What should a front-end developer know in 2016?

I spent much of the summer of 2015 in Paris working with an agency’s development team that had seriously gone off the rails. I was the client and part of my mission was to assess the true capability of the assembled team.

This is a conversation I had with a very nice developer who the agency claimed was a senior front end developer:

“That menu is wonky and the UI lags horribly. Why don’t you optimise or rewrite it?”

“My Javascript isn’t very good.”

“I see. How’s your CSS?”

“Well, it could be better. I don’t really work on that here.”

“Are you better with the backend? How’s your PHP?”

“I want to learn more about PHP.”

“Ah ok. Well, what happens when we have a problem like this with the menu?”

“A tech lead who reviews our work from time to time, but he isn’t available until later in the week. I’ll ask the business unit director when we can speak.”

This developer was clever and friendly, but clearly not able to work on a complex project independently.

The agency fundamentally failed this developer by leaving him adrift with no meaningful support. Absent agency-side leadership, I stepped in and rallied the team – and made sure support mechanisms were put in place when I returned home to London.

Developers don’t need to know the JS hotness of the month, but they do need to possess knowledge of the fundamentals, know what they don’t know – and, most importantly, be flexible and know how to find the answers.

There’s a brilliant episode of the Shop Talk podcast that considers “The State of Front-End Dev” and how mixed-skills teams can work, “what it means to be a senior developer” and some of the challenges in defining just what should a front-end dev know. Essential listening to anyone building products in 2016!

Episode 193 of the Shop Talk podcast, “The State of Front-End Dev”

What should a front-end developer know in 2016?

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