Are Front-end Developers Happy?
Hi, I’m Miranda. I’ve been a front-end web developer for several years, and if you’re thinking about entering the vast career of front-end development, you might be wondering…
Are front-end developers happy?
Do they find fulfillment? Joy? Meaning?
Should you seek out a career in front-end web development or look the other way?
Sometimes, people are initially drawn to web development because it can pay well. It seems like a lucrative career that is both creative and challenging. For more information about salary, see this article on how much developers make.
And I have an answer to the happiness question! It depends.
It depends on your personality: the way you experience and handle challenges, and the way you conceptualize education and learning.
Read on to find out if being a front-end web developer will make you happy or make you miserable.
Front-end web development will not make you happy if…
You think front-end development is easy
You think having a computer science degree makes you ‘overqualified’
You have an expensive degree you haven’t quite payed off, and you learned a lot of computer theory in college. You’ve been introduced to data structures (like hashes and trees) as well as sorting algorithms and Big O notation — though you don’t remember it all too well. In any case, the low-level computer stuff you learned is far more complex than HTML, so that makes you overqualified for the job.
You think designers ‘being picky’ is ruining your life
Designers are ruining your life. They keep telling you to adjust line-height and padding and to line things up correctly. They don’t like that the layout breaks at certain browser widths. But come on! The site looks good enough. Nobody’s going to see the page at that width anyway.
You think you must get it to look the way you want in less than 15 minutes
If you don’t know the answer in 15 minutes, you sit at your desk and hold your head until someone asks you if “everything is alright,” which is an invitation to vent. They’ll understand. The machine is wrong, after all.
You think “it should just work”
All the time, things that you thought would work just doesn’t. And no matter what you try, you are constantly wrangling web pages to no avail. It’s so frustrating. Why would anyone choose front-end web development?
Front-end web development will make you happy if…
You are self taught, resilient, and proud of it!
Front-end development isn’t taught in the traditional college setting, so you have taken it upon yourself to teach yourself, take on side projects, or join a bootcamp. Getting stuck in the weeds is something you love to do, and you’re exhilarated by every breakthrough.
You believe traditional education isn’t everything
A computer science degree has its worth, but the fact is many students get a four-year computer science degree and don’t know how to program. Cory Althoff, author of The Self-Taught Programmer says “The way I learned to program is the opposite of how computer science is usually taught, and I structured the book to follow my approach. Traditionally, you spend a lot of time learning theory — so much so, that many computer science graduates come out of school not knowing how to program.”
You enjoy working in close collaboration with designers
You realize designers want the same thing you do: to make the best product possible. You take the time to invite them to planning meetings to ask questions about the design. You also invite them over to your computer and ‘pair program’. You know how the details matter to create a beautiful experience, so you take the time to learn from them so that your dynamic pages match their visions.
You know when to step away or to ask for help
When you’ve spun your wheels for too long, you find therapy by breaking down a problem with a friend or by taking a brief walk around the block. Sometimes taking your mind off of it and finding a moment to meditate is all you need to find a breakthrough.
You take the time to understand how the browser thinks
CSS can be a puzzle. Taking the time to learn how the browser thinks about CSS across different modern browsers, and continually evolving your understanding of how sites render, will continue to benefit you. You are grateful that with each site or app you build, you learn something new that you can carry into the next project.
Will you be happy as a front-end developer?
Maybe. It all depends on…
If you have a spirit of curiosity
If you love to learn
If you don’t give up easily
If you think visually
If you have empathy for the user (and for your team)
While working as a front-end developer, I’ve trained and hired interns and worked with other developers, freelancers and in-house, who ultimately decided to move away from front-end development.
They found themselves frustrated often and just wanted to know the answers. Often, asking for help was hard, and they would rather stay stuck out of fear of being judged.
If you are someone who just wants to know how to get an ‘A’ or if you want a sure path to success, you will be disappointed with front-end development.
Being a front-end developer takes courage — because as developers, there’s always a vast set of skills that are still unknown to us. We are continuously learning. There is always fear: fear that we are inadequate where we are in our developer journey or fear we can’t overcome this problem because we’re “not smart enough.”
But we have to persevere. We have to tell ourselves we have solved dozens of impossible problems before, and this problem is solvable, too.
Being a front-end developer is about the climb. It’s about the “I can’t believe I did that,” and “I can do it again.”
If you choose to be a front-end developer, I welcome you. It’s hard, but it’s exhilarating, and there’s a community of people out there who will be in the trenches with you.
Where do I start learning front-end development?
You can start here! I started Books on Code to be a learning resource for programmers of all skill levels. Books on Code is your resource to find programming books you love that can help you reach your career goals.
If you want to optimize the way you read technical books and learn, I recommend signing up for my free email course, Get the Most From Technical Books (For Programmers).
If you want resources to get started in front-end development, The Definitive Guide for Front-end Web Developers in 2020 is the best place to start, hands down.
And if you liked this article, remember to give this article a share, so that the beginner or thinking-about-beginning developer can find hope and reassurance on their journey.
Happy front-end developers, I hope to see you again. To be sure of that, be sure to subscribe to my email list below. 👋😊