The client guide to website development – What is Front End?

Website development is an area filled with options – from choosing developers, to what language they’ll use, to what format you want to target and even the URL; but for most users, the front end is the only thing that really matters. In simple terms, the front end is the public-facing aspect of the website – what they’ll see when they land on your site. Front end development goes beyond that though, incorporating things like interactive elements, UX design, and content.

Starting at the front

For some websites, the front-end is the most significant part of the product itself: this might take the form of words, images, other media, or database entries, and be the main reason your users visit your site. For people developing content rich sites, front-end considerations are often what will make their site win (or lose) visitors; while variables like ease of navigation, loading time, and platform adaptability are important to all website development, with these types of sites they’re vitally important, and will drive many of the considerations about technology and design in the development phase.

User pathways

For other more service-driven websites, the front end can have a different significance, namely driving users towards a desired pathway, and integrating specific functions (such as forms, communications, or other interactive services) in the least conspicuous, yet most easy to access way possible. With these considerations, the capability of the technologies underpinning website development becomes a hugely significant choice: being able to integrate these different functions on different platforms with different capabilities is a complex task to negotiate, and quite specific developing tools exist to enable it to happen.

User experience

One of the most important roles with front end development is that of the UX designer and developer. UX stands for user experience, and is the means of designing and formulating an ideal pathway you’d wish your users to take. Often this pathway is the shortest and easiest route to your desired outcome, whether that’s something as simple as harvesting your users email address, or something more involved – making a purchase or interacting with a service you provide. The means to accomplishing that aim can vary wildly depending on both your sector and the type of users you envisage using your site though. While many websites would prefer to appeal to the widest possible audience, in practice people with different backgrounds tend to have quite different browsing habits, and so adjusting your front end towards what your most likely customers are familiar and comfortable with is a great way to improve your success rate.

Having a good idea about what the capabilities of different platforms are is also important when thinking about front end considerations. What works well on a desktop might be impossible to navigate with a touch-screen, and things like menus, buttons, and forms are often tricky to use with one finger. With that in mind, it’s worth considering if you want a unified approach across all platforms – which will tend towards simpler designs – or alternate front-ends which load dependent on the platform being used to browse them. While this can take more development time and be a more complicated process overall, having a bespoke approach to different platforms can lead to the best possible front end experience on each.