Front-end Happy Hour: Home-brewing front end culture

— 3 minute read

On the Front-end Happy Hour podcast Ryan Burgess, Jem Young, Mars Jullian from Netflix, Stacy London from Atlassian and Katie Sylor-Miller from Etsy discuss front-end culture. Thanks 👏🏻 to Stu recommending the podcast!

You can listen to the podcast over here

"Every single layer of the stack has increased in depth and complexity."

Notes: permalink

What does front-end culture mean to you in your companies?

  • Having hiring practices and interview processes in place to hire for accessibility, performance, UX and Javascript over a traditional Computer Science skillset.
  • Admitting, that no matter where on the stack people's skillsets sit, we're all engineers. Have respect for each other and the work we do.
  • Having engineers who are passionate about front-end, who care about it and can talk about it is a start.

Challenges we face when creating a front-end culture:

  • Getting other engineers to recognise the work going into front-end and to respect that building UI and UX is a completely different skill set.
  • What does full-stack even mean now? Every single layer of the stack has increased in depth and complexity.
  • What even is front-end? Front of the front-end, back of the front-end. Where do you start?
  • The range of work to be done across the front-end can be restricted by job roles and expectations. "Oh, you're a front-end engineer then you just do Javascript.". There's almost not enough roles and titles to cater for the different types of work involved. Are you closer to APIs or Design?

What can we do to tackle these challenges?

  • A 'Definition of Done' will help someone who isn't focused on front-end to see the amount of work goes into it. Especially when they need someone to help complete the tasks.
  • Pick one subject to talk about to help educate. Building empathy. Empathy is built by experiencing the pain a consumer has to go through to use your website.
  • Front-end should demonstrate the values of the company - if your company values inclusivity then your website should be inclusive, accessible and performant too.
  • Having diversity of titles and roles will help you make a better product.
  • Some companies such as Netflix use the 'UI Engineer' title over just 'Software Engineer'. This recognises the huge range in what a UI engineer can be.
  • Etsy on the other-hand just use Software Engineer to level the playing field and to equalise pay between front-end and back-end engineers.
  • Maybe we should all be Software Engineers but with a specialism.
  • A valuable skillset often found in front-end engineers includes curiosity and empathy.
  • Often the pressure to build a front-end culture comes out of design - designers feel the pain of users more often.
  • Respect your back-end. Communicate with them. When showcasing call out their work which yours is built upon.