How to Keep Up in Front-End Development


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Last updated:4/06/18


Q: How did you keep yourself on track to learn new skills while working other full-time jobs?

- Kate

What is Front-End Fatigue?

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the new technologies out there and how far you have to go, you're certainly not alone. We all feel like there are so many skills and technologies to cover when learning web development; we refer to this feeling as "front-end fatigue."

Technology exists because someone somewhere said: there's gotta be an easier way of doing things.

Therefore, our increasing expectations of what the internet needs to do for us and the speed at which it's expected to come up with them means we constantly have to innovate ways of meeting our demands on web applications.

Front-end fatigue sets in when you get overwhelmed at the sheer depth and enormity of what you have to learn AND try to learn it all at once.


The Bad News

Front-end fatigue occurs when you try to learn everything all at once, an easy trap to fall into when new libraries and frameworks seem to spring up on a weekly—if not daily—basis. Common symptoms of front-end fatigue may include half-finished side projects; unused subscriptions to online-tutorial providers, and feeling like you don't have enough time to learn everything.

You simply don't have enough time to learn everything, even if you could quit your full-time job and just study programming for 40 hours a week. That's the bad news.

The Good News

The good news is, you don't have to learn everything all at once. the world of front-end development is not one monolithic "thing" you can master, and you shouldn't treat it as such. Instead, treat it like a seasonal menu at your favorite restaurant. The dishes on the menu may constantly change with the seasons, but the general flavors and atmosphere at the restaurant remain consistent over time.


On Fighting Front-End Fatigue

Understanding Core Principles First

Similarly, web development is a rotating menu of libraries and frameworks, built on a core of concepts and principles. Just as you wouldn't need to consume every single entree in order to have a satisfying meal, you can build a front-end career while knowing nothing (or at least, very little) about entire technologies. The best developers are not the ones who have tried every dish; instead, they're the ones who choose to return to particular flavors on the menu time and time again, because they know what they enjoy.

Put another way good developers focus on the problems in front of them and use the tool they like to solve it

Imagine your interests as flavors, and pursue flavors that taste good together. This means focusing on core concepts, not specifics for a particular project or stack. If you have an inexperienced palette, this might mean starting with the basics, like the fundamentals of a language; when you're just getting started, time spent learning fundamental programming concepts (data types, functions, loops, states, etc) is never time wasted.

If you don't know what interests you, try a bunch of different flavors; you'll quickly find that you have preferences in code, just as in tastes. If you're more experienced, this could mean digging into a particular JavaScript framework or exploring something even more general, like task runners or how package managers work.

Eat the elephant one bite at a time and don't care about not knowing enough. Everyone feels the exact same way.

Moreover, your overall happiness as a developer and what you can bring to a company as a developer will more often be derived from depth than breadth. Get good enough at one thing at a time and when you have the bandwidth, focus on one new skill.


On Relevance

Also, it's unlikely that you will actually need to know new technologies at the pace the rest of the internet might lead you to think.

Let us be clear: we're not saying you shouldn't continue your learning.

We're saying that unless you are the CTO, Lead Developer or a Senior Developer, you will often be maintaining a codebase rather than making the decisions on which technologies to use. This isn't an excuse to not try to keep up, but we think it shaves off the feeling of anxiety a bit when you realize you're in control of when you need to learn it.

In our current roles, 90% of bleeding edge tech: we can't use at our current jobs because it's not part of our current tech stack. So in some ways, front-end fatigue is a non-issue because we can't incorporate it into my day-to-day if we're being honest.

Treat any new tech/skills either as a "just enough to be dangerous" skill or "read enough to know what it does but I've never used it."


On Solving the Real Problem

Try to solve your problems, not perceived problems. Technology solves problems, but with what you're trying to accomplish, you might not need it yet. Just because everyone is talking about a new technology doesn't mean it's right for you to be learning it.

Don't Let Your Projects be Hype-Driven

It can be tempting to want to say you're up to date on all the latest technologies, but if you can't apply what you learned, or will forget before can: You have wasted your time.


Specific Steps to Take

How You Can Make the Process Easier
  1. Focus on Core Principles

    Technologies will rise and fall, but the core principles will be timeless.

  2. Eat the Elephant One Bite at A Time

    Pick one new technology you want to learn and try to incorporate it into your projects (personal or professional), or create a sandbox just for it.

  3. You don't have to be on the cutting-edge of technology adoption.

    You just have to be savvy enough to know what to adopt when the industry shifts.

  4. Let others do the keeping up for you: find & follow people in the ecosystem whom you admire and follow them

    Follow them on Twitter, Github, LinkedIn, or wherever they're posting publicly about what they're learning lately.

  5. Do your best to remove the distraction of other technologies you don't know yet from your view.

    As you grow, gradually bring in more flavors of technology into your wheelhouse and remember—you don't have to like technology you try.

  6. Understand that you'll never solve front-end fatigue, you'll only get good at dealing with it.

    Breathe, it's ok to not know everything.


5. Resources

SyntaxFM: Keeping Up with The Codeashians Podcast


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