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“As far as the customer is concerned, the interface is the product.” – Jef Raskin
For the last few days I’ve been researching on “front-end engineering”. As Mark Meeker says, it has other names like “front end development” or “UI engineering” or “web development” or “web production”. Whatever we call it, it is out there and it has got great attention for the last few years. To get some interest, lets see a slide show “Introduction of front-end engineering” by Mark Meeker.
If you search at job sites, you will get many positions out there. But if you do Google for “Front-end engineer” you won’t get much resources compared to other rules in the web development industry. It’s so sad. So here, I will describe (mainly link to other resources out there) what I’ve got from research. I’ve divided the process into few steps. I know, many won’t agree with me. But it’s just what I understood and may help many people like me (web designer) who is searching for a way to make a great future.
1. Designer phase
2. Markup or CSS/XHTMLizetion phase
4. Professional Front-end Engineering phase
Â 1. Designer Phase
You are a graphics or web designer. You can design eye catching layouts. Know web 2.0 trend very well. You follow the latest web trends. Typography, layout structure, grid based design, simplicity, contrast, color you know each of them very well. You are pixel perfect ninja with your design skills. At the end of the day, you have to develop the layout from those design or the design team can provide you that. It may be a Photoshop or Illustrator composition or may be any other graphics software. You must know how to handle raw files of the graphics software very very well. I saw at some front-end engineer job description that “you must be able to fix single pixel destruction from a given design.”
Here you will deal with and better you make yourself master of them:
* Design concepts
* Grid System
* Color Concept
* Screen Resolution
* Web 2.0 design trends
* Adobe Photoshop
* Adobe Illustrator
* Adobe Fireworks
and any other graphics software you prefer.
Â 2. Markup or CSS/XHTMLizetion phase
Before this phase, you are just a graphics designer. Because web designers must have markup skills. So, this phase is very much important to be a front-end engineer. You have to dedicate you life at this phase. It may be your composition/design which will be sliced and turned into markup. Or other designer or design team will provide you the layout for markup. It could be Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks and any other graphics file format. This must be a raw file format with capability of editing. And you will just make it alive with XHTML and CSS.
In this phase you will be a XHTML/CSS hand coding ninja. Your code will be valid, standard compliant.Â You play with accessibility and usability every now and then. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is on your fingertips. You are the clever divider of content and presentation. You make it’s shape fixed or liquid. Cross-browser compatibility is your only countable enemy. But at the end of the day YOU always win. You the man who can give soul to the web page – it’s you who will make it best or worst!
You will be a master of:
* HTML / XHTML / HTML5
* CSS / CSS3
* Progressive Enhancement
* Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
* CSS Frameworks
* Cross-Browser compatibility
* Debugging and fixing codes (with Firebug, IE Developer Tools, YSlow etc…)
You will be a master of:
4. Professional Front-end Engineering phase
Now we’ve come to the serious phase. At this phase, you will be responsible for managing the web site like Yahoo!, Google along with a team of talented people. You will be a master of your profession in all directions. You make decisions depending on experience with the help of cutting edge technologies. Actually you will introduce new way of solving problems.
Another Yahoo! guy, Nate Koechley have released a video about â€œProfessional Frontend Engineeringâ€. May be one of the best ways to understand what is professional front-end engineering and how it works. You will get the full transcript of that video here.
Other Qualities you must have:
Communication: You have to be a great communicator if you want to be aÂ professional front-end engineer. As Nicholas C. Zakas mentioned at his What makes a good front end engineer? article, you have to communicate effectively with product managers, User interface designer, Engineering management and end users.
Self Learner: Front-end engineering is the most self learning role in the computer science industry. Almost every guy in this profession are self learned. We haven’t been taughtÂ our skills at college or seminars. And as is stated before, there is not much resource in the web too on the topic. It is very hard to find a professional front-end engineer to help you out.
Problem Solving: There are many ways to solve a problem. You must be a master of solving a problem in as much ways as possible.
Quick Learner: Nicholas C. Zakas says “A good front end engineer needs to be able to pick things up quickly. The technologies powering the Web arenâ€™t standing still, people. Iâ€™d go so far as to say things are changing on almost a daily basis and itâ€™s up to you to keep up with these changes. There are always new techniques and paradigms to consider and digest as part of your discipline; you cannot just rest on what you know today. The Web of tomorrow will be drastically different from the Web of today and itâ€™s your job to understand what that difference means to your web application.”
Get real life requirements and responsibility for front-end engineering
The best way to getÂ a job requirement is in the job sites. Search for “front-end engineering”, you will get lots of jobs with requirements. Which could guide you a long way. There you will get what kind of responsibilities you have to maintain. So you could prepare yourself.
Note: SpecialÂ thanks to Shahriar Hyder for helping me on this article.
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I read several articles every day. And so do others. We just read and forget big articles. But we remember the key points of the article or at least try to memorize them. But now a day, time is important for real work. So there is no room to read every article line by line. For them (myself also) I will note out the points of the article and jot them here, in this title. So it will be easier for future reference. At the bottom of the points, I have added the list of the articles from where the points are taken. Anyone interested to know more, just click and go to the read article. Cheer up…
- Gather as much evidence as possible while work freelance. It’s wise to gather them project wise.
- Be-friend, don’t use. You should actively seek to find a genuine, personal connection and, if you still canâ€™t find one, then either be transparent about your motives or move on. Nobody likes to be used.
- Push Yourself and Get Good. You need to be pretty good. I like to think that there is an 80/20 rule lot more effort (and/or talent).
- Be Likeable, Excited and Enthusiastic.
- Be Referable! A large number of jobs for most freelancers come from referred clients. Do a good job for one person and they tell others for you.
- Reliability is one of the most prized characteristics for a freelancer. Focus on the characteristics that make people want to work with you, and be reliable, very reliable.
- Design the portfolio you think your clients want to see
- Focus on Clients and Be Flexible
- If you want to make things to please yourself, go be an artist.
- Get a High Profile
- The â€œstick to what worksâ€ mentality can sometimes work, and other times make you a dinosaur.
- The function of design is to make the product more usable and improve the usability of the productâ€™s function.
- The simpler and better the design can be, the more enjoyable and easier it makes our lives.
- Even though the cookie-cutter designs work for a while, the truly good designs are the original and fresh concepts that change the way we look at things.