Technology / Programming

How to Become a Frontend Developer

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Published on May 4, 2021

Web development is one of the hottest areas of IT right now. Because of this, a large number of companies are looking for skilled and experienced software developers to create state-of-the-art web applications.

There are, in general, three types of web developers: front end, back end and full-stack. Front-end developers code the client-side applications that people use in their web browser, while back-end developers program the server-side applications that communicate with the client-side applications. Full-stack developers work on both frontend and backend applications.

In this article, we will cover skills that you need to become a front-end developer — as well as a practical pathway toward this rewarding career.

Technologies You Need To Know as a Front-End Developer

While the number of frontend development tools available today are nearly endless, the following technologies are essential to most of the jobs out there:


No matter how complex a frontend web application may be, at its foundation are the same basic building blocks that are used in the simplest of websites: Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). While HTML is the language that describes the elements of a web page, CSS is the code that tells a web browser how to display these elements.

Front-end developers must be experts in both these technologies, as everything they do ultimately relates to manipulating HTML and CSS in a way to create a useful application.


JavaScript has become the lingua franca of the web: the common programming language that most front-end applications use. Front-end developers use JavaScript, through what is called the Document Object Model (DOM), to programmatically manipulate HTML and CSS to the extent that a web page functions in a way similar to a desktop application.

Because of JavaScript's importance in front-end web applications, developers must know this language inside and out, regardless of what advanced frameworks a particular organization may use on top of it.

JavaScript Frameworks

JavaScript was not designed to create complex web applications. It was designed to allow the creators of websites the ability to add simple programming to their pages. So, with the need of more complex web applications in recent years, a number of ingenious software engineers created something called frameworks.

Frameworks lie on top of JavaScript and allow software developers to create the kind of large and complex applications that web users now rely on every day. You can think of it as being something akin to the automatic transmission of a car. An automatic transmission eliminates the drudgery of switching a car's gears, and a JavaScript framework eliminates the drudgery of manipulating the DOM directly with JavaScript.

Unlike JavaScript, there is no universal JavaScript framework. But front-end developers typically must be well-versed in at least one of the following leading frameworks (and many know more than one):

  • AngularJS

  • jQuery

  • ReactJS

  • Vue.js

How to Become a Professional Front-End Developer

Aspiring front-end developers face a seemingly impossible dilemma: organizations require their front-end developers to have both experience and skills. But how do you get the experience and skills if no one will hire you? Fortunately, you can get around this dilemma by following these steps:

1. Learn How To Create Basic Web Pages

You have surely heard the old saying: "you have to crawl before you can walk." Nowhere is this more true than in web development.

Start off by learning the basics of HTML and CSS. There are many free online resources available, such as HTML For Beginners The Easy Way and Learn HTML. You can supplement this with a variety of books and courses.

Your goal at this step should be to understand how web pages work at a very basic level, and have the ability to create the type of simple non-interactive websites that you see everyday. You might even want to select one at random and try to mimic how it looks.

You also need to learn how to make a web page responsive. This is the ability of a page to automatically adapt to the screen size of the user. As screen sizes of devices today vary greatly, this is a critical skill for frontend developers. You can learn responsive web design from tutorials such as this one.

2. Learn How To Use JavaScript

Like with HTML and CSS, there are many free online resources for learning JavaScript, such as The Modern JavaScript Tutorial and Learn JavaScript. There are plenty of books and courses to supplement this knowledge, too.

Your goal here is to take those simple web pages that you made in Step 1 and add some simple JavaScript code to it. For example, try to programmatically change how the page displays, like its colors and fonts. Also, look at some web pages that have simple interactivity, such as those that perform some kind of basic calculation, and try to mimic it.

3. Build Your Own Web Applications

Once you know how to crawl, you can start to walk. The idea here is to develop your own web applications that let users accomplish something. Try to keep your ideas simple at first, and as you improve as a developer, make them more complicated.

You should understand that your first apps are probably not going to be very good. But this is okay. You will only get better by trying, failing and learning from your failures. You should also understand that you do not have to do this all on your own.

You should first write web applications in pure JavaScript before attempting to learn and use frameworks. Once you have mastered building apps with JavaScript directly, the frameworks will be easier to learn and far more useful to you. When you are ready to learn the frameworks, CBT Nuggets offers excellent courses in two of the leading ones: AngularJS and ReactJS.

Once you have written two or three really good web applications that you are proud of, you should make them freely available on the web as open source, as they will serve as your initial portfolio. A good place to do this is on GitHub Pages. There you can upload an unlimited number of applications for free, along with their source code, which will show future employers your programming skills.

With this in mind, you should make sure that your code is neatly written and follows industry-standard coding practices.

4. Find Unpaid Front End Assignments

Armed with your online portfolio, you can now start looking for experience writing frontend applications for others.

One way that you can do this is by volunteering. Websites such as VolunteerMatch and donate:code can match you with nonprofit organizations that are looking for programmers. You can also find volunteer opportunities with various open source projects by using CodeTriage. These opportunities can provide you with valuable experience and additions to your portfolio. They can even lead to paid jobs.

Another great way to get experience in software development is through hackathons, such as those offered by Major League Hacking. At these events, you team up with other developers to accomplish programming tasks. Not only will this help you learn how to develop software collaboratively, but you can also add what you have created to your portfolio while networking with those who could help you land your first job.

5. Apply for Jobs

Once you have both skills and experience, you are ready to apply for a full-time frontend job. Seek out opportunities in which the employer emphasizes abilities over experience. You may be surprised to learn that many big tech companies are far more concerned about what you can do than what you have done.

As you apply for jobs, you should also network as much as possible. A good way of doing this is at one of the many programming meetup groups.

While you are waiting for that first full-time job, you might also want to apply for freelance assignments at sites such as Upwork. Like with unpaid work, they can give you both valuable experience and additions to your portfolio, and they can also provide you with some money as well.

Final Thoughts

Development is a fun and challenging field to work in. The good news is there's a lot of resources that novices can use to build their knowledge and skills. Make sure to explore your options and pick the ones that best suit your needs and goals. You want to develop a passion for what you are learning, and not get discouraged. With the right approach and a commitment to learning, you can be on your way to being a successful front-end developer.


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