front-end

Things To Keep In Mind At The Front-End

I’m a front-end developer at heart. I may have a good understanding of PHP, (I actually code with it every day), but I love everything about front-end design more than back-end code.

When starting a new project I like to keep a few things in mind so I know what’s currently happening and what will come next. Staying like this ensures I know where to turn or what to do when problems or troublesome situations arise.


1 Less Concern About Security

The first thing to remember is that, unlike back-end code, front-end code doesn’t have nearly as many security concerns. If you happen to push a change to the way the buttons look in the CSS file, it isn’t going to break the application or website to the point of some evil hacker being able to get into your database and destroy everything your users have put time and effort into. Your change will just look bad.

The above statement is referring to the pure CSS. Security should always be a concern to some degree, however with CSS and HTML files, it’s not going to bring your app to its knees if you mess up the URL of a background image. If you happen to mess up the way the files are included or put in the wrong file path causing an error, then that’s a different matter entirely.

So basically you have some room to breath when it comes to making mistakes, which I’ll admit is breathing room I’m sometimes glad to have.


2 Make it Modular and Reusable

The second thing to keep in mind is that you should be thinking in a reusable and modular fashion, just like you would when coding with PHP, Ruby (on Rails) or JavaScript. Don’t think that just because this is the front-end where the work can sometimes be taken in a more relaxed manner that making your code the best it can be doesn’t count, because it does.

I’ve written before about modular code, (in fact my last post was about it), and the benefits of using the reusable mindset. Frameworks like Bootstrap and Foudation live off the principal of having front-end code that’s structured like the back-end.


3 Consider Using a Framework

I’ve mentioned Bootstrap and Foudation above and there are many more available, some are just as advanced and others more basic. Whatever framework you choose in the end should be the one that best suits your needs. Are you a blogger, designer, developer or someone else entirely?

Each framework is going to have its own strengths and weaknesses. Choosing one that’s appropriate for the job at hand is vital so make sure you know what each one provides.

Another thing to consider is that you might not even need a framework. Consider whether or not you’ll need to be able to scale dramatically. Read the section below if your unsure or like to custom code everything.


4 When All Else Fails, Custom Code It

Sometimes it’s better to make your own code base from scratch. I used to be against anything that even remotely resembled a framework and was a little apprehensive of adding a plugin. Over time I came to realise that when you actually get passed your biased opinions on things like jQuery plugins or WordPress themes then you start to open up your creative brain to newer and better ideas. All of the tools and resources available have a purpose in some way or another.

However there are times when it’s just easier to create something yourself. Chris Coyier actually put up a screencast a while back about rolling your own grid system from scratch.

I’m a big believer in using things to make life easier, but if you do that every single time then you’re not a web designer/developer, you’re a manager who thinks he can make websites by smashing a bunch of stuff together in dreamweaver.


5 Seek Advice From Others

Seeking advice and opinions on your work is a great way to get a good idea on the quality and overall value of your work, as long as you ask the right people. For example, if you ask the server maintenance guy to review your amazing new jQuery plugin, then the review is going to be pretty useless because there’s no tangible way of knowing if said feedback is of any value or not, but asking your colleague who just so happens to be even better at writing jQuery plugins than you is a great place to start.

So whether your making the next big product or running the worlds most amazing new startup, it’s best to get sound advice from people you respect and trust. Choose people who are experienced at what you’re trying to achieve, but most of all choose people who you know are going to tell you the truth.

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