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Not An Imposter: Fighting Front-End Fatigue

I recently spoke with a back-end developer friend about how many hours I spend coding or learning about code outside of work. He showed me a passage from an Uncle Bob book, “Clean Code”, which compares the hours musicians spend with their instruments in preparation for a concert to developers rehearsing code to perform at work.

I like the analogy but I’m not sure I fully subscribe to it; it’s that type of thinking that can cause burnout in the first place. I think it’s great if you want to further your craft and broaden your skill set, but to be doing it every hour of the day isn’t sustainable.

Further Reading on SmashingMag: Link

Front-end fatigue is very real. I’ve seen a number of posts on JavaScript fatigue but I think the problem extends further than that specific language.

To be clear, this isn’t another rant about how it’s all bad and everything is moving too fast — I love that technology is evolving so rapidly. Equally, I can appreciate how it can be overwhelming and have certainly felt flushed out myself at times.

As far as I can tell, this is a two-pronged problem.

The first is that as a front-end developer you think you’re expected to have all of the following in your arsenal:

  • HTML (writing clean, semantic markup)
  • CSS (Modular, scalable)
  • CSS methodologies (BEM, SMACSS, OOCSS)
  • CSS preprocessors (something like LESS, SCSS, PostCSS)
  • Modern CSS (Flexbox, Grid)
  • JS
  • Modern JS (ES6, Typescript)
  • JS frameworks (Angular, React, Vue [insert latest here]
  • JS methodologies (Functional programming, OOP)
  • JS libraries (Immutable, Ramda, Lodash)
  • Responsive Design principals
  • Testing (TDD)
  • Testing frameworks (Jasmine, Karma)
  • SVG
  • WebGL
  • Animation techniques
  • Accessibility
  • Usability
  • Performance
  • Build tools (Grunt, Gulp, NPM Scripts)
  • Asset Bundlers (WebPack, Browserify)
  • NPM ecosystem
  • Knowledge of different browser quirks
  • Agile methodologies
  • Version Control (Usually Git)
  • Visual Design fundamentals
  • Soft skills, time management
  • A basic understanding of whatever back-end language is being used

And on top of that you’re either dabbling with or looking towards things like:

  • Service workers
  • Progressive Web Apps (PWA)
  • Web Components

The second is that your day-to-day work probably doesn’t cover it all or give you time to learn it all, so how are you going to make sure you have all the tools at your disposal?

Hearing terms such as 'Progressive Web Apps' can be quite daunting to developers’ ears. New techniques and technologies lead to the feeling of fatigue — front-end fatigue.
Hearing terms such as “Progressive Web Apps” can be quite daunting to developers’ ears. New techniques and technologies lead to the feeling of fatigue — front-end fatigue. (Image credit4)

Now, as a consumer you might:

  • Subscribe to a bunch of different weekly development newsletters
  • Trawl your Twitter feed
  • Attend a weekly catch up your Front-end team at work
  • Have a Slack channel outside of work with a handful of devs that you also talk shop with
  • Follow online tutorials (that hopefully aren’t out of date)
  • Use a video course training site like Frontend Masters5
  • Buy web development books (that hopefully aren’t out of date)
  • Attend meetups
  • Attend conferences
  • Attend training courses

As a contributor you might:

  • Write blogs/magazine articles
  • Dabble in speaking
  • Run a podcast
  • Contribute to open-source projects
  • Have your own side projects

Recently I found my attention being split three ways, I was focusing a third on writing code, with headphones on half-listening to discussions about code whilst chatting on Slack about code. I decided enough was enough — every orifice was clogged with code and I was mentally drained.

Whilst that is certainly at the extreme end, I’m sure others of you have experienced something similar. On top of all this you probably have a full-time job, family, friends, hobbies. It’s no wonder that there are so many of us feeling burnt out and wondering if we made the right career choice.

Some of my fellow front-ends have expressed interest in packing it all in and switching job to one where they can turn off at five o’clock. But part of me thinks this job attracts a certain type of person and if we were to throw it all away and become an estate agent instead, you’d still want to be the best estate agent you can be. Attending estate agency meetups and tracking house price trends in your free time. Many moons ago I worked in finance and I was still studying in my evenings and reading around it to become the most skilled I could in my chosen field.

We’re not alone in this discipline, a lot of professions require a solid amount of dedication and learning outside of work. Maybe the thing with front-end development is that the technology evolves so fast that it feels like someone keeps moving the goal posts. It seems like every other day I receive an email saying “XYZ” technology is dead. Which I’m sure can’t be true because otherwise we’d have no tech left.

The ecosystem is in a state of constant change and I think that can be a good thing. Personally I love being in a role where I can constantly learn develop and push myself but that’s not to say I don’t get overwhelmed at times.

With that in mind, here are some things I try to remember in order to stop my head exploding as well as some general advice on how to avoid the fatigue.

We’re All In It Together Link

The developers I know, both at work and outside of it are amongst the smartest people I know. But they are all feeling overwhelmed. Most have some sort of wish list of technologies that they are trying to learn. There might be a handful of people who know it all and are on top of everything, but the majority of us are in the exact same position.

We’re all still reliant on Google and Stack Overflow to get us through the day and have far too many tabs open filled with answers to web related questions. You’re not alone!

Be happy in the knowledge that you’re not a bad developer just because you haven’t tried whatever the cool kids are using yet.

Yes, even the “web celebs” are in the same spot…

There’s no way you can know everything and the rock star developers you follow on Twitter tend to be really really good in a few areas each. You’ll notice that they’re the same areas they are famous for being knowledgeable about. Again there will be exceptions but they’re just humans like us. :)

Imposter Syndrome Is Real And We All Have It Link

I know several great front-end developers that won’t apply for roles because they’d feel like a fraud going for them without knowing all the things on the job description requirements. To quote one of them:

“90% of the JDs I see make me think “Argh, I’m so behind!” In fact, it bothers me so much, that I’m thinking about staying in my current role, and just trying to push for more money simply because I feel like I’ve “gotten away with it” here.”

The fact is, most of those job specs are a farce. My friend Bård6 put together this great image that shows the difference between what front-end job specs say and what they mean.

Job Adverts Explained7
Job adverts explained (Large preview8) (Image credit9)

Just remember, it will be ok. Every job I’ve had I’ve felt out of my depth to start with, but eventually you get used to their tools and workflow, you learn and become a better developer for it.

Don’t be afraid to learn on the job, the best way to pick up new skills is to be using them every day.

If you’ve got imposter syndrome, odds are you’re actually a decent developer because otherwise you wouldn’t be self aware enough to realise it.

Get Your Fundamentals Locked In Link

It’s easy to get distracted by the shiny and new but if your foundations aren’t solid then odds are what you’re building won’t stand the test of time.

As a good friend of mine said to me once:

“Focus on the fundamentals has always been my mantra. If you can build good sh!t and solve problems then that’s all that matters, how you solve them (the tools) has and will always change.”

For example, when React catapulted to fame it always seemed to be bundled up with ES6, and I put my focus on those changes or additions to the language rather than the nuances of the framework itself. Once React is dead and gone, the knowledge I’ve picked up from keeping on top of the latest vanilla Javascript will live on. A lot of the features you can play about with natively in Chrome so you don’t have to pull in Babel and get bogged down in dependency hell to play with it.

You Don’t Need To Learn Everything Link

This is really key. I don’t think it’s the new frameworks, libraries and modules that are killing us, it’s our own belief that we have to learn them all.

With learning I find the best bet is to keep it focused — at the moment I’m delving into functional JavaScript programming in ES6.

There are tons of other things on my list that I’d like to learn, but I try not to get distracted. For example, I would love to brush up on my accessibility knowledge, play around with Polymer and dive into some of the latest CSS techniques like Grid but if I start reading about too many different areas at once I won’t retain all the information. These other things aren’t going anywhere, I’ll get to them when I get to them.

Avoid rushing to try and consume everything on a given topic. Take your time and make sure you thoroughly understand it.

If you’re like me, you’ll have an ever-growing list, but don’t be afraid to cull items from it. Not everything is worth investing time in and you should try to recognize what is worth learning and what is likely to be gone in a couple of years. Taking time to learn programming design patterns and architectural techniques is always going to be more beneficial in the long run rather than leaping to the current hotness in framework land. You’ll only end up scrambling to play buzzword bingo again a short while down the track.

Most Companies Aren’t Using Bleeding Edge Tech Link

There is a lot of new stuff coming out, the web is progressing at a staggering rate but typically it will take a long time before businesses actually start adopting these new technologies. The majority of companies will wait for a technology to mature for a while and see it proven in the field.

Angular10 was created six years ago and I first started working at a startup who decided it was the framework for them three years ago. Reactjs11 has been about for just over three years and my current company started using it just before Christmas. I’m sure a lot of other frameworks have come and gone in that time. If I’d jumped on them all I’d be going crazy.

In CSS land, Flexbox has been available since 2010 — six years ago! Browser support is still limited. We started using it in production earlier this year, but I don’t see it being used much in the wild elsewhere.

My point being, there is no rush to learn all the things, whilst technology might move quickly your potential employers are moving at a much slower pace. You don’t have to be ahead of the curve, just make sure you’re keeping an eye on it’s trajectory.

The More You Learn, The More You Discover You Don’t Know, And That’s Okay Link

This is totally normal. When you first start out, you don’t know what you don’t know. Then you learn some stuff and decide you’re a genius. Then little by little that fantasy unravels and you start to comprehend actually how much there is out there that you don’t know.

Essentially, the more experience you get, the deeper into the void you go. You need to make peace with this, otherwise it will consume you. If anything, this feeling should give you the confidence that you’re heading in the right direction. Odds are in our chosen profession you’ll never comfortably be able to sit on a throne constructed from all front-end knowledge.

Don’t Spend All Your Free Time Learning Link

It’s easy to feel that you’re so far behind you need to be coding and learning every minute. This is a one-way ticket to burnout-ville. Set some time aside to develop your skillset, see if you can negotiate some time with your boss so it’s scheduled in and spend the rest of the time doing what you love.

I’ve had some of my coding epiphanies at the gym. Exercising is extremely important for your mind as well as your body. Try and do at least 20–30 minutes a day to keep your mind sharp and help prevent burnout.

Make time for your family and friends — try not to talk shop with them!

It’s A Developer’s Market Link

Don’t be worried about finding a job right now. At the moment we’re in a very fortunate position where there are more roles than developers to fill them. I don’t know how long this will last, but capitalise on it now!

You can get a job without knowing all the things. I’ve found that in the interviews I’ve carried out 99% of people are totally blagging it.

Worst case scenario, remember that there’s gold in legacy code. If you’re a developer that loves the old ways there will always be companies stuck on legacy tech that need developers to work on their software.

Conclusion Link

I hope some of these pointers have helped mitigate some of the frustrations you might be feeling. The worst thing you can do is reach the edge and become fully burnt out because once you are, it’s very hard to regain that passion you had for what you do and why you started doing it in the first place.

Happy coding!

(aa, il)

Footnotes Link

  1. 1 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2016/03/dirty-tricks-dark-corners-front-end-slides-pdf/
  2. 2 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2014/10/front-end-development-ode-to-specifications/
  3. 3 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2013/01/preparing-front-end-job-interview/
  4. 4 http://blog.ionic.io/what-is-a-progressive-web-app/
  5. 5 https://frontendmasters.com/
  6. 6 https://twitter.com/bardguyver
  7. 7 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/jobs-edited-opt.png
  8. 8 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/jobs-edited-opt.png
  9. 9 https://twitter.com/bardguyver
  10. 10 https://angularjs.org/
  11. 11 https://reactcommunity.org/

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David is a front-end developer from the UK who has been coding since 1998 when spacer gifs and blink tags were still a thing. He is a writer, speaker and coder who is passionate about moving the web forward. You can find his ramblings about this (and all things front-end) at Fed || Dead.

  1. 1

    Companies need to start investing in the education of their developers and allow them to set time aside for learning as part of their workday in the office.

    78
    • 2

      I totally agree with this! We try to learn things during our free time but that takes time away from family and other important things.

      10
    • 3

      Hi Mark,

      I was able to set aside time for myself in my company to educate myself even more.

      It’s been over 2 weeks now and I have gotten into using the Pomodoro technique.

      You can use a website like tomato-timer.com.

      So basically you set aside 25 minutes focus time on your Tasks you are given, and the technique says that if you are done within the 25-minutes, then Review, review, review your work, until 25 minutes is over. :)

      Afterwards, strictly follow the 5-minute break.

      At the moment I immediately open up behance.net and drop down to > ‘All Creative Fields’ > ‘Web Design’, and awe myself (and at the same time treat this like the feeling of my free time at home). This is after I might want to use the toilet, get 2 cups of water, etc.

      Then once the 5 minutes are over, get back to what you love doing — Developing!

      That’s one.

      Another one I have started doing is that ‘You don’t have to rush what you’re doing’.

      Your boss will most likely not force you to complete all tasks on your list.

      But what they want is to know you completed something BIG/Major today.

      Call it one of your ‘best accomplishments for today’.

      That’s what they love you for.

      And of course, if the big task cannot be completed in a day, then that means you might want to set aside accomplishing it bit by bit daily, whilst still having big tasks to accomplish.

      So that whilst you present a Big task completed today, you were also biting down Tomorrow’s big task (or days ahead of a big task).

      That is the reason why having a Week Plan is efficient in business.

      It makes the company feel accomplished, having digested a big task for 5 days of eating.
      Summary:

      – Use Pomodoro timer
      – Take your time learning things inside and out (of what you need to know), and enjoy it as a lasting memory

      Tell me what you think Mark.

      Kind regards,

      Mic

      5
    • 4

      Completely agree. I’ve worked in companies before and I know a lot of companies do 10% time (or something similar) allowing Developers to look into new approaches / technologies on company time.

      Find it great as a developer to get this time but also from a company perspective can be very beneficial worthwhile.

      0
  2. 5

    A great article with a lot for me to empathise with personally.

    Have to say, one phrase in job adverts that always sends a chill down my spine is “You live and breathe code.” I’m sure some are far more dedicated than I am, but we all (?) have other interests and responsibilities. It’s tough spending the day in a developer mindset and then going home spending the evening that way. I do spend time learning, but these days more in bursts; very specific topics to fill in gaps in my knowledge where I know a specific project is coming up.

    The “Job Adverts Explained” image does match experiences I’ve had applying for roles; and as someone who has been involved a little in recruiting, we’ve tended place more value in people’s ability to fit into a team and willingness to learn, and not just their raw technical knowledge.

    Once again, well done with this article!

    23
    • 6

      Totally agreed on the bit about living and breathing code. Is that healthy? Does that apply to other professions? Do we admire the person who says “I live and breathe filing tax returns!!”

      1
  3. 7

    I love this article, I feel peace now..

    35
  4. 9

    The advert example is very true, following IMO some patterns, usually one of:

    * The no-clue recruiter
    It seems they put everything down because they don’t actually know what is they want. This is ok because as a developer you can quickley help them understand what they need, whoch normally isn’t too bad.

    * The ‘moon on a stick’ recruiter
    They expect all those things and more usually followed by a stupidly low salary. They will end up with a young developer or older one full of bull. Either way everyone loses in the end.

    * The ‘I’m only posting this so HR can give me a bigger bugdet next year’ because no one replyed.
    The IT manager will post some jobs they know are impossible to fill, later on requesting a bigger budget so they get what they want

    11
  5. 11

    You forgot web sockets

    7
  6. 12

    Thanks, great article.

    0
  7. 13

    Thanks for this. Being one who fought the good fight against ie6, I’m comforted to read this.

    3
  8. 14

    I found quite a few nuggets of truth in this article. Even though I’ve been a Front-End Developer for a few years now, I still battle fatigue and imposter syndrome all of the time. It’s great to know I’m not the only one who feels overwhelmed.

    9
  9. 15

    Really well put article! And so relatable, especially about all these tabs open, and those “kitchen sink” job adverts. I’m still a junior, but I definitely feel the pressure/fatigue at times. This really helps to ease the load. Thanks for sharing!

    3
  10. 16

    Great article, thanks for publishing it!

    0
  11. 17

    co-signed: me

    0
  12. 18

    Great article. I’m starting to look around for my first developer job and the adverts I see are frequently terrifying. Thank you for bringing some perspective!

    4
  13. 19

    Finally!!! A correctly entitled post about this subject. Front-end Fatigue and not JavaScript Fatigue, as i mentioned here:

    https://hackernoon.com/stop-blaming-on-javascript-when-all-you-want-is-to-talk-about-front-end-73ff19fef861

    Very good article David. I really feel the community is in need of some more of this kind of insight.

    One point that i’d like to mention, when you say:

    “Personally I love being in a role where I can constantly learn develop and push myself but that’s not to say I don’t get overwhelmed at times.”

    Another thing that I see happening, is that people are not able to get a view about whether they are pushing themselves to a real next level, or if in fact they are falling into some sort of an abyss.

    I felt that way about Angular 1.*. By that time, when i was learning it, i was feeling that the steep learning curve could worth it, until i found out how bad is its performance, especially unacceptable on mobile devices. Then i started to see as i had thrown a lot of time on a trash can.

    3
  14. 20

    Very well written, David, and spot on in every respect.

    I’ve been a freelance front-end developer since just before Internet Explorer 4 was released. I’ve found that the stress of trying to keep up with the myriad changes in technology is all too real as is the impostor syndrome.

    My strategy has been similar to what your friend told you: “Focus on the fundamentals.” No matter what, I stay sharp with the big three: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. And if a specific technology that everyone is talking about doesn’t apply to my needs, I don’t stress about it. CSS preprocessors for example — don’t need them, didn’t learn them.

    And this frees up time to follow other interests. As you write, some form of daily exercise is vital for both the mind and body. In other words, get away from the screen, any screen. Desktop, tablet, phone. There’s more to life than all of this.

    10
    • 21

      Well said, Adam and great article, David. There are many of us who have been around a while still doing amazing things without the hoopla… and clocking off at (close to) 5pm. In the last 20 years I’ve seen a lot of technologies come and go but the biggest shift is probably the type of person entering our industry. Where it used to be creatives and media types shifting to coding, I now see IT and Engineering grads moving into front-end roles and with this, a stronger focus around attempting to improve/refine processes (read pre-processors, methodologies, and a plethora of libraries/frameworks). Obviously we’ve all learned a lot in that time and granted, so have clients – cash isn’t exactly being thrown around like it used to! Great to see such enthusiasm and ambition, but try to keep things in perspective.

      5
    • 22

      Nfjfhfjfjdndjdj

      November 18, 2016 4:36 pm

      Yeah, nobod needs those fancy new technologies like sass, ajax, or jquery.

      -4
  15. 23

    This sounds so real….tnx for writing it down. I like ‘we are in this together’. I started in 2011 or so, with full time front-end dev. I remember backenders telling me… Just some html, css and js. I felt so dumb because great backenders told me it was easy. Later i realised they knew nothing about frontend.

    Since then it’s a race learning fundamentals and being distracted by new things :).

    One thing i have to add is finding a mentor could help being structured.

    But it’s the best job in the world!

    Tnx for the article

    2
  16. 24

    Spot on! Good art David, on a very relevant, close to our hearts topic.

    0
  17. 25

    I’d subscribe to a newsletter that sends this same article every 3 months.

    Thanks for writing this David!

    10
  18. 26

    Thank you for this interesting and detailed post. Being part of those for whom the developer career began before the advent of the Internet, I experienced all this.
    But the most amusing thing is that it reminded me of another post which I advise reading to everyone :
    https://hackernoon.com/how-it-feels-to-learn-javascript-in-2016-d3a717dd577f#.kedffk9zy

    Best regards

    0
  19. 27

    My friend Jon of Web Field Manual referenced this article about Chasing Tools, published Oct 2016. Tim states to remain focused on the core technologies: The network stack/HTML/CSS/JavaScript .

    I personally need to brush up on all my front-end skills and haven’t coded a site in 5 years and I have so much fear “jumping back in the game.” Its reassuring that the core technologies haven’t changed.

    But to use the core tech, I still need to modernize my workflow…Sublime+Emmet, GULP, GIT… none of this stuff existed when I was writing in notepad on my local OSX web environment to learn.

    0
  20. 28

    This article brings peace to my soul. Now I feel good with myself.

    6
  21. 29

    :actual tears in eyes:
    I have actually used the words ‘fraud’ and ‘impostor’ many times in my career.
    Thought I was the only one in the world.

    1
  22. 30

    Good article and straight to the point. I’ve been working as a web developer over 10 years now and it’s been pretty fun learning new stuff like when framesets were no longer done, table layouts, pixel perfect layouts to responsive design. It does get overwhelming now but mainly because there are so many different ways to do things. I usually follow what’s happening in the field and then look more seriously into some of the things I could apply like for instance SASS seemed to make some sense, so I learned that and integrated it with my systems. Then git replaced subversion and now I use Beanstalk for deploying as well. The feeling of being overwhelmed is what happens when you try to measure yourself against other people or other people’s presumptions about what you can or should do. I think everyone just has to build their own toolbox of what they want to do and how they want to do it. It’s impossible to do it all. Start your own company, freelance and escape impossible situations. The freedom is worth it :) Also I think there’s a load of BS technology out there that you ‘must’ learn. I’ve managed fine without it. Core skills are still HTML5/CSS3/PHP/MySQL/jQuery/Javascript the rest is just extra and no amount of crazy fanboy-love will make me change my mind :p

    1
  23. 31

    Cool article. Replace “front-end” with “back-end”, “webdesign” or any other related type of work, and its identical :)

    A complete side-note kind of “rant”:

    … one thing I will never understand though:

    Then you learn some stuff and decide you’re a genius.

    Been told that all my life, so I never thought of myself being “the end of all knowledge” (German proverb: “… das Ende aller Weisheit”). Never ever HAD that feeling. How come? Inbreed humbleness? Early tinkering with states of mind? How can one come up with that strange over-estimation of oneself?

    Always been leaving me puzzled.

    I might know a lot, but certainly, just by the capacity of ones mind, will not be able to know all ..

    cu, w0lf.

    1
  24. 32

    I have to say, this is the most important article the I read this year!! Congratulations! Every Back or fronts needs to know this! Thks

    5
  25. 33

    Thanks dude, great article.

    0
  26. 34

    This article hit me like a brick.

    0
  27. 35

    I now know that, we are all in same ship. That empathizes me. Thanks David!

    0
  28. 36

    Some relief to know that others are facing the same that I am! :)

    0
  29. 37

    I started to realise (not that long ago), that I needed to change my mind about learning everything.
    It took me 1 year, battling with this fatigue, … but I couldn’t let this destroy my passion, so I stepped back a little and it made me a better planner (and father :))

    Thank you for this article, a piece of mind for me… and I’m obviously not the only one!

    0
  30. 38

    I really needed this. Thanks!

    0
  31. 39

    Brady Sterling

    November 18, 2016 8:03 pm

    I love this article. It’s just what I need to hear right now.

    0
  32. 40

    Awesome piece, David – thank you. You mention spacer GIFs from ’98 in your footer. As an Email developer, I still use them for Outlook compatibility, as that app still only renders tables and spacers give the most consistency across versions. Crazy.

    0
  33. 41

    Very well put article, David! One minor issue is imposter should be impostor instead.

    0
  34. 42

    As a developer, I hate titles. Sadly I have coined myself ‘hybrid’ based off my years in backend and frontend development. But it comes down to this: you have to stay relevant, but that doesnt mean you have to be full-stack. You can outlaw either or, and you can try and define the difference between and FE and BE dev. In my little dev world, the best place to be if you’re a “front-end developer,” is in a spot that can own full-stack but smart enough to know what is or isn’t the best choice for an application. You don’t have to learn everything, what you have to learn is how to choose a stack without bias. Don’t try and master it all, just master what makes sense and be humble enough to know, you won’t always get it right. The best FE devs learn from hair-pulling mistakes.

    1
  35. 43

    A few days ago, I wrote about exactly the same feeling. Being overwhelmed from getting started with hybrid app development. Right now, I’m learning Ionic 2 and, well, everything that comes with it. Angular 2, PouchDB, Promises, TypeScript, RxJS, etc. etc. It’s just too much and on top of that, I want to do the job right with a good architecture (searching for Uncle Bobs Clean Architecture brought me to this article).

    It boils down to fundamentals, as you said. Although you need real projects to dig them.

    1
  36. 44

    Abdurrahman Shofy Adianto

    November 20, 2016 2:20 am

    For a new university graduate like me who wish to enter IT industry, this article is very enlightning. The part about feeling “argh, I’m so left behind” is hitting home so close. Thanks for making my day better, sir.

    0
  37. 45

    I feel like I should make this article required reading in my web dev course. Great article!

    0
  38. 46

    Makes me feel better. I’ve been working mainly as a designer for the last ten years while dabbling in code on the side. While I’m fully proficient in the fundamentals, it’s all these new frameworks and systems to run systems that drive me nuts and often make me question their purpose.

    Add in my desire for a job that pays decently but doesn’t require me to work insane hours, it gets me pretty lost in where I should go in my career. I’m definitely not against learning in my career, but often I feel like this career field is beholden to a culture of putting in 14-hour days, weekends, and then finding time outside of that to learn whatever “flavor of the moment” that pops up.

    Just seems overwhelming.

    2
  39. 47

    Learn what is appropriate for what you specialise in. Front-end development is a really wide ranging field, and you shouldn’t be trying to do all of it anyway.

    It’s a bit like being a builder – some are great at roofs, others better at extensions. Find what you enjoy doing and learn the stuff that’s relevant.

    For example, I mostly build websites, either static or WordPress. So spending ages learning Angular, or Webpack, or Browserify, would be of little benefit to me because they aren’t really technologies applied to what I do. Sure, you probably could use them in a WordPress theme but there’s no real reason to.

    So – if you build WordPress themes, don’t get in a spin about JS libraries that are really meant for web apps. You’re not building web apps. Etc etc.

    0
  40. 48

    Stan Alachniewicz

    November 22, 2016 1:33 am

    Thanks David, so many points in this article sum up how I feel, often…. It’s good to know that I’m not alone.

    0
  41. 49

    I'm not Smartacus

    November 22, 2016 11:58 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. As a sole trader and freelance front end developer who also needs to know a bit about CMS set-up and server management this article is much appreciated.

    My goal is to learn as much about vanilla JS as is possible and then worry about the latest framework when I’ve done that. Learning the hottest framework now will be a waste of time as it WILL change by the time I’m happy with my JS knowledge. Keeping on top of CSS and implementing it in new projects takes up enough my time.

    0
  42. 50

    I’ve been creating websites for about 15 years, of which 10 years are professional. I’m really glad people are finally realizing this.

    A few years back I entered the startup scene, by joining a company with a full JS stack, with all the modern stuff of the time. Node, CouchDB, express and a self-made isomorphic backbone solution. The CTO was a cool guy, but with little backend experience. I came from a full stack PHP + JS position, with quite a bit of experience of making backend stuff scalable. And since I was doing agency work, I had quite a bit of experience in making relatively smooth UI as well.

    They were really passionate about coding. They were constantly reading new articles about new techniques and frameworks on medium. While mostly read about new browser techniques, and relied on my experience at previous jobs.

    I never felt more useless and bad than there. All the decisions they made, I was against. All the stuff they were doing (and preaching) was stuff that I learned were bad. After a few months of working there, I didn’t care about development anymore, because I thought I was really poor at it. I didn’t understand a lot of the “modern” stuff they were doing. Every few weeks they wanted to change some part of the code to a new and “better” way of doing things.

    After almost a year it started to change though. They were coming back at a lot of the decisions they made. And started using more classic techniques and structures (eg, less denormalizing data in the db). Also around the same time the first articles showed up, sharing my vision about modern development. I quit that job soon after that.

    This taught me that I might not be the most modern developer. I care more for learning the ins and outs on frameworks or techniques. Creating code that will last a few years, in stead of using the most modern stuff, which only lasts for a few months. I just started using React / Redux about half a year ago. I rather wait a while to see if a framework or technique stands the test of time. And it suits me just fine :)

    1
  43. 51

    Fantastic piece. One of the best I’ve read in a long time. Having read it I already feel a bit less stressed and a bit less overwhelmed, so thank you!

    0
  44. 52

    David, you’ve done a good job of identifying a legitimate problem, discussing its impacts, and presenting some coping mechanisms. However, I have to disagree with your take on this as a front-end issue (does “front-end” really need to be in the post like 20 times?). This is an issue for all developers. You can find DBAs struggling with this issue, operations people, middleware devs, desktop support, consultants, even IT managers. If your job intersects with code and the creative process, you’ve experienced this problem in some form. It’s everywhere; I’ve seen it in others and experienced it myself and I’m probably the furthest thing from a front-end dev. I would encourage you to broaden your scope to at least all devs. I think you have good advice for us all.

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  45. 53

    Aaron Lelevier

    November 23, 2016 6:35 pm

    The best way to fight fatigue for any developer is just to unplug. On the weekend or on a vacation, whenever you are on a planned break, just unplug. Don’t read online news, get off social media, don’t open your computer. Do this until you feel totally disconnected and aren’t thinking of coding.

    I took a trip to Europe for a conference then traveled for the next two weeks and didn’t open my laptop. Yes, I thought about how I’m going to be behind, but coming from the U.S. to Europe is a long way to go, and, if I spent the time coding or practicing new tech, then I knew that I would regret it later, as I can do that stuff anytime. Needless to say, I feel truly refreshed, and things that bothered me before, etc… have fallen away.

    Take a break! Unplug! It’s the day before Thanksgiving. This is the perfect time to do this for 4 strait days and just be with your family, be with you, live life however you want away from a computer!

    0
  46. 54

    Thanks David for the the article which I’ve now filed in my “perspective” folder so that I can read it in the future to remind myself to “stay on track”.

    0
  47. 55

    A Better Webdesigner

    November 23, 2016 7:50 pm

    This website design is really bad, there is too much clutter, instead of 1 navigation menu, they happen to have two. Also there is a fuck ton of book advertising on the right and the comment box is farther down than the comments.

    -3
  48. 56

    Patrick Bouldin

    November 23, 2016 9:04 pm

    You know, I think it IS a lot like developing and keeping pace as a musician. You can either be a novice or aspire to expert in either coding or music. I’ll skip the expertise in coding, David covered that it seems. With music, you can spend thousands upon thousands of hours and continue to improve – and you can spend thousands more on the same instrument on a different genre’ or style of play within the same genre’.

    In other words, there’s never enough time to learn it ALL – same for coding. So the best you can do is have clearly defined goals and set out a plan for each.

    Speaking of music – here’s ours: http://www.QuibbleBrothers.com
    :)

    0
  49. 57

    I can relate to the article like many others here.

    0
  50. 58

    Great thoughts and well written article! Thanks a lot, was a pleasure to read, and it did make me feel better :)

    0
  51. 59

    Right. Now tell this to the employers. I’ve spent the last 6 years of my life doing this every day, every waking hour, even dreaming it at night, without even getting fucking paid and yet I’m struggling to get a job right now. Everyone is giving me shit tests that no one is able to pass (I’m not a fucking Back-End Developer) and everyone is expecting me to do an entire page (fully responsive, fully functional) in under one hour. I managed to get hired last year on €350/month and I resisted all the stress and insanity for only 3 months, before getting really sick. Friends? Hobbies? Exercising? You’re joking, right? Passion? That evaporated long ago. Burn out? Pfff… that’s a piece of cake. How about not having the will to live anymore? How about wanting to die because you’re basically useless and nobody gives a shit on you. All that knowledge? It’s not enough! You must know everything and you must do everything instantly if possible! Preferably without asking for money.

    Sorry for the rant. You stroke a cord with this article. Very well written. People should listen to you.

    0
  52. 60

    I can’t say enough good things about this article! When I enrolled at my local college to study web design, I thought most of my knowledge would be HTML, CSS, and different Graphic Design practices to tie it all together. I spent the past 3 years learning everything I could about the Adobe Creative Suite, logo design, branding, UI/UX design, WordPress, Dreamweaver, grid systems, mock-ups, photo retouching and manipulation, print design, typography, responsive design, Javascript, and PHP – because you need to know most of those things to make an aesthetically pleasing end product. I was even lucky enough to get a job as an Art Director and I spent the better part of the past year working there and learning as much as possible until budget cuts made them unable to keep me on as a full-time employee.

    I’m now spending my time looking for a job as a Web Designer (or even a Graphic Designer since that’s been a large part of my education and role as Art Director) and, according to most job postings, I’m qualified for neither. I don’t know 50 different programming languages, I don’t have a Bachelor’s degree, I don’t know how to develop an app, and I definitely don’t know how to build a custom CMS. I could go to school the next 10 years and STILL not meet all the requirements listed in a typical Web Designer job posting. In a world where technology is changing every single day, it’s impossible not to feel overwhelmed. Thanks so much for posting this, it gives people like me a ray of hope :)

    2
  53. 61

    Colleen E. Cash

    December 10, 2016 5:07 am

    Do you know how perfect the timing is for me reading this article!
    I just started my first “big girl job” as a front end web developer for a large DoD contractor and my exact thoughts have been “They’re going to find out that I’m an imposter and this is going to be embarrassing and so humiliating since this is the job of my dreams!!!!”

    I had to hold back the tears I was about to cry out while reading this article, because this has been the biggest stress and burden that has been haunting me since I accepted the job offer.

    Thank you so much for writing this article, I’m honestly going to print this out and carry it with me in my wallet. This topic is somehting that needs to be discussed about to your fellow devs.
    <3

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  54. 62

    Thanks for taking the time to write this. As we are seeing in the comments, this phenomenon among devs is all too common. It’s relieving to come to the realization that you’re “not the only one”.

    I’d like to see companies do a much better job of communicating “real needs” versus throwing out the fishing net to grab whatever they can. I came to the realization that most job descriptions are bogus some time ago, but I’m convinced it stops organizations from attracting great talent because they ask for far too much, and because most people are reasonable and in tune with their professional deficiencies, it stops them from even applying.

    0
  55. 63

    Oh, and one last thing to add to the list. Developers are now expected, or at least will be, to understand accessibility and universal design.

    0
  56. 64

    This quote,

    “90% of the JDs I see make me think “Argh, I’m so behind!” In fact, it bothers me so much, that I’m thinking about staying in my current role, and just trying to push for more money simply because I feel like I’ve “gotten away with it” here.”

    is exactly how I’ve been feeling and scrambling to learn the latest framework/library.
    Thanks for the great advice.

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