How to Become a Web3 Front-End Developer in 2023: The Roadmap
How to Become a Web3 Front-End Developer in 2023: The Roadmap
Beyond the shimmer, the hype, the extreme volatility, the triumphs, the defeats, and the scandals, one thing's for sure: the real people building the space are here, and they will still be here long after the last hedge-fund miscreant – or wolf in sheep's clothing – is out of the space.
Thousands upon thousands of new decentralized applications (dapps) are being released every day. From games, dynamic webpages, decentralized finance (DeFi) dashboards, and interfaces, there's no shortage of web3 projects out there.
There is, however, a serious lack of web3 front-end development talent. And that means there are plenty of high-paying jobs in the market for developers that know their way around frontends.
But if you've only been in the crypto world just for one hot minute, you might not yet be 100% sure about what it takes to do web3 frontend development.
The truth is, for all the highfaluting mumbo-jumbo the space is associated with, web3 frontends are literally the same as they are in "web2" or the current internet as we know it. The difference with web3 dapps and your garden variety websites is the backend – the single clearest distinction that separates web3 from web2.
But that's not what we're here to talk about.
Instead, we're going to a deep dive into the nitty-gritty details that further distinguish web3 frontend development from web2 and what YOU need to know to get started building web3 dapp frontends and gain the skills you need to make it in the business.
Web3 Frontends: What Are They Made Of?
One of the biggest knocks about web3 is that for all the talk of how "revolutionary" it is, dapp frontends leave a lot to be desired as far as UI is concerned.
And if web3 is to gain any sort of mainstream adoption in the coming years, it has to get out of its echo chambers and accept the fact that its developers need to direct their efforts into creating better dapp frontends.
The fact that frontend development isn't all that drastically different between web2 and web3 is a good thing.
In essence, web3 application frontends are the same as what they mean in their original context: frontends constitute all the bits and bobs that a user can interact with on a website, game, dapp, or application. This includes text, fonts, colors, styles, tables, buttons, graphs, menus, animations, and widgets – literally everything that can be seen on the client side.
User interface and user experience (UI/UX) are key components of every frontend – including that of web3 dapps. Let's take a closer look at the elements of UI and UX design, considering professionals with experience in these fields are in great demand.
User Interface (UI)
In summary, UI refers to the space where all interactions between the webpage, dapp, or application and user happen.
The ultimate goal of a UI is to enable synergies that contribute to an intuitive, flawless, and easy-to-navigate user experience (UX).
However, creating good UI that leads to seamless UX is easier said than done. It's a good thing tools exist to make the process easier.
Anyway, the first thing we need to know about UI is their three fundamental elements as follows:
- Interactive Design. Interactive design is providing interactivity based on the unique intricacies – and limitations – of human cognition. This means UIs should be designed to be attractive enough to convert passive consumers into active, engaged participants. The latter can be achieved by providing users an opportunity to do so by inputting information in said environments.
- Information Architecture. In essence, information architecture refers to the structural design of information environments. Information environments refer to websites, applications, online services, communities, and the software that enables them. UI requires information architecture – and organizing information in a structured, logical fashion – to make it easy for users to navigate, use, and interact with a webpage, application, or dapp.
- Visual Design. Visual design refers to a UI's aesthetics and visual elements – its images, colors, fonts, among other elements – and how they are strategically implemented. Websites, applications, or dapp frontends should also be optimized for viewing on a variety of platforms and devices, which is part and parcel of effective visual design.
Now that we've gotten a better understanding of what UI is all about in the context of frontend development, let's look at the other component that might definitely be right up your alley when hunting for a frontend job in web3: user experience (UX).
User Experience (UX)
While UI focuses mainly on the environment wherein users interact, UX represents the entire customer experience. UX design mainly involves the formulation of client personas, customer research, and testing design.
However, it's important to remember that UX and UI are closely intertwined disciplines, which sometimes blur the lines that distinguish them from each other.
UX concerns itself mainly with the overall customer experience when using a product, while UI is mainly concerned with the overall look and function of a product.
Now that we've got the basics of frontends more or less down pat, let's move on towards the meat of the matter: mainly, what frontend development is all about.
What is Frontend Development?
Information environment frontends – from application frontends, web pages, dapp frontends, to everything in between – are composed of literally all the visual elements users can see, as well as interactive elements like buttons and input fields. Frontend development, in essence, concerns itself with the implementation of these parts.
Frontend developers are therefore tasked with the architecture, design, and implementation of all visible elements for users. Another key goal that frontend developers are tasked with is to create responsive, high-performance user interfaces that users can efficiently interact with and easily navigate around.
Therefore, frontend developers typically work closely with UX designers because of their synergies with an app, program, or site's UI.
Responsive design is part and parcel of a frontend developer's tasks. This means they need to make sure that a website, application, or dapp is responsive and that it appears and behaves as it should across all devices.
Now, let's get into the details of what skills are necessary for a frontend developer.
Web3 Frontend Development 101: Skills Needed
Let's take a look at each of them.
Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)
HTML is the backbone of the internet as we know it. Frontend developers use it to organize and arrange the contents of websites. HTML is the same code responsible for visual elements such as headings, titles, buttons, and input fields, among others.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
Programmers use CSS to design and jazz up web pages and web applications. CSS makes it easier for web devs to spice up web pages through the use of various colors, animations, layouts, and other aesthetic elements we associate with them.
On the other hand, libraries serve as collections of plugins and extensions used to add pre-built elements to a web page. There is a multitude of libraries out there right now, but for web3, two libraries stand out: Web3.js and Ethers.js. More on these later.
Geeting Into Web3
You will be glad to know that front-end skills will help you immensely if you decide to become a full-stack web3 developer.
For example, in our courses, we strongly advise getting a solid knowledge of JS before starting to learn Rust (which is the language of one of the most popular blockchains - Solana).
Web3 Frontend Development 101: The Fundamental Web3 Stack
In devspeak, a "stack" simply refers to the technologies a developer uses.
For instance, Ruby on Rails (Ruby, PHP, and MySQL) and LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) are examples of web dev stacks.
In Web3, the situation is very similar. Libraries, decentralized applications, smart contracts, crypto wallets, and nodes serve as the backbone of the modern-day web3 developer stack.
Let's take a closer look at each element that makes up the core web3 frontend development stack.
Web3 libraries and dapps
Web3.js has been around since 2015 and is maintained by a community of developers and custodians linked to the Ethereum Foundation itself. The library offers excellent API references and has been used extensively by a number of successful projects. Web3.js is often the first library many newbies into the web3 frontend development space use to build their first dapps.
On the other hand, Ethers.js is another library that has seen widespread use in web3. It's small, compact, simple, and intuitive, making it another popular choice among web3 frontend developers and projects worldwide.
Smart contracts are used to store the business logic of dapps. They are essentially excerpts of code that are deployed on the blockchain and cannot be changed. Smart contracts serve as the backend of a decentralized application. Contrast this to regular applications, whose backend consists of a server-side component.
Solidity and Rust are among the most widely-used programming languages used to write smart contract code. Most web3 developers use Remix IDE, a powerful toolkit for writing, compiling, and deploying Ethereum and Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) compatible smart contracts.
A crypto wallet basically serves as a person's identification credentials besides storing its owner's cryptocurrencies. Each time an individual wishes to perform a write operation, he or she must first verify the transaction and pay the corresponding network fees to do so, which is done through the wallet.
Lastly, nodes are hosts that run copies of the blockchain network on which the smart contracts are deployed. Nodes are needed to obtain blockchain data. Without nodes, web3 developers cannot interact with smart contracts through web3 libraries – they serve as the gatekeeper to the blockchain.
The vision of web3 – not the hype – is what keeps people building in the space. Who wouldn't want a more open, democratic, and composable internet built on decentralized and permissionless networks?
The fact that anybody can participate – and therefore build dapps – without needing anyone else's permission is incredibly liberating. At the same time, anybody can develop new frontends for existing dapps and smart contracts without going through the torturous process of getting the appropriate permission to do so. Any and every interaction is published and verified on-chain for the entire network to see.