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Frontend design

Ever since designers entered the web field, there’s been a continuous fight between design and development. Each discipline favours their preferences. And when responsive design came out, this separation became greater.

Many designers couldn’t adapt to this change due to legacy thinking, and started to create fixed comps for “mobile” and “desktop” screen sizes, leaving frontend developers up to the task to fill in everything in between.

This led to designers not being happy about the design of the in-betweens and frontend developers overwhelmed with responsibility. Therefore, developers started asking designers to learn how to code in order to ensure the design was respected by doing it themselves.

And some did! It doesn’t need to be production code, but the ability to understand how to implement a design in basic HTML and CSS, and make changes in CSS (which couln’t be easier nowadays with Developer Tools) helped to smooth things out between design and development.

But it is not that common to see this happening the other way around with developers. Probably because developers sometimes tend to be more pragmatic, they want to make it work, and care less about how it looks.

The people who dare step onto this line between frontend development and design and stay there, work between disciplines, doing a bit of each. Because in the era of device-agnostic design and development, you probably need someone there.

Those who understand code from a design perspective, know about basic user experience like readability and responsive patterns, but don’t necessarily spend their time writing JavaScript for “web apps” or designing logos and/or illustrations are, in my opinion, frontend designers.

I particularly like Brad Frost’s thoughts on this, you should check them out.

Natural frontend designers

Frontend designers can come from many places and backgrounds. They may have been or still be referring to themselves with a different title because they thought they had to choose a side. I’m here to tell you it’s ok. For real. You are not alone. I consider myself mainly a frontend designer. Think about it:

A designer who has always loved how CSS can express design through a logic system and not just simple canvas. Who really likes style guides and the ability to relate design with a context through metadesign. Who has let go control over the canvas that is a website and undertands it’s not about “the most used screen size” anymore.

A frontend developer with a passion for UX. Who cares about typography more than just replicating the one in the design. Who notices when buttons are too small or the text/background contrast isn’t good enough. Who knows all the different ways to implement a menu, which one to use on a project and why. Who cares a lot about the impact of his/her work has on users.

You may define yourself as a UI developer, frontend architect, prototyper or frontend developer plus UI/UX designer. If you feel like the title doesn’t fit you, that people assume things from your current title that you don’t relate to (like you know how to code in Python or design a logo), don’t worry.

Development is design. You probably are a frontend designer.