Top 20 Tools That Every Front-End Developer Should Know About
Expectations from front-end developers have increased significantly in recent years, mostly due to the strengthening of browsers and comprehensive front-end frameworks. Both raise the bar high, and people need to adapt fast. We have a thing or two to say about that.
A good front-end developer is no longer someone limited with doing stuff like navigation menus and pop-ups. Front-end experts are now people with a diverse skill set. Logic and creativity are part of minimum requirements, alongside precision and flexibility.
However, these are not the only skills of someone who take the overseeing role in building a website or application. Following the right steps, it is possible to launch an essential website online without prior technical training. So, what is the essence of a great front-end developer?
We produced a list of 20 useful tools that can help you upgrade your skill power as a front-end developer. Dig in.
The development and use of mobile phones in everyday life have led to almost all sites having higher traffic through mobile devices than desktop computers and laptops.
Therefore, it has never been more critical to develop a web application to provide a great user experience on screens of all sizes and shapes. The use of media queries can help you a lot in this; use it to adjust distinctive styles depending on the on-screen type.
Flexbox (and Grid) Layout Systems
Knowledge of these two layout systems significantly raises the quality of writing HTML code, saves you from unnecessary duplication of elements (for each type/width of the screen), and contributes to flexibility in styling the application.
If this seems too complicated, many frameworks make it easy to set up element layouts; take Bootstrap, for example.
Using classic CSS to style applications requires a lot of repetition in writing, one of the bad programming practices in general. If you decide that you do not want the theme’s primary color to be blue at the end of the project but say green, you will have to make changes in the entire code manually. As soon as you do something manually, it is not good either in terms of speed or avoiding mistakes.
This problem is solved by CSS preprocessors (SASS, LESS…) by extending classic CSS functionality to a much higher level.
An easy yet powerful way to impress visitors is to use animation. CSS offers many options for this - you can choose how, when, how often, and how long these motion graphics-like effects appear and help keep the visitor’s attention.
It is important to note that only specific CSS properties are subject to animations.
Data Storage at the User
Databases are not in the scope of front-end developers per se. However, there is an exception: when certain data needs to be brought in the user’s browser itself. Why would there be a need for that?
Let’s say that from the aspect of user experience, it is good that they do not have to type in a username and password every time they access your site. They need to do so one time, after which the data enters their storage, and they have access. There are three popular ways to keep: localStorage, sessionStorage, and cookies.
Asynchronous programming allows web applications to remain responsive even when multiple tasks are processed simultaneously. User interactions, such as a search filter or mouse click, occur independently of the predicted application flow. Therefore, the application waits for the user’s action and then reacts depending on it.
Various techniques support the process of asynchronous programming. Most wide-spread are promises, observables, and callbacks.
The popularity of NodeJS is on the rise, so you will not go wrong if you start reading NodeJS documentation.
Is it essential to take away a few hours of your life for, say, creating a calendar for picking a date when simple ready-made solutions exist on the Internet, and besides, they are free and available in minutes?
This is where package managers such as npm, bower, or yarn come into play, allowing you to import someone else’s code from the Internet with a simple command. Of course, you should always take care of the correctness and security of the code entered in this way, but this type of help can certainly come in handy in certain situations.
Effective communication and planning significantly affect the quality of any job, including website and web application development. A good understanding of the client’s requirements (or even your needs) comes through a draft (prototype) showing the basic structure emphasizing the website’s or app’s functionality and user needs.
Creating these drafts is more comfortable using one of the many tools available on the Internet (Axure, UXPin…). Although UX design does not fall strictly into the front-end scope, there are often situations when a client expects their developer to know its basics.
When you finish the design and the structure of the piece you are working on, you move on to the application’s aesthetic appearance - the user interface. This design area is much more familiar to the front-end developer than the previous one, but that does not mean that it is less demanding and that less effort is needed to master the basics.
UI design means that before starting coding, a complete visual appearance of the future website/application results from the software tools that enable it (Adobe Photoshop, Sketch, GIMP…).
Basic Design Elements
The design should have meaning and inspiration, but it is necessary to know specific rules.
- what is the purpose of particular colors
- how the colors fit together
- use of lines of different shapes and thicknesses
- use of space (negative space)
- symmetry and asymmetry
- the harmony of the parts as a whole
These are just some of the things you need to master to be successful in a graphics design?
Icons and Images
Icons represent a more critical element of a site or application than it seems at first glance. Apart from the fact that they visually look nice, they also have functional advantages. They take up less space than text, so there is more room for other things. And if you have visited a site that is in a foreign language, the icon can help a lot in understanding what is behind clicking on it.
For proper use of images, you need to know the advantages and disadvantages of individual formats (jpg, png, gif, svg, a.k.a Scalable Vector Graphics…), as well as the rules of optimization.
Version Control Systems
Numerous tools exist for version control, but somehow the first association for most developers is GIT. Whether you work alone or in a team, you must keep your code on one of the software specialized for version control and insight into the changes that occur over time.
Another significant advantage of GIT is branch code’s ability so that certain functionalities of the web application/site are coded in isolation until they are fully completed. Then it is possible to return them to the code as fully edited.
REST is an architecture that has become the standard for communication between client and server. The basis of REST is the use of HTTP protocol and its standardized operations (GET, PUT, POST, DELETE…) that enable data exchange.
Another standard in this area concerns the format in which specific data is sent from one side to another – this format is called JSON.
One of the necessary coding standards is, regardless of the spoken area, writing code in English. Given that all programming terms are in English, you can figure out how this is important. Most tutorials, documentation, and videos are in English. If the client is not from the same speaking area as you, it is assumed that you will communicate in this language.
All beginners in programming should use Notepad++ to better learn the basics of programming without using shortcuts. For more serious work, it is essential to use advanced editors. They allow for faster and more precise code writing, check for frequent syntax errors. Not only that, but they offer the ability to supplement code depending on the programming language, element definition, help debug the application, and have integrated version control.
The most popular front-end editors on the market are VS Code, WebStorm, Atom, and Sublime Text.
In the coming years, front-end developers’ role will become more critical, as it adopts various responsibilities usually associated with other roles. The role has expanded responsibilities; your future front-end gurus need to be technical but also creative. They need to be forward thinkers and good team players. The list will grow more extensive. Someday, all prestigious IT leaders will be ex-front-end developers. For a future like this, this article is a great source of inspiration.