At many agencies the front-end developer role entails translating a design into HTML, and nothing more. At Acquity Group front-end developers do recreate Photoshop designs, pixel-for-pixel, into HTML templates, however it is also a much more collaborative role than a typical front-end developer would have. Acquity Group front-end developers act as a bridge between design/user experience and back end developers to ensure that the HTML templates they create are both pixel-perfect matches of the design, and are structured in a way that works well for back-end integration into a content management system. It may sound like common sense, but this level of involvement is surprisingly rare at many agencies. The typical approach silos each of these groups and uses an “over the fence” mentality where wireframes are created and passed on to designers who make designs which get passed on to front-end developers who make HTML templates which get passed on to back-end developers who integrate the templates into the content management system. In a perfect world that’s a great setup, however in reality there are many problems with it.
When this collaboration doesn’t take place design is compromised and integration issues occur which require rework, and as a result the project requires additional time and money. A designer may not understand specific browser quirks, and a front-end developer may not understand specific content management system quirks, and in order for the project to be a success each solution group pools their knowledgebase with the others to point out potential issues, quirks that need to be accounted for, and prevent them before they occur. In fact, this is a much more simplified explanation of the process as there are many solution groups that influence these aspects of development which is a great factor in the success of Acquity Group projects.
At Acquity Group it is common to involve front-end development very early in a project; often when it is still in the wireframe stage, long before any coding actually takes place. This allows them to identify potential issues, and touch base with the back end team to create templates that work well the first time minimizing the need for rework. Minor changes in the execution can make a drastic difference in how well a project goes. For example, if a content management system has a specific framework for widgets like carousels or slideshows out of the box, front-end developers can talk with the designer about the capabilities of those widgets. This allows the designer to produce a design that lends itself to the existing framework reducing risk and scope issues in the process, and making something that is easier to integrate which saves time and money. This collaborative approach is a vast improvement over the assembly line approach, which shows in the quality and success of the resulting projects.