What To Look For in a JavaScript Developer?

JavaScript is a huge ecosystem, with so many libraries and frameworks out there, what should you look for in a JavaScript engineer?
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JavaScript is one of the most popular programming languages out there. Almost every web page, web app, or game on the internet is either made fully on JavaScript or relies on JavaScript to a certain degree. 

JavaScript is considered a multipurpose high-level language that’s very easy to learn, but rather hard to master. You can open any tutorial on the web and write your first program in a matter of minutes, but it’s going to take a lot of practice to figure out some of its most popular libraries and how they interact with one another. 

Since the JavaScript ecosystem is so broad and popular, it’s completely normal to feel at a loss when you are looking for a developer. What skillset is the best fit for your project? Do all JavaScript engineers share the same knowledge base? What’s a red flag and what’s a good indicator that they are a right fit for you?.

Understand your project

The first step in choosing the right person for the job is to understand the nature of your project. If you are looking for a JavaScript developer, odds are that your project has something to do with the web.

If that’s the case, consider the profile and the list of responsibilities for the JavaScript engineer you want to hire. If they are going to be dealing with the aesthetics of the project, the user interface (UI), or the user experience (UX), then you are probably looking for a frontend developer.

Every web project has an “underlying” program that we can think of as “the brain” of the project. Let’s say for example that you want to create a blog platform. While the frontend deals with how the blog looks, the backend deals with how the information is stored on the server and how it is prepared to be shown to the end-user. 

If you want someone to handle this aspect of the project then you should be on the lookout for a backend developer.

Finally, some projects have a narrow scope and can be managed by a single engineer. In those cases, a developer who can design and run both the frontend and the backend is known as a full-stack engineer. 

What to look for in a frontend engineer?

Aside from having a good grasp of JavaScript, a frontend developer should also have ample knowledge and experience with HTML and CSS. The first is a markup language that organizes the information that is going to be shown by the web browser, while CSS handles the style (fonts and colors for example) of the webpage.

At this point, it’s almost a must that every JavaScript frontend developer worth their salt should know their way around jQuery. This is a library that simplifies many tasks common to frontend development, such as creating animations or handling events. It’s by far the most widely used JavaScript library, with over 73% of web pages using it to one degree or another. 

If your project is going to use a specific library, then your developer should be familiarized with the library’s API. For example, React and PIXII are both very popular libraries written in JavaScript that are used to create interactive web pages. 

On the other hand, for single-page web applications, a frontend developer should have a good understanding of 2 of the more popular frameworks on the market: Vue.js, and Angular.js. Both are excellent choices to create smooth user experiences that give a very professional look to any webpage. 

One thing to keep in mind is that anyone who knows JavaScript can learn how to use these libraries and frameworks, but some of the tricks that bring the best out of what they can achieve can only be learned with experience and a lot of research. In other words, don’t just settle for someone who knows JavaScript.  

What to look for in a backend developer?

Similarly, backend developers should also be familiarized with the technology that’s going to be implemented in your project. For example, if you are working with a relational database, then they should have a pretty good understanding of MySQL, MariaDB, or whatever database technology is going to be implemented.

A few years ago, backend developers could make do without knowing JavaScript, but with the rapid growth and adoption of Node.js, that’s no longer the case. Node.js is a runtime environment that lets you run JavaScript code outside a web browser – in other words, it can be used to write and run backend programs. 

While not necessary, having your frontend and your backend working with the same language can speed up development and facilitate communication between your frontend and backend team.

What makes Node.js stand out among competitors like Ruby on Rails is that it’s incredibly light, fast, and scalable- It also works beautifully for apps where most of the processing is done by the client. 

On the other hand, Node.js can be pretty limited in cases where there is a lot of heavy CPU usage involved. If that’s the case, then you might want to have an additional framework working side by side with Node.js. In fact, the developer should know whatever framework will be used. 

Skills every JavaScript developer should have

Some libraries and tools are important for both the frontend and the backend of your application. For example, Ajax is a fantastic set of techniques that allows the seamless transmission of data between a client and a server, and it’s something that every JavaScript developer should understand.

On a more general level:

  • JavaScript developers should also have a very clear understanding of the VCM (View controller model) design pattern since it’s the logic by which most of the web works.
  • Every JavaScript developer should know how to work with graph and tree data structures, the differences between them, and the pros and cons of using one over the other.
  • Like every other developer out there, a good JavaScript engineer has to be comfortable with version controls and Git technology, especially in a world that’s relying more on remote work teams. 
  • A good JavaScript developer also has great communication skills. That’s because they’ll be in constant touch with clients, managers, and team members, and they need to be able to gather feedback and understand what areas of their work need improvement.

As you can see, JavaScript is a big world, big enough that no single developer can learn everything there is to know about the ecosystem. So, instead of picking the candidate with a 10-page resumé, look for the developers with the right skill set to turn your project into a reality.

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