Hey, where's all the front-end stuff?

If you’ve been following along with these daily emails, you’d be forgiven for thinking:

For a front-end developer, Jim really likes to write about other stuff

I freely admit to this, and so I thought I’d explain why.

Product development is a multi-disciplinary team endeavour. Whether you’re organised into explicitly cross-functional teams or not, a modern web product of any degree of complexity usually requires different people with different backgrounds and skills to bring users something that’s valuable to them.

UI engineering is a huge part of that, obviously. But as an activity it is almost never exclusively owned by dedicated front-end developers alone. The most successful teams orchestrate a product development process collectively, with clear ownership and shared responsibilities. We often hear how design, UX and product management benefit from team alignment and collaborative work. But we don’t often hear this about development work, which I think is a missed opportunity.

Anyone with ownership or responsibility for UI engineering practices, front-end technology choices, architecture and web platform strategy owes it to the rest of the team, the organisation and users to learn practices and principles of product development. Pursuing this has made a huge difference in my career. Far more than gaining in-depth knowledge of JavaScript frameworks, for example.

I enjoy the technical aspects of front-end development and have done for over 20 years. But I realised along the way that isolated technical knowledge is useless without a corresponding ability to wield it effectively in the context of collaborative product development. That ability is part of leadership.

What discipline in product development do you have most affinity with other than development? Why?

All the best,

– Jim

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