Darius Kavaliauskas
Darius Kavaliauskas

What is the Future of Front End Development in 2020

August 23, 2019
6 min read
What is the Future of Front End Development in 2020

 Being a developer means you never stop learning.

The world of frontend and web development is moving fast, due to the emerging new technologies, APIs, and libraries that are changing the field. 

As a result, the term “full-stack developer” is constantly changing and even now, it is hard to define it within the specific frameworks and languages the developer should know. One thing that’s for certain though, is that there is a huge demand for full-stack developers (as evident by the numbers), with front-end developers not falling too far behind it.

In simple terms, a full-stack developer is someone who can understand both front-end as well as back-end technologies and solutions. They build programs and applications fully, combining their skills to make something that works in production.

On the back-end side, some applications last forever. Once you set up your server, you can let it run for quite a long time without any interruptions. Some back-end technologies, such as Java, PHP, Ruby, etc., even last for decades and are still used today.

Front-end, meanwhile, is a whole different story. The tech development trends are constantly changing, there are new APIs and frameworks being developed, which in turn, causes some of the current applications to deprecate, and for the most part, a lot depends on the tools.

This partly happens due to the user experience aspect within front-end development. According to the UserTesting report from 2015 – “companies will invest heavily in creating products and experience based on continuous feedback from customers, customer experience will become a shared responsibility among all teams in an organization.”

What does this mean for front-end developers?

Simply put, for clients and users, the code is a tool, not a goal in itself.

This is why some browsers evolve and lose support, why user-interfaces are changing in their looks, and why there are other important factors, in addition to the code, such as scalability, performance tests, browser speed, code tests, and more.

So, the front-end development world is moving fast. It is no longer about the code. Developers also need to know other essential skills, and need to be able to see the bigger picture beyond the code.

At Scale3C, we work closely with React.js for front-end technology, Node.js for back-end, Swift for iOS, and Kotlin for Android. 

We believe that one of the essential skills as a developer is being able to adapt to changing technology and development languages – depending on the project requirements. Typically, we either work with IT projects from scratch, improve current ones or help find a dedicated team for development projects by connecting them with the right talent. 

If you need any web or mobile development for your IT projects, feel free to contact us at [email protected]

With that said, here is our take on the future of front-end development in 2020:

Overview

According to the Stack Overflow developer survey of 2019, the most commonly used development languages include: JavaScript (for the seventh year in a row), HTML/CSS, and SQL (from 87,354 responses who selected all that apply).

Source: Stack overflow

Though, it’s not particularly surprising to see JavaScript at the top of the list, as it’s a development language that’s vital to front-end development as well as relevant to the back-end. 

It is also essential in the user-experience process in terms of user usability (scrolling, transitions, object movement, etc.). 

And finally, JavaScript often includes a wide range of frameworks, web libraries, and APIs that help developers create complex applications and increase application functionality.

Front-end is an important part of any website or app development. The success of the website largely depends on the visual appeal, and of course, usability, as mentioned above. If the user can’t navigate through the website, then the whole purpose is lost. 

As a result, front-end developers are constantly in demand.

Compared to a few years ago, front-end developers now play a more significant role and also take on parts of usability research, UX/UI, and more. 

While the specific front-end languages a developer needs to know varies depending on the task, there are still a number of core principles that will unite front-end developers in 2020.

With that said, here’s our take on the matter:

Product for the End-User in Mind

As a front-end developer, you most likely develop websites and online products through HTML/CSS, JavaScript, and other languages and then make them look good by building from the user interface mockups.

But the bigger picture is how well the user warms up to the product and how well the target market responds to the product. 

If it doesn’t solve their problem, sooner or later the product owner will stop investing in it.

So, in other words, the final web solution needs to be tailored with the target market in mind. 

Front-end developers need to know who will be using their product from their target group and start from there. 

And if developers want to enhance their skills, they need to start asking questions like:

  • What’s the specific problem of the user they’re trying to solve?
  • What are their goals?
  • What are their pain points in terms of design, and usability?
  • How can you make it easier for them?

If this is starting to sound a lot like user research questions, then you’re on the right track.

The idea is to get front-end developers more involved in the whole team process and to better understand end user’s needs, behaviours, motivations, and more. By collaborating with users, front-end developers take a more hands-on approach with a user-centered design in mind.

This also connects the front-end developer and the product owner, so that they’re working closer and are on the same page as to what the final product should look like.

How that would look like will depend on the project management methodology you choose to use.

The Scrum framework, for example, links the team’s progress to the product owner to define requirements and solutions. For team meetings as well as development sessions, this can clear up any potential bottlenecks for the final product.

2. Increased Focus on Usability

A great end product is all about being clear, taking advantage of conventions and providing a practical user-interface.

Front-end development is not just JavaScript and the actions users take. The bigger picture also needs to be consistent, have a clear visual hierarchy, and be simple to navigate through.

Users scan through web pages looking for the main information, and the web page needs to accommodating of this. 
Research has found that on average, users read only 28% of the text. In fact, most users simply scan through a webpage in a way that best resembles an “F-shaped pattern”

Source: Nngroup

So, they mostly scan for things like:

  • First few lines of the text and headings, which should be consistent throughout the page to help them navigate better.
  • Buttons and elements that stand out, which should be clear and clickable.
  • The most important information, within the page. If it’s an article, there’s usually going to be a section that’s most important to the reader.

The navigation needs to be clear, and logical – from the user’s perspective.

As a general approach, you can split up your web pages into 4 quadrants, based on the F-shape pattern, based on importance and what the user values. Assuming the typical user readers from left-to-right, top-to-bottom, your web page can be split up into the following parts:

  • Primary focus – what is most important to the user? Your value proposition can go in in the top left zone.
  • Follow area – think of this as the follow-up. It’s not as important as the primary area, but users will look here next.
  • Weak follow area – after that, users will either scroll down or glance through this area, not giving it much importance. 
  • Terminal area – this is when the user reaches the lower right section of the page, where there needs to be a break and the users need to take action. This is the perfect spot to place a call-to-action button, link, form, and so on.

This is what’s known as the Gutenberg Diagram, and though you can’t predict user actions in every case, it’s still a good starting point for developers.

3. Mobile First User-Interface That Makes Sense

Mobile first can help developers create a consistent and clear user experience for all devices, as long as it makes sense and is done right. 

From 2015 to 2020, the number of mobile users has gone up by nearly one billion, up to 4.68B as of now (Source).

Though the number of people browsing from their mobile devices is increasing, many websites are still not as accommodating as one would like. 

Ideally, mobile first should not be just the desktop version but shrunk down to a smaller size. When developing a website with mobile first in mind, developers also need to take into consideration how comfortable the experience is in terms of sliding, tapping, ticking, and other users, from a mobile device.

This, in turn, impacts all the forms and the elements on a web page that may take on a different interaction form from a mobile device. 

Mobile is also usually used with one hand with a thumb size. The most convenient touch area is usually at the bottom of the screen, so developers need to think in terms of horizontal and vertical scrolling.

Though the specific mobile first uses differ from industry-to-industry, there are still a few practices that should be consistent throughout front-end, such as:

  • Accessible buy (call-to-action) buttons.
  • Email signup forms that don’t disturb the mobile experience
  • Clear interactive and engaging elements when scrolling.
  • High-quality visuals based on mobile swiping.

Mobile, in itself, is a touch first approach for many users. 

As more and more users choose to browse from their mobile device, the front-end side of the website needs to be ready to handle all of their requests. 

If users can browse the website flawlessly and go through the final call-to-action (making a purchase, sign up, booking a demo, etc.), then the website is truly optimised for mobile first.

Conclusion

All in all, even though the front-end development scene is constantly changing within the specific libraries and frameworks used, some things still stay constant. And for developers to start thinking in terms of user-centric design, there are certain UX principles they need to take into consideration. 

First, JavaScript is still the most commonly used development language for a long time now (and likely to continue the trend). Though the specific libraries and frameworks might vary and change from time-to-time, (also depending on the task), it’s still a good idea to have the main framework down first (along with HTML/CSS).

Then, in terms of development, some user-experience practices, such as usability, are crucial. 

Which is why it makes sense for front-end developers to take a more hands-on approach and be involved in the bigger picture of project management. In other words, the more they know about the end-users – the better (how they browse the site, their needs, wants in terms of front-end development). This helps developers as to how they should structure the website from the front-end side.

Finally, to make for an overall seamless and smooth user-experience, the mobile first side of the interface needs to be up to par as well. As more and more users are browsing from their mobile phones, the website needs to be accommodating to handle all of their requests. If done well, users will be able to follow through the final call-to-action – directly affecting the conversion rate of the website.

Need help with front-end or app development? We help existing IT projects, work from scratch, and also help development teams connect with the right talent. Interested in how we can help? Get in touch at [email protected]