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The end of frontend

Posted October 2017 in #dev

The ultimate goal of frontend development, as a specialized field that sits between digital design and backend development, should be to disappear — to¬†innovate itself out of existence. And I think we’re getting close.

In time, more frontend tasks will be done by designers, though not in code. Prototypes are reaching a fidelity comparable to the finished product. It won’t be long until design tools learn to export complete components as actual code. Picture a tool between Sketch and Unity — an integrated design environment.

When design tools export trees of connected components, developers won’t have to infer intent from static mockups. We’ll no longer need the lossy translation step called a handover. What’s left is connecting endpoints to components, components to routes, and serving the resulting app to users.

While serving the content far from simple, it’s always the same: compile, optimize, minify, compress, distribute, localize, cache, serve. These are tasks to be solved once, by a generic proxy or an external service. But what about the rest of frontend — the wiring glue between routes, components, and endpoints?

These wires are just another layer of code, another step of the stack. It’s a layer as complex as any other, but not one that warrants its own field of development. Any technique unique to frontend should change to match the rest of the stack. Practices should apply across layers, and layers are better when built together.