5 Reasons Front-End Developers’ Lives Are Shorter

Photo Credit: Chris Fleming

The greater the applied stress range, see the shorter the life. –somewhere on wikipedia

Maybe it isn’t a proven scientific fact, but it is common knowledge that front-end developers deals with way more stress than back-end devs do.  These people, working with CSS, HTML, JavaScript and all that is contained in a web page are becoming increasingly jealous of their back-end counterparts’ quality of life.  Here are the top 5 reasons why:

Compile time (or lack of)

This an outstanding source of stress.  When you burst out a big chunk of code, you guys hit F5 and see the result, right?  Not working? Get back to work.  Now.

Back-end developers can always rely on compile time (or more contemporarily, build time) to relax a bit.  They can soothingly peek at their EVE online character skill training queue, answer a couple of tweets, or practice their vi kung fu.

Source code management

In my experience, front-end devs aren’t at ease with SCM (subversion, Git, etc).  That means when there’s a fire, a hard drive failure or a giant dinosaur spits fire on your laptop, you lose everything.  Sure, there’s a copy on the server, but that’s not how you do things (and what if the dinosaur also ate the server?).  Lots of time lost here, lots of stress.

Web standards

Web standards are a good thing.  But web standards, as they are advertised right now, are a real joke: you still rely on browser maker’s willingness on implementing them.  You still have a lot of tweaks, hacks, and duplicated code to craft.

Standards for back-end programming (JEE, SOAP, SQL, to name a few) are well defined, and mandatory.  The developer can lean on them and blame the product company which failed to implement them correctly (and get congratulated for it because you earned your company free support time).

Have you ever tried calling Microsoft, and open a support ticket for that unsupported CSS thing in IE?

The look

Even the worst snippet of C++ code, if it works, isn’t judged by anyone.  Why?  Nobody understands it. Nobody gets to see the actual code, it’s all 1s and 0s.

On the other hand, you front-end guys have to deal with the judging eyes of everyone in the company.  You have to take all the “Meh. I still don’t like that turquoise” … even if it ‘s the best darn piece of code you ever wrote!  You literarily get stripped of all your intrinsic self-worth.

View source

What if you were in a crowd (a big one, think Tahrir square), and someone removed all your clothes.  Nobody would like that, unless you’re sexually deviant.  That’s what happens when some guy does a right-click -> view source on your code.  Guilt, doubt, fear.


I fear for you guys.  Really.  I could suggest a couple of COBOL books, or Java certification classes, but if you already have a couple of years of experience behind you, I guess it’s a little bit too late.  What might help is if you try yoga, tai-chi, or as a last resort you could try the essential works of Yanni.


Back-end developer.

9 thoughts on “5 Reasons Front-End Developers’ Lives Are Shorter

  1. Any idea why front end guys are not at ease with VCSes? (note: Git, subversion, etc are usually referred to as VCS (Version Control System) or RCS (Revision Control System) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revision_control).
    That seems extremely weird from the perspective of someone using git non only for code, but for everything text (configuration files for most of my software, documentation, reports, etc).

  2. I think it’s part of their workflow: frequent deployment + quick visual response. These source code management tools, plus build and deployment process, are slowing them down.

    Nonetheless, in the end, they’ll die before you do.

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  4. I don’t agree with the version control statement. I’m a front-end developer and I use git all the time. I agree that since there’s a quick visual response from refreshing a page and then you adjust something and see again if it works, git gets in the way sometimes. But in the end, I usually commit once per 2 hours or so. That’s about the time it takes to code a “normal” page in HTML/CSS/JS.

    I also don’t agree with the “view source” statement. If your semantics or whatever looks ugly, it doesn’t matter much in the end. Get over that pride! ;)

    I understand this post was written with a slight humorous tone, so I won’t strictly hold you to those statements. :)

  5. Our iteration loops are quite tight as well. Maybe not as tight as a web front end designer, but quite tight. Modif code, compile, check that it works, etc etc.
    Having a tight iteration loop isn’t incompatible with a VCS. You branch from the trunk for each new feature, checkin at will within the branch, and merge back completed feature branches in the trunk (ideally after code review).
    Failing to use a VCS is not only reckless, it’s amateurism.

  6. I didn’t find this funny at all. In fact it bothers me quite a bit that ‘front-end’ engineers are pigeonholed into engineers-lite. I write a lot of JavaScript. We have to worry about memory use, performance, dom and event life cycles, caching, an asynchronous and state-less environment, disparate data sources and the like. We use git and we do run builds that run tests, check jslint, and run the Closure Compiler. Just a tiny bit of the work we do involves some HTML & CSS does not mean we are nothing more than glorified DreamWeaver experts. And really how many backend programmers are writing a website’s backend in C? And why is that important anyway? Backend programmers write code that runs on maybe hundreds to thousands of machines and us front-end engineers write code that runs on hundreds of thousands to millions of machines. Heh.

  7. Thanks for the sympathy. Number 6 should be “Front engineers have to invent ways of solving problems that should be done at the back-end” ;-)

  8. As a front-ender myself, I got a headache reading this, and the comments. I think just reading this article will snip a couple of months off my life.

  9. Hey Peter and AppHacker, right on. I agree completely.

    Regarding the article, I think that it could be re-titled, “Why you should pay your Front-End Developer more than your Back-End one!”

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