Fixing the divide between front-end developer and back-end developer

April 11, 2016

As you may know, I recently joined DWP, as their Creative Front-end Developer, initially working on a the Fraud and Error team (where people go to inform gov.uk of fraudulent activities, giving a name, birth date and reasons etc), and if you follow me on Twitter, I’ve been discussing my findings quite a lot with other designers and developers, with interesting results.

So, roll on just under two weeks, and already I can see the difference between an agency work-flow and DWP’s, but more importantly (and interestingly), I’ve been able to discuss the difference as to what is expected from the front-end developer with someone “inside” DWP and compare.

In my eyes a front end developer should (forgetting the creative bit for now) be able to work with:

  • Html Css / Sass,
  • jQuery (but the pretty stuff – nothing heavy),
  • Ability to code up a design straight from Photoshop/Sketch etc,
  • Hand over code to “back-end developer” and run away.

This is it I think, the connection between front-end and back-end is just that, a quick hand over and nothing more really, the back-end’s job is to mould my front-end styles into their data outputs with not much scope for edits (when the data is different to what is expected).

At DWP, I had a great conversation with the back-end developer on the Fraud team, who already looks like “she gets why there is a divide”, but she also voiced some great opinions on how to bridge the gap and why there shouldn’t be a gap at all.

Back-end dev points:

  • We need to meet more in the middle – instead of there being almost a “I’m-scared-of-you-and-your-work-divide”
  • Include a cross over of skills:
  • – no expectancy of a “back end developer” needing to design but to understand “I see why they’ve done it that way”
  • – no expectancy of a “front end develop” to understand the heavier side of coding, but to understand it needs to be done that way and the code to be as near to matching up as possible (without doing it all)
  • Is there really such a thing as a “front end dev” and back end dev” anymore?

Many good points in there, but one that has been bouncing around in my head all day is:

We need to meet more in the middle – instead of there being almost a “I’m-scared-of-you-and-your-work-divide”

This is how I’ve been trying to code for the past four years (and tend to get hired more often than not over someone who doesn’t), i’ve often rolled my sleeves up and got within the php/.net and now node.js to either speed up the process of delivery or just because “why not?”.

Do we really need to build / deliver two sites – one front end and one back end, when we can just do one?

The fix?

If you work alongside great back-end developers (if you need one, I fully recommend Martin Lyne of Bay12), then its easy, sit down and discuss what you wish to do and literally roll up your sleeves and loose sleep, in my experience this will be music to their ears and more often than not cater to your skill set (or lack of) and really support you.

Back-end developer? This one is hopefully as simple as above, just sit down with a front-ender, for me, I’ll train and / or advise anyone that will make my job easier (and quicker).

I appreciate this maybe isn’t possible in an agency (where time is key), so maybe set up a local environment and (hopefully) take a framework either developer works from; break it, code it, fix it, sleep..and repeat.



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