by Artem Sapegin

2017 is the year that front-end developers should go back and master the basics

? The advice is valid for 2019 too, don’t worry if you found this article a year later ?

In our fast-paced ecosystem, we tend to spend our time trying out the latest inventions, then arguing about them on the internet.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t do that. But we should probably slow down a bit and take a look at the things that don’t change all that much. Not only will this improve the quality of our work and the value we deliver — it will actually help us learn these new tools faster.

This post is a mix of my experience and my wishes for the New Year. And I want to hear your suggestions in the comments just as much as I want to share my own.

Learn how to write readable code

Most of our work lies not in writing new code, but maintaining existing code. That means you end up reading code much more often then writing it, so you need to optimize your code for the next programmer, not for the interpreter.

I recommend reading these three amazing books — in this order, from shortest to longest:

Learn JavaScript deeper

When every week we have a new JavaScript framework that’s better than any older framework, it’s easy to spend most of your time learning frameworks rather than the language itself. If you’re using a framework but don’t understand how it works, stop and start learning the language until you understand how the tools you use work.

Learn functional programming

For years we wanted classes in JavaScript. Now we finally have them but don’t want to use them anymore. Functions are all we want! We even write HTML using functions (JSX).

Learn design basics

As front-end developers, we’re closer to users than anybody else on the team — maybe even closer than designers. And if designers have to verify every pixel you put on screen, you’re doing something wrong.

Learn how to work with humans

Some of us come to programming because we prefer to interact with computers more than with humans. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.

We rarely work in isolation: we have to talk to other developers, designers, managers — and sometimes even users. That’s hard. But it’s important if you want to really understand what you’re doing and why, because that’s where the value in what we do lies.

Learn how to write for humans

A big portion of communication with our colleagues and other people are textual: task descriptions and comments, code comments, Git commits, chat messages, emails, tweets, blog posts, etc.

Imagine how much time people spend reading and understanding all that. If you can reduce this time by writing more clearly and concisely, the world will be a better place to work.

Learn the old computer science wisdom

Front-end development isn’t just animated dropdown menus any more. It’s more complicated than ever before. Part of that notorious “JavaScript fatigue” stems from the increased complexity of the tasks we have to solve.

This, however, means that it’s time to learn from all wisdom that non-front-end developers have built up over the decades. And this is where I want to hear your recommendations the most.

Here are a couple resources I personally would recommend on this:

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Thanks to Henrique Alves, Nicolás Bevacqua, Alexander Burtsev, Nataliya Karatkova, Oliver Turner, Juho Vepsäläinen and Anton Zhiyanov for feedback and suggestions. If you like photos in this post, download them from my Unsplash account. And follow me on Twitter if you like this article.