Front-end web design is a balancing act

Published Jun 1, 2022, 9:23 AM
Written by Chris James

Building the front-end of a website is a balancing act.

A website needs to do all the things the client wants while also being easy to use – or even wonderful to use – for the people who visit the site. It needs to reinforce the customer’s brand, while making site visitors feel confident,  welcome and respected. I say ‘respected’ because good design respects their time and energy, giving them the ability to do everything they want. 

The front end is all the parts of the website you can see and use. For a public-facing website like the myki pages I’ve been working on for Public Transport Victoria (PTV), that means all the things you see when you visit the site or log in.

A front-end developer makes a website beautiful, functional and accessible.

Oftentimes I work with a design created by a client’s user interface (UI) designer.

Ideally, I think it’s useful to work with their designer. The design is basically a drawing of how elements on a website should look and where they should be placed. My front-end development work is about creating all those elements on a website, so they look right and they actually work, so anyone using the site finds it simple to click, search, resize, save, buy, compare or enter information.

My job as a front-end developer is both creative and technical

Every single function on a website needs to seem obvious to the site visitor while giving them the information they need. 

My coding ensures that a site works equally well no matter which browser you view it on. It also links everything that happens at the front end to the work my colleagues do at the back end.

The back end is the term for all the ‘under the hood’ processes and technology that make a website work. Our full-stack developers are responsible for making sure that the front-end ties in to back-end databases and processes so a customer’s clicks, searches, payments, uploads, downloads etc all work quickly and seamlessly.

It makes a difference to have clients and developers working together

I’m fortunate that at Symbiote we work as part of a team with our clients, so I’m involved in discussions about the designs and the requirements, and can apply my skills to solve problems. Web technology changes so rapidly, there are always new ways of doing things. Having robust regular discussions helps us to come up with the best answers we can within the constraints of the project.

It’s satisfying to hear things directly from clients and be able to help them consider various options. It not only saves everyone a lot of time, it’s also motivating and interesting to be part of a group where everyone is applying their expertise to ask better questions and come up with different kinds of solutions. This means, when it comes time for me to develop the front end, I have the information I need to balance the needs of the person who’ll be using the site, the things our clients need and the technical considerations that affect the rest of the Symbiote team. It’s a juggle but I thrive on the challenge.