A Guide to Hiring the Right Front-End Developer

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So, you’ve found a developer and now you need to figure out whether they’re worth their salt. How can you ensure that your hiring process truly assesses their skills. Front-end development is a multifaceted role that requires a broad toolkit with a few solid specialisations thrown in for good measure. Good front-end is good business, and it’s critical that you find the right person.

One difficulty with hiring a front-end developer is the similarities they have with user interface developer and a designer; the roles have come closer together in recent years, and you need to ensure your applicant has a balanced appreciation of both. If you’re looking to hire the best front-end development talent, here’s a short guide that you can use to make the right choice.

Checking Technical Requirements

Front-end developers should be adept in four languages: HTML, CSS, JavaScript and PHP. It’s also nice if they can handle systems like JQuery or AngularJS—while they’re slowly being supplanted by new technologies, they still have a place in the front-end ecosystem. They should also be aware of new developments: whether it’s design trends or JS frameworks, you want to know they’re looking out for the next big thing.

A front-end developer should understand the fundamentals of UX design.

Img source: blog.prototypr.io
  • Visual Design

The modern consumer makes immediate credibility judgments based on their first three-seconds of viewing a site, and it’s important to make those seconds count. Your memorability will be largely influenced by your aesthetic.

  • Functionality

Site navigation should be effortless. This includes speed and optimization, but also concerns accessibility—users with various disabilities should be able to engage productively with your content. The faster and more effortless a site is, the less likely a user is to bounce.

  • Typography

Nothing has caused more fights between designers than the humble typeface. What’s the right length of a drop cap? Should you ever use serif fonts for the web? When should I use web fonts? Small decisions in typography can massively change the look and feel of your site.

  • Information Architecture

Determining the structure of your site that will best serve the user. A user should quickly be able to interpret where they are within your site and what their potential options are from here.

A successful front-end developer will have a portfolio, and it’s best to check it and see whether their aesthetic matches your own. Of course, the visibility of their previous work may be restricted out of respect for their previous clients. You can usually request some samples if you want.

Lastly, they should write code with future developers in mind, not to save time short term for themselves. They should avoid using abbreviations that can be misinterpreted. Names of classes and methods should be clear. The dev should leave great comments. A good way to figure this out is to check their git log—their commits give you a great idea of how they write for others.

Img source: insights.dice.com

Do They Align With Your Current Development Methods?

Your current development team may already have a certain front-end framework and methodology they’ve chosen to work with. It’s preferred that the front-end developer you hire is already familiar with the methods your team has in place. If you’re an agile team, you probably want somebody who has worked in an agile environment. If not, it’s important you gauge how long it would take to adapt to your business and whether you’re willing to facilitate this period.

As with all development processes and any employee practice, a front-end developer should consider the business mission and branding with each choice they make. A front-end developer should display investment in your business mission during the interview process and give examples of where their abilities can contribute to it.

Do they Align With Your Team in General? (Soft Skills)

A developer needs to be confident in giving suggestions, receiving feedback and expressing concerns with clarity. They should be familiar using various communication channels and know when it’s appropriate or time efficient to use each channel. Crucial information should be discussed in a live meeting, while progress updates may be better suited to email.

They should be mindful of their colleagues’ time, and work well as part of a team. A general appreciation for the variety of tasks the rest of the team tackles is indicative of a great developer.

How self-motivated are they? If they seem like someone who needs to be motivated to work hard, then their technical ability loses its value. You want to hire a self-starter and give them the necessary environment to fly. This avoids the problem of managers finding themselves being turned into chief motivators!

External to development entirely, are they respectful of the culture, beliefs, and lives of their fellow team members?

Img source: thomlom.dev

Where Can You Find Quality Front-End Developers?

Two popular options are either hiring a freelancer or hiring from a web development company. Let’s explore the pros and cons of both.

Front-End Developers: Hiring Freelancers

Pros

  • Niche skills: Freelancers are great when you need a very specific combination of front-end skills that a generalist developer won’t have. The dev who specializes in Museum Gift Shop websites is probably freelance (there’s a lot of museums, but not a lot of museums who need multiple sites for their gift shop), and if you need a Museum Gift Shop designed, they’re a better choice than hiring from the company.
  • Short term hire: Freelancers don’t mind taking short gigs, while in-house developers may prefer something more secure.
  • Cheaper: Pricing varies, but cheaper =/= better.
  • Global hiring: You can hire freelancers from any country for front-end development. Offshore freelancers can be very affordable.

Cons

  • Inconsistent working hours: especially if they’re tackling multiple projects, their working hours may be irregular and sometimes not efficient for your business.
  • They might leave: Unlike an in-house employee, a freelancer can easily cut communication with you if they so desire.
  • Inconsistent Quality: Some of the best developers in the world are freelancers, but so are many of the worst—it can be hard to know what you’re getting sometimes.
  • Unlikely to take on large projects: Freelancers usually don’t have adequate resources to tackle larger projects.

To find quality front-end freelancers, I’d recommend hiring from Upwork and Toptal.

Img source: optimalvirtualemployee.com

Front End Developers: Hiring Web Development Companies

Pros

  • Reputability: tend to have a larger portfolio, which is easier to vet.
  • Consistent working hours: Working hours are agreed on and facilitate effective communication windows.
  • Can tackle large projects: Comfortable tackling large projects as they have more resources and developers to draw upon. Web development companies usually prefer long-term working relationships.
  • Multiple hiring options: Different developer packages make hiring front-end development services more affordable.
  • Potential to expand: Once your project grows, you can talk to the company about expanding the nature of their work—maybe something like backend development and maintenance, or branding and marketing. Since you’ve already got a working relationship and they’ve likely got more developers and designers to draw on, it’s easier and safer than starting the hiring process again.
  • Hardware savings: The client doesn’t have to provide any hardware to optimize a front-end developer. They already have everything they need.
  • Global hiring: Web development companies offering front-end development services exist everywhere. Offshore development companies can be more affordable.

Cons

  • More expensive short term: Web development companies can be more expensive on shorter projects—they’ll often charge in larger block units and have a higher rate. However, you’re paying for quality assurance.
  • May not accept short term projects: Web development companies usually want long projects and may decline clients whose project doesn’t meet their preferences.
Img source: fifteendesign.co.uk

The most popular country to hire offshore development companies in India. It’s extremely affordable, but also has a high standard of English and a lot of experience working with Western companies. An Indian outfit like CodeClouds is a great place to hire a web designer or web developer, though you can hire domestically if you’d prefer.

It’s hard to objectively say who the right developer is because your needs, budget and company culture are going to be different from the next manager over. Still, if you assess based on the criteria I’ve laid out, you’ll have a much better chance of finding the right developer for you.

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