Front-end development is ever-changing, and we often find ourselves needing to change with it. Whether it’s the next big framework or language, there will always to an extent be something new to learn. But how do you go about growing your career or learning new skills? How can you be the best developer you can be? Here are 8 tips for being a better developer:
1. Be honest with yourself and employers
There is an interesting movement happening in the dev industry, especially in South Africa. Many developers tend to add skills to their CV that they don’t necessarily have. Having only read an article on AngularJS does not give you the authority to add it as a skill. Remember that your employer will depend on you and will expect you to know what you are doing. Only add a skill if you are confident that you can run a project therein from start to finish, on time.
2. Tailor your CV
Tailor your CV for the type of work you want to do and not necessarily the type of work you think you should be doing. There are many front-end developers that know only CSS and HTML and lead very successful careers and it could potentially be a stepping stone into a better position. It’s about what you as a developer feel passionate about and where you see your career heading. If you know AngularJS but have no interest in building AngularJS projects; don’t feel ashamed to remove it from your CV. Chances are your prospective employer will take in interest in that skill and you might end up doing something completely different to what you applied for.
3. Pick a framework you like
Pick a framework or language you like and spend a lot of time getting really good at it. A business’ main goals are to make money; if you work efficiently you will get rewarded. This is not to say that you should only focus on a single framework, but it helps to be exceptional in your field of interest. In a lot of countries; like South Africa; frameworks like AngularJS or React.js are still very new. They will most likely only be fully utilised in businesses in a few years’ time (this of course is not to say that there aren’t businesses already using these frameworks). This means that there is more than enough time to learn a new framework and will ensure you are ready to start working therein once it reaches its peak. Do some market research to see what there is a big need for as this could ultimately help you make the right decision.
4. Learn how to work with clients and manage projects
A big requirement for most professionals in our industry is the ability to run a project and work with clients. Often in the development industries you might be building projects by yourself, so your employer will expect you to be self-sufficient and work closely with your clients. This also relates to our first point: you can’t effectively run a project if you don’t understand the technology you’ll be using. Learn proper email etiquette, how to write briefs and how to manage your clients’ expectations to ensure that their goals are realistic and you will set yourself up for a promotion into a senior role.
5. Pay attention to detail
Get really good at attention to detail. It’s important that you uphold a high standard of work. When you receive designs, make sure they are pixel perfect as this is what your client (and most importantly your designer) expects. Adhere to coding standards; whether it relates to code syntax, folder structures or managing code versioning with git. When moving into a senior developer role these are the skills that will separate you from a mid-weight and it will also improve your overall workflow.
6. Learn some design
Many developers start out as designers before they move into Web. Knowing how to design gives you an incredible edge over other developers in the industry as it enables you to be better at pixel perfect development and also enables you to make design decisions when it comes to prototyping. Many developers build products without considering UX and UI – this is simply because they don’t know any better. By learning a few simple design concepts you will be able to do rapid prototyping and do a lot more dev work without a designer looking over your shoulder.
7. Build templates
Learn how to work with templates from some of the big CMS systems if you are interested in building brochure websites or interactive experiences. WordPress and Drupal aren’t going anywhere anytime soon and you can make a killing off of selling templates. More and more this is becoming an essential skill; knowing how to build WordPress templates not only gives you the ability to build nearly any type of dynamic website but also teaches you a lot about languages like PHP.
Do freelance work where and if you can. This will help you with all of the suggestions on this list by giving you a space where you can practice your skills. Doing freelance web development is rewarding and will push you into new avenues and will connect you to new people. The best part about this is that if you fail at a project it won’t cost you your job, so there is a lot of room to grow and be playful.
Where to next? Now that you know about being a good developer, check out our recommendations for What to learn next as a front-end developer.