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6 best front-end programming languages

Aug 08, 2022 - 10 min read
Tate Dorman
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According to the Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2022, the most common software developer roles are web developers. Full-stack being number one, followed closely by specialized back-end and front-end developers.

Front-end development focuses on client-side applications, back-end on server-side functionality, and full-stack combines both.

There is an increasing demand for web developers in almost every industry. There is a website for almost everything; from businesses and organizations, to personal and professional purposes, people need web developers.

Today, we’re going to dive into the world of front-end web development and outline the 6 best front-end programming languages. We’ll start by explaining the difference between front-end and back-end development and then jump into the languages themselves.

Front-end programming languages are relatively new technologies, and there is a lot of variability in functionality and interactivity in websites. Some web pages may just require text integration and formatting, while others may require the integration of many different modules in order to achieve results. Each language in this article occupies a different niche in the web development world, and we’ll explain where they all fit.

We’ll cover:


Get started with front-end development.

Try one of our 300+ courses and learning paths: Become a Front End Developer.

What is front-end development?

At its simplest, front-end development focuses on all client-facing features of a website or web application. This may include designing and implementing:

  • The user interface
  • Visual aspects of the page and formatting
  • Debugging of any errors users might encounter

Front-end vs back-end is a common topic in software development discussions. In contrast to front-end, back-end development focuses on the server-side aspects of a website or web application. Back-end developers are responsible for website architecture, scripting and communication with databases.

The marriage of these web-development domains, called full-stack development, is how we are able to publish and maintain websites and web applications. There are tons of companies that offer solutions, often subscription based, to streamline this process. Customer-oriented services like Squarespace simplify the front-end process by providing pre-built templates as well as the back-end process by offering hosting and maintenance services. Business oriented services, Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft Azure, provide cloud computing and web-server hosting services for larger-scale applications and websites.

Since front-end developers build everything a user touches on a webpage, they are the bridge between designers and back-end developers. Front-end developers are typically technically skilled as well as creative and design-minded. Let’s unpack some of the best tools in a front-end developer’s arsenal.

When discussing the languages we’ll include a brief introduction to the language as well as its main highlights and features.


6 best front-end programming languages

HyperText Markup Language, or commonly known as HTML, is a markup language that is used to create web pages. HTML creates the content of the webpage and is used to change fonts and text size as well as add links and images. These HTML elements, individual components of HTML documents, represent the semantics of the page and serve as the building blocks of web pages.

The body content of every webpage on the internet is structured, in part, with HTML.

Think of creating a document in a text editor. It is intuitive to write as well as distinguish between titles, headers, and body paragraphs. To get these elements into a website however, is a more deliberate process. Code needs to be told explicitly what to do and how to do it. Structuring and writing website content is what HTML does.

HTML is one of the earliest front-end programming languages. HTML elements make up the vast majority of internet content and serve as the foundation for the entire World Wide Web.

Better known as CSS, Cascading Style Sheets, is a style sheet language that modifies documents written in a markup language.

Style sheets are template files that are designed to give a consistent look and layout to web pages.

CSS helps to give form and structure to the content created through HTML. It is primarily used to make web pages more dynamic and presentable, and it remains a crucial part of responsive web design.

If HTML is the foundation and bricks of the Internet, CSS is the blueprints and floor plan.

3. JavaScript (JS)

JavaScript is a popular primarily object-oriented programming (OOP) language that is often used for web development, but it has many other applications:

  • Game development
  • Mobile app development
  • Web servers and server applications, to name a few

In this article however, we will focus on JavaScript’s ability to add functionality to web pages. If we continue the construction analogy of HTML being the foundation and CSS being the blueprints, JavaScript is the plumbing and electricity. JavaScript allows the webpage to change based on the input from the user. This added functionality lets us take a static web page and build a dynamic web application.

JavaScript can add functionality to web pages through the document object model (DOM). The DOM is an API that groups HTML elements as objects that can be manipulated in many different ways.

Here are just a few examples of functions provided by the DOM:

  • Add, delete, or modify HTML elements
  • Modify specific attributes of HTML elements
  • Add or modify the CSS instructions associated with HTML elements

Javascript is used as a client-side programming language on 98% of all websites.[1]

Before jumping into the next two front-end languages, React and Angular, we’ll take a look at the differences between libraries and frameworks in JavaScript. Both are groupings of pre-written code, but they differ in structure and implementation.

Libraries are collections of building blocks that can be added to JavaScript code as needed. Frameworks are more of a template that code gets plugged into. Put succinctly, frameworks have more structure and less flexibility than libraries.

Both capable front-end JavaScript tools, React is a library and Angular is a framework.

React is a JavaScript library built by Facebook with UI development and interactive web-applications in mind. This library has pre-built functions that help streamline the front-end development process. React features novel JavaScript syntax called JSX or JavaScript Syntax Extension. JSX combines markup and JavaScript logic in one place. Essentially, HTML/XML code is converted into JavaScript before being compiled. This allows us to create “elements” in JavaScript that can be manipulated with the DOM. Consequently, we can employ the power of JavaScript with the relative ease of HTML.

React is fairly small when compared to larger frameworks, as a result, external modules may be required to add certain functionality. However, React’s light weight increases simplicity and makes it fairly easy to learn. That said, it is strongly recommended that you start with JavaScript before jumping into React. If you are well versed in JavaScript, React will come easily.

5. Angular

Angular is a front-end JavaScript framework based in TypeScript. It was developed by Google to efficiently create Single Page Applications (SPAs). Single page applications are web apps that convey information and facilitate user interaction without having to load additional pages. More acutely, SPAs can change the user interface in response to a user input without opening a new, separate page. This method of web application interactivity is lightweight and sleek since all of a page’s content can be preloaded.

Angular is named after the </> brackets that bookend HTML tags.

Here is a process flow of how Angular loads and delivers web pages:

6. jQuery

Another JavaScript library, jQuery, is extremely lightweight and centered around the premise of adding more functionality with less code.

jQuery is the most popular JavaScript library and is used in 77% of all websites.[2]

JavaScript developers often learn jQuery early on in their web development careers because jQuery is a valuable tool for writing short-hand JS front-end code, and other JS libraries have jQuery dependencies.

Asynchronous JavaScript and XML or AJAX is a type of server communication model similar to the one that we already discussed with Angular. Like Angular, AJAX allows web pages to pull data from a server without loading a new page or refreshing the current one. AJAX is a popular web model and a great way to build fast, efficient web applications, but it is particularly at home in conjunction with jQuery.

jQuery has several notable advantages when it comes to AJAX implementation:

  • jQuery AJAX methods: Certain features in the jQuery library provide straightforward AJAX requests that would normally take more time and effort to perform
  • Browser cross-compatibility: Different browsers have different syntax requirements for AJAX requests, but these can be standardized with jQuery acting as a single interface for all browsers.

Honorable mentions

This is by no means a comprehensive list on all the front-end programming languages that are worth learning. There are plenty more useful technologies out there that we haven’t covered. We’ll briefly list some other front-end technologies for you to continue exploring.

Vue

Vue is an open-source front-end framework for JavaScript. Vue takes inspiration from other front-end languages like Angular and React. Vue enables HTML extensions through directives and adds functionality to web pages.

Swift is a front-end language built by Apple specifically for developing apps for iOS and other Apple operating systems. Swift is known for being fairly easy to use, but niche in its impact since it is only applicable to Apple devices.

Python is not a dedicated front-end language but it can be easily expanded with frameworks like Django and Flask. Python is able to combine its beginner-friendly nature and popularity with clear front-end development tools that enable sophisticated functionality.

Get started with front-end development today.

Try one of our 300+ courses and learning paths: Become a Front End Developer.

Wrap up and next steps

Hopefully this list gives you an idea of where to start for front-end development. The core basics of front-end development are centered around the harmony between HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, but these essentials are constantly being iterated on and expanding in unique and versatile ways.

If you decide that front-end development is indeed for you, we recommend you check out our comprehensive guide to front end development: Become a Front End Developer. This course is designed for complete beginners, so there are no prerequisites. It starts with a primer on the basic premise of the internet and how it works, and then moves on to the basics of writing and structuring web pages. By the end you’ll have your very own interactive website, ready to go live on the Internet!

Happy learning!


WRITTEN BYTate Dorman

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