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date icon April 5, 2022
Time icon 6 MIN READ

7 Key Frontend Programming Languages Explained

CEO & Founder at CodeOp

The Frontend is the part of a website or application that the user interacts with, and it’s integral to the user experience.

Through text, colours, styles, buttons, tables, graphics and menus, a frontend programmer creates an interface that is responsive and fluid. To achieve this, they use a variety of core programming languages.

Let’s take a look at the most important languages in a frontend developers toolkit and examine how each of them has an impact on the frontend of a website or application. 

The key frontend programming languages

HTML

What is it?

The foundation of all websites and applications, HTML – or hypertext markup language – can be seen as the building blocks that make up the frontend. 

What does it do?

The Hypertext element of the language is used to link the various pages within a website or application, giving them definition and structure. Markup, on the other hand, labels each piece of content found on the website or application, so that the browser knows how to display text, images and buttons etc. So, it defines the headings and paragraphs, for example.

Why’s it so great?

When it comes to creating a website or application, HTML is essential. It’s like the visual scaffolding that underpins the whole system. It’s simple to get to grips with and, once you have an understanding of HTML, it’s easy to implement.  

HTML also has the potential for cross-browser and cross-device compatibility, making it an essential language for any frontend developer to learn. When learning HTML, you’ll find a supporting community, as well lots of useful frameworks and libraries to enhance your skills. 

CSS

What is it?

Also known as cascading style sheets, CSS is the second of the holy trinity of frontend programming languages. It’s the language that defines the visual theme of the display, enabling you to style the website or application in a certain way.

What does it do?

It brings the website or application to life, through colours, images, fonts, buttons and every other stylistic element you might find on the display of a website or application. CSS also allows frontend developers to adapt the visual style to various different displays, from desktops and tablets to mobiles and other devices. 

Why’s it so great?

CSS is fundamental to design. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to create the visual element of a website or application with just speeds and fluidity. Like HTML, CSS is a simple programming language to learn. That’s why, for frontend developers, it should be one the first on the ‘to learn’ list. 

It’s also key when it comes to updates. As CSS works independently from HTML, frontend developers can easily maintain and adjust websites and applications. This separation of structure from presentation is essential for a robust yet flexible frontend.

JavaScript

What is it?

While HTML lays the framework and CSS brings the style, JavaScript is what brings it all to life. Sometimes known simply as JS, JavaScript is used by pretty much every website and application out there to add that essential interactive dimension that enables a user experience.

What does it do?

JavaScript is the programming language that makes the platform interactive to the user. It’s used by frontend developers to create and control dynamic content that the user interacts with. 

JavaScript can calculate, manipulate and validate data, updating and changing both CSS and HTML elements, styles, content and values.

JavaScript is what makes onscreen animations come to life. It’s what makes autocomplete text spring up and a photo slideshow to keep moving. While it makes everything look simple, there’s lots of JavaScript coding going on under the surface. 

Why’s it so great?

JavaScript is key for everything from websites and browser based games to mobile phone applications and games. It’s an integral element to any kind of computer platform and is a must-learn language for all frontend developers. It’s simple, fast, effective and is fun to use. 

It’s also versatile – while it’s mainly used as a frontend language, JavaScript can be used for backend development as well. 

Key frontend frameworks and libraries

Within each of the three fundamental frontend programming languages are libraries and frameworks. These are sets of usable code – kind of like a template – written by other programmers. They make programming quicker, easier and more flexible, enabling you to get more creative.

Let’s take a look at the most popular and effective frameworks and libraries for frontend development.

React

What is it?

It’s a JavaScript library that’s used to build fast, interactive user interfaces. React was developed at Facebook in 2011. Now it’s the most popular JS library when it comes to constructing interfaces.

What does it do?

React uses independent, isolated and reusable components to construct complex user interfaces. Every React application is essentially a tree of components, with a root component as the central element and other components that branch from it.

Each component is implemented as a JS class with a state and render method. This means, for example, the input data – the state – is rendered to display on the screen in a certain way. The component is then represented as a lightweight, virtual DOM (document object model), which is cheap to create. The real DOM can then be automatically updated to react to changes to the virtual DOM – hence the name ‘React.’  

Why’s it so great?

React makes creating and updating a user interface incredibly simple compared to previous methods. As React is a library and not a framework, it only deals with the view of the UI. This means it’s streamlined in terms of functionality – you use it for a specific purpose and nothing more – making it easy to learn and easy to use. It’s also open source, so it’s free and readily available. 

Vue.js

What is it?

A JavaScript framework for building frontend user interfaces, Vue.js has become increasingly popular in web development since its release in 2014. 

What does it do?

Vue.js provides a method for constructing a set of components that are made up of data and logic, which can then be connected to a template in HTML to create a functioning UI. This framework enables frontend developers to start simple and gradually add complex layers to construct a robust user interface. Like React, the HTML template reacts to changes in the virtual DOM, automatically re-rendering and making changes.

Why’s it so great?

Vue.js’s reactivity system means that you can automatically update the UI by setting simple variables, which makes for intuitive state management. This means more control and less time and effort into optimising the UI, with a higher degree of scalability and flexibility. With Vue.js, frontend developers also have access to some excellent standardised tools.

Finally, Vue.js is a great framework to learn because there’s so much support out there. Not only is there a helpful, enthusiastic community of Vue.js developers, but there’s also some excellent, well-designed documentation to help you get to grips with this important JS framework.

jQuery

What is it?

The most popular JavaScript library in the world, jQuery was invented in 2006. It was created to give developers the chance to optimise their code, getting more while writing less.  

What does it do?

jQuery makes it much easier for a frontend developer to manipulate the UI. Using jQuery, you can add all kinds of different functionalities to your website or application, making it more interactive, easier to use or more interesting for the user. 

Why’s it so great?

jQuery has compatibility across multiple browsers, is very easy to use and extremely readable, with an excellent API that’s simple to get to grips with. It also has an extensive range of plugins available, allowing you to get creative. 

Bootstrap

What is it?

The most popular framework for HTML, CSS and JavaScript when it comes to creating mobile-first apps and websites, Bootstrap is an open source, free tool that makes frontend development faster and easier. It was created by two Twitter engineers in 2014.

What does it do?

Bootstrap contains a range templates for HTML and CSS, including forms, fonts, buttons, tables and menus, as well as a variety of JavaScript plugins. These templates help frontend developers to create responsive mobile-first websites and applications, meaning when you change the size of the layout it adapts accordingly.

Why’s it so great?

Because it’s so easy to use. This is the key reason behind its massive popularity. When it comes to simple mobile-first frameworks, Bootstrap is the king. It’s also compatible with pretty much every browser you could think of and is extremely responsive. 

How to become a frontend developer

First, do your research. Check out CodeOp’s 5 Steps to Starting a Successful Career in Programming to get a deeper understanding of what it takes to make a successful career frontend development.

Meanwhile, the best way to acquire the well-rounded skill set required to become a frontend developer is by enrolling at a coding bootcamp. With bootcamps like CodeOp, transitioning into tech has never been easier. So, find your course and start your tech journey today! 

 

Author: Katrina Walker
CEO & Founder at CodeOp
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, I relocated to South Europe in 2016 to explore the growing tech scene from a data science perspective. After working as a data scientist in both the public...
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