All frontend developers need to have the fundamental skills to design websites, apps, and user interfaces. Also, developers must work with their backend development team to integrate the UI components with databases and APIs. So, do frontend developers need to know algorithms?
Front end developers need to know algorithms if they work with large data structures and complex problems. Also, knowing algorithms and data structures can improve front end developers’ critical thinking, problem-solving, and coding skills, plus career progression.
Traditionally, front-end developers didn’t need to know algorithms, as that was predominantly the purview of the back-end teams working on the server-side of things. However, the increasing emphasis on client side development is blurring some front and back-end distinctions. Read on.
Why Do Front End Developers Need To Know Algorithms?
Front end developers need to know algorithms to improve their chances of getting hired, programming skills, and career progression, including the possibility of graduating to full-stack technology. However, elementary front end development doesn’t need algorithms.
The job posts for front-end developers in most tech companies typically don't explicitly mention algorithms and data structures as minimum qualifications or even preferred skills. Here's an example of what a company may ask for:
- Minimum qualifications: Bachelor's degree in Computer Science or a similar/equivalent field.
Note: Keep in mind that job requirements may vary across different companies, so it's always a good idea to carefully review the specific qualifications mentioned in the job posting you're interested in.
Other job posts may be more descriptive and demanding. However, you’re usually required to be innovative when it comes to the following:
- User interface elements
- Web & application designs
- Front end frameworks
Most front end developers are savvy in:
A company may ask for other proficiencies, such as:
- Specific tools or programming languages
Thus, you may believe that front end developers don’t need to know algorithms. However, the realities are not exactly confined to the job description or profile on paper.
Understanding Algorithms and Data Structures Will Come in Handy
Generally, most front-end developers use elementary algorithms while coding or programming, such as simple loops and basic logic. However, a majority of programmers consider algorithms to be particularly complex, not always necessary for front-end developments.
Still, a front-end developer needs to know complex algorithms while working with enormous data structures. Also, algorithms are essential if you are working on web development tools instead of only interfaces. Besides, user experiences on large websites or apps depend on algorithms.
Consider the data structure for a webpage. If you have an array of only 10 or so elements, the find feature may not need much complex programming. However, if you have multiple arrays in a larger data structure, cumulatively 100s or 1000s, you’ll need to rely on algorithms.
Also, some tasks within the ambit of front-end development require algorithms. An example is the filter function on a website or Big O notation for a vast database. Algorithms become more significant if the filter and sort functions are not only about data but also events and controllers.
Thus, the typical libraries, buffers, queues, and treemaps or hierarchies may not be efficiently managed without appropriate algorithms.
In other words, front-end developers don’t necessarily need to use algorithms for basic designs for the web, application aesthetics, and user interface elements. However, some website and app development tools, data processing, and interactive user experiences require algorithms.
Knowledge in Algorithms Can Help a Front End Developer’s Career
Most companies don't stipulate a prerequisite or criterion that front end developers must know algorithms to be considered for a job.
However, many interviewers and hiring managers tend to test potential recruits' critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
A common way for recruiters to test the interviewees' skills is by asking them to solve a problem that requires some knowledge of algorithms.
For example, you may be asked to write an algorithm to calculate Fibonacci numbers. Or, a recruiter may ask you to work on a recursive hierarchical filter and sort for a tree comprising a few thousand elements.
Naturally, the interviewees capable of solving these problems within a reasonable time will secure the available front end developer jobs.
Apart from the chances of getting hired, front end developers with knowledge of algorithms and practical skills will have more employment opportunities. Also, the scope of career progression becomes much broader, including a potential transition to back end and full-stack development.
Web development is giving more and more importance to the client-side. Like all professionals, front end developers don’t need to specialize in everything. However, some knowledge of algorithms and practical experience can be valuable skills.