Frontend Tips

Practical advice for frontend engineers / web developers

Web development is complex

By Isofarro on February 3rd, 2009 - No comments

Web development is a difficult and tricky business. Even with building sites in a web standards way there are still complications and other issues to consider in each decision and turning point. Above just the technical skills there are the softer-skills that are essential in delivering a world class experience.

Web development is also a diverse industry covering a very wide range of skills. Starting with the core skills of HTML and CSS; that is just a bare minimum for building a professional presence on the Web. Next comes the interactive or behavioural layer, so JavaScript is starting to be essential. Dynamically generating HTML involves knowing server side scripting, so chose almost any web-capable language and that in turn opens up many additional learning opportunities in the broad choice of frameworks and supporting tools. Even between the server and client, understanding HTTP is necessary to ensure a stable web experience.


Each of those broad categories can be refined, with more and more specialities listed. And that’s just the hard technical skills. There are still the softer skills to consider in building a website. A web developer with a good design eye is always going to outdo the one without that appreciation. Experience in Information Architecture improves the sites a web developer builds. Accessibility – facilitating the use of websites for people with disabilities – also allows a web developer to build better experiences. And internationalisation – building a site in a way that can be rolled out quickly and efficiently in other languages and cultures – that saves building the same old wheel over and over again for each community.

When you try to define a web developer, the core skills are only a starting point, as much as two arms and two legs identifies a human. In a large team of web developers it is easier to notice that we are not all the same. We each, as individuals, offer our own blend of specialisms, and together we can build better sites than any single individual alone.

Specialism is a good thing, and spreading that specialist knowledge also encourages others to consider those special aspects and issues of that topic. Unfortunately, we focus too much on the generalities of specialist topics, we fail to comprehend the real flavour or benefit of certain skills and experience. I won’t dare talk about Information Architecture because what I say will trivialise it; but I don’t doubt for a moment the value of that skill.

Appreciating diversity

So with these network of sites I’m focusing on the specialities I’m either interested in, or needed to understand as part of my web developer role at Yahoo!. The idea is to offer practical advice that is more focused and useful than the generalities of advice out there on the web. Each speciality brings a unique richness, and a conversation that is far deeper than just “10 rules of X”.

Each site covers a different speciality, and considers issues from that perspective. Of course, that doesn’t mean we must disregard other considerations. A great webdeveloper is one who can appreciate a large number of considerations and figure out the best, and most practical plan of action.

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