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What is the difference between layout artist and front-end developer

10/18/19 / Middleread

In the modern social stratum of the professional population, who calls themselves web page designers or frontenders, there is a dispute between the appearance of the last term — what is the difference and who is who.

Attention, spoiler — almost anything, this is one profession.

Why I wondered about this and why I'm talking about it. I started writing a course on page-proofs, which almost immediately became a book. More information about it will appear later, when I do the design and promotion.

There I write about the history of the profession, its tools and tell you how easy to start coding. This first book is intentionally simplified, a lot of information is cut out from it (at the moment) in order to reduce the entry threshold for newcomers. In this case, it has a sufficiently large number of hacks and techniques that an advanced layout designer can learn for himself.

At the very beginning, I ran into the question — who is a layout artist? And naturally sat down and became thoughtful. I'm sure everyone has such moments when he thinks about such «simple» things.

So, who is a layout designer?

I found myself in the profession seemingly recently from the point of view of its existence, somewhere at the junction of the transition to HTML5. Those, we were taught to still use HTML4, showed a table layout, and at the output it turned out that all this can be forgotten.

Fortunately, the latest standards are loyal and backward compatible. It's a pity only some really useful tags and techniques are now labeled as invalid. And I'm talking about things like <nobr>. It's just a holy thing that really helps to observe the rules of the language, for there are things that can not stand, for example, the names of the initials next to the surname. W3C offers to solve this issue with the css-property word-wrap

So the first property that a layout artist should possess is literacy. I confess I myself sin in favor of speed, it is difficult to be both smart and fast. It is a sin to not know in principle what a rule is and why to apply it.

Then you can go deeper into the story, let's say, analog typography. This is when they work with paper, can anyone remember how books look and smell!? They, in particular, were engaged and continue to layout designer. Their task is, roughly speaking, to take text and images, and put them on a strip. If you believe verbatim Wikipedia:

In the precomputer era, the layout designer was a printing house worker, whose duties included page layout. The maker put lines of text made by the compositor into pages and pages of the future book, compiled them with illustrations, added column numbers, footers, and watched the lines.

What are the hanging lines, I'm sure most readers will have to search in the search engine. And now I propose to replace the words of the typography with the web studio, the text-typing — copywriter, the strip — the web page.

So it turns out that this is one and the same, only different terms and tools.

In contrast to typographical layout, it is true, it is necessary to deal with the non-fixed area of information display [screens, print means from the screen], dynamic content and, in addition, a lot of difficulties arise, such as the correct display of user input. This is when you need to think in advance how the text entered by the user, whether it be a comment, the title of an article in a blog, a downloaded track, or video, will be displayed.

Another bundle of nuances

What I described above — it could be requirements about 20 years ago, but the profession is growing, so evolving and the demands are growing too. Yes, and technology is not lagging behind: before we had a notepad from a package of Windows or Vim, and now there are so many full-fledged IDEs, from Notepad++ to WebStorm.

In addition to editors, there are a lot of requirements for the standards of layout, and these are:

  1. HTML5 standard
  2. Cascading styles of the third generation (CSS3)
  3. ES6 — what is this beast, really JavaScript!?

In addition, there are concepts of adaptive layout, there are many screens. There are many more than formats for printing, and how many browsers, what is Internet Explorer worth. Although wait, he was replaced by a decent Edge, which even better destroys your layou

Up to the heap, a classful faithful layout designer should be able and know:

  1. All kinds of frameworks such as Bootstrap or Foundation
  2. And js-libraries
  3. Be sure to master the version storage system, where without it !?
  4. Be able to automate the process of layout, not in the same stone age we live
  5. Easily navigate in the images, their assignments, be able to handle [compress, scale]
  6. In the previous paragraph, my conscience did not allow me to shove SVG graphics
  7. A bad layout does not know what semantic layout is
  8. Very bad does not know how to work with fonts

There are many more nuances that I think should not be given much time, just give an example — Emmet. As in the case of hanging lines, I propose to go for detailed information in the search.

Wait, personally, I believe that the layout designer should understand what he is typing, in other words, to navigate in programming.

Better yet — immediately work in tandem with a programmer, otherwise it will be embarrassing for what it turns into a layout. They are programmers like… Like physicists, they live in their universe in isolation from reality.

Breaking the Borders

So, somewhere here, the coder comes to the border of something incomprehensible. Personally, I consider it an excellent bonus if it can create not just a static page, but a workpiece for use with some kind of framework such as Angular, Vue, React.

Here I will not make you to Google, I will give a brief explanation — these frameworks allow you to manipulate the content of the page at a primitive level, what is it, if not the layout? And this is it.

And at the advanced level — send requests to the server and get answers to adjust the content under the answer.

This is the border, which, in principle, can divide the profession into layout artist and front-end developer. Basically, because if you remove the framework and give the front-end developer confine yourself to the validation of forms — for some reason he does not become a sharp editor, but continues to be called an impressive title.

For example, I will show the first 2 links that I found on the query "what should a layout artist do" and "what a front-end developer should be able to do."

At the same time, I propose to consider the difference only that the information that the front-end developer should discard from the teeth, the layout designer can know and use. Today the concept of "can know" should be regarded anyway, as "had to know yesterday".

Thus, all the same, we come to the fact that the requirements have grown, and the chasm in the floor has been deciphered by a proud name.

Exactly the same story happened to the designers, there were ux\ui designers and who else is there!?

As a conclusion

Comrades professionals, remain competent professionals. Do not be the ones who are stupid because of laziness, always raise the demands for yourself. And do not forget what it all came about. Do not replace the complex with simple, simple — complex.