user experiences wouldn’t be possible. 
  • Cost-effective for businesses: Faster websites tend to use less bandwidth and server resources. As a result, companies with optimised websites can expect lower hosting costs, a key advantage that is particularly important for large websites with big traffic volumes. 
  • Better SEO ranking: SEO ranking is paramount for companies looking to get their website higher up the search engine results lists. Search engines such as Google normally prioritise websites with web pages that load fast, so improving a website’s performance can significantly improve SEO rankings and drive organic traffic. 

Mastering web optimisation performance enables front end developers to ensure that their websites have consistently fast loading times, reduced glitches, and enhanced accessibility for a wider number of users. But if you really want to understand the effectiveness of nailing web optimisation, just look at the figures. Research shows that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less, while a mere one-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions!  

The need for speed is very real, and front end developers know this all too well. Let’s take a look at some of the web performance optimisation techniques they typically employ: 

  • Reducing HTTP requests by leveraging CSS sprites and minimising styles and scripts
  • Utilising performance monitoring tools to analyse loading times, conduct audits, and assess resource usage
  • Enabling caching for images and CSS to avoid having to download them with every visit to the site
  • Implementing asynchronous loading to mitigate blocking page rendering
  • Prioritising mobile devices for web optimisation, as they typically have slower connections 

5. Soft skills 

It’s nearly time to round off our guide on the top engineering skills front end developers need to master, but before we conclude, we have one more area to cover - soft skills. Ah, soft skills. Often overlooked, frequently underappreciated, and yet so vital. While our last pick on this list isn’t technically an engineering skill, soft skills are undoubtedly crucial for getting ahead in your front end developer career. 

We'll use another analogy to convey the importance of soft skills in this industry (we promise it’ll be our last). Imagine a chef whose talent for cooking up culinary masterpieces is second to none but struggles to communicate with customers. Although they may be able to make delicious dishes, what use are their culinary skills without being capable of making diners feel welcome in their restaurant? Or describe their mouth-watering dishes to critics? 

This same principle can be applied to front end developers. To thrive in this profession, developers must have excellent written and verbal communication, problem-solving abilities, and flexibility, as well as programming, debugging, and optimisation skills. Indeed, hard and soft skills go hand in hand, quite often complementing each other. 

At this point, you are probably asking, "What are the best soft skills I should learn to prepare for applying for front end developer jobs? " 

  • Communication: front end developers communicate with a wide range of people both verbally and via written correspondence. They speak with graphic designers, clients, and other developers on a daily basis, routinely asking clarifying questions to ensure that everyone is on the same page about needs and expectations. 
  • Time management: Deadlines and time constraints are part and parcel of front end developer jobs. Keeping track of tasks is essential, and to do so successfully, developers can utilise tools and techniques to stay focused and avoid the perils of procrastination. 
  • Creativity: This one probably seems blatantly obvious, but we decided to include it anyway, as it is so fundamental to a career as a front end developer. The ability to create new, interactive, and innovative ideas for web interfaces is most definitely a gift, and to thrive in this industry, you must exercise your creative muscles daily. 
  • Problem-solving: Critical thinking, adaptability, and meticulous attention to detail are key problem-solving faculties that all front end developer  candidates should possess. An eye for spotting small bugs, adapting to new technologies and trends, and a willingness to learn new strategies will help you come up with innovative solutions to seemingly complex problems. 
  • A passion for continuous learning: A commitment to lifelong learning is vital for front end developers, not least due to the ever-evolving nature of the web development space. By keeping informed about the latest developments and techniques, you’ll be able to stay on top of your game. 

Let’s round off our guide on engineering skills for front end developers

Mastering the art of front-end development requires a diverse skill set that goes far beyond mere coding. From a deep understanding of core programming languages to navigating frameworks, testing and debugging strategies, and optimising web performance, each skill contributes to enriching your front end developer  talents.

Soft skills, often overlooked but equally important, add a much-needed human touch to your technical expertise. Effective communication, time management, creativity, problem-solving, and a commitment to continuous learning form the backbone of a prosperous career in front-end development. 

We hope that you have found our guide useful, and before we go, we’d like to give you a bit of a motivational speech. Here goes!

Embrace the blend of creativity and technology, stay curious, and cultivate a passion for both hard and soft skills. With these tools in your arsenal, you’ll be well-equipped to thrive in the ever-evolving landscape of front end development. Let’s raise a toast to designing visually stunning and seamlessly functional digital experiences!

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