I am 22% into the Front End Engineer career path. Feeling discouraged

How far along am I supposed to be? I’m at the part where I’ve done all the HTML and CSS lessons and the next course is the first introduction to Javascript. My problem is that the last few projects in the CSS section were pretty much me having to build sites from scratch and to be honest they look really terrible. I feel like a 5 year old just messing around. All the example sites look sleek and professional but I don’t think I’ve been taught how to get to that level. I just wanted to know if this experience is common or if there is something I’m missing or if I’m misreading my own expectations or if im really as behind as I think I am.

No, you haven’t. And you won’t. Not in the Full stack path and not even in the Front End path. Because a Frontend developer is not necessarily a web designer. Indeed there are not many people out there who combine a profound education as designers and a profound knowledge as Frontend developers. Both are separate fields and both require a profound education and/or experience. Of those who combine web design and web development, one of both fields was often part of a professional education and the other self taught and it took plenty of time. There are a few design basics taught in the Frontend path. But that is just a little excerpt and knowing them does not mean you know instantly how to implement them.

That may seem no comfort to you, but to recognize the difference between a well desined website and a badly designed website is already more than what many people are capable of. One of the frustrating lessons you learn as a designer (after finishing the education). If you could build performant, good looking and well designed (not the same thing) sites after finishing 22% of the Front End path, you’d be some kind of prodigy.

You don’t necessarily need to be a good designer as a Front End developer. Most Front End developers work with a design team. They need to know how to implement their designs.

Finishing the Front End Engineer path is just the beginning.
22% of the Front End Engineer path is the beginning of the beginning.
I don’t want to discourage you. On the contrary. You’re not alone with your frustration and not behind the expectations. But it’s still a long way to go. And I found that the Front End Engineer path is a good companion on that way. Among many others and a lot of practice.

As few design tips so you feel less discouraged when seeing your designs on the way:

  • Keep it simple → don’t try adding design effects or too many colors. Just use two colors and one font (with max 3 typefaces).
  • Add generous paddings → I see a lot of beginner pages where the content sticks at the edges of the browser window and headlines stick too close to the subsequent paragraphs
  • Be careful with absolute positionings → everything you can achieve with flexboxes you should rather do with flexboxes. That is more responsive and easier to maintain

It’s normal to feel like this. Just remember that you are essentially at the very start of your journey as a Front End Developer, and you are still learning the basics of HTML, CSS, and Javascript. There’s no rush, and anyone that says otherwise is just selling you an unrealistic dream. This can take months, if not years, to get good at.

The only way you can build a sleek and professional website is to:

  1. Keep practicing wherever and whenever you can with the skills you’ve learned (i.e. create sites for different things, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy at this point, just create a website where you plan to use a few different tags, so that at least you know how they work, and what they are supposed to do)

  2. Apply those skills in different ways (i.e. create different types of websites, again, it doesn’t have to be fancy)

  3. Review the concepts that you’ve been introduced to (i.e. create notes based on your learning style)

  4. Learn UI/UX design alongside Front End Web Development, so that you know how to design and code websites (this might take longer depending on what experience you have in both fields)

  5. Collaborate with folks who are already working in the UI/UX design field, so that they can design the website, and you can code it

  6. Look at the source code on website themes (you can find them on places such as WordPress and Tumblr), and understand how that code works. Copy and paste it to your own code editor (if the license allows you to do so), then modify it, so that you can get a better understanding.

  7. On a webpage, right click → inspect element, so that you can, again, get a better understanding of how a website was made.

Remember that these things take time and a lot of practice. Expect to make mistakes, since this will be a part of the process. Don’t expect any of this to happen overnight, and remember, anyone telling you that you can quickly learn this in less than a month will only give you unrealistic expectations, stress, disappointment, and burnout. Doing a little bit everyday (or at least a few times a week) is usually the way to go.


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