Skip to main content

Thinking Like a Designer While Coding: The Future of the Front-End Web

· 4 min read
Steven Schkolne

Front-end web development has come a long way since the early days of HTML and CSS. We have components, design systems, and all kinds of goodies built into the browser. Despite these advances, the divide between front-end engineering and design seems to be growing with every passing year. Developers and designers find themselves on opposing sides, striving to collaborate effectively but constrained by the institutionalized separation of their roles.

Fortunately the tides are turning. New tech is bridging the gap, and the lives of front-end developers will never be the same.

The Rift Between Design and Development

In the early days of the web, there was no distinction between web design and development. A single individual (often wielding the glorious title “webmaster”) handled both coding and design, along with everything else (right down to the server in the closet). There was no Figma. Hell, there was barely a Photoshop. Folks just sat down and made it, design and code, all at the same time.

As the complexity of web applications increased, so did the specialization of roles. A division between design and development appeared, and then deepened. Companies began to separate these roles into distinct teams, leading to communication challenges, misunderstandings, and an overall lack of synergy.

The False Choice

As someone who has worn both the design and engineering hats, the industry's separation of design and engineering has never made sense to me. When you look at the actual skills and passions of individuals within these roles, you realize that the boundaries aren't as clear-cut as they seem. Many front-end engineers have a deep understanding of design principles, just as many designers have a solid grasp of HTML, CSS, and even some JavaScript.

This separation only exists on the high-end. Builders like Webflow and WordPress enable individuals to handle both design and development for simple sites. But once we step up to complex web apps—you know, the kind of stuff you program—we find something is missing: a way of working that harmonizes visual design thinking with coding.

Fortunately for the community, the new era of components, design systems, and AI has opened up the possibility for such a tool.

Unified Design and Development

Imagine a world where front-end engineers work with visual editing tools that seamlessly update their code in real time. At MightyMeld, we're working on exactly that vision. The transformation of the development experience is peculiar: your coding workflow is not replaced, but rather elevated. All the JSX, styles, and other layout considerations are handled automatically. The rest of the code (the non-visual part), is yours to focus on and structure however you like.

Design tools like Figma, Sketch, and Adobe XD allow fast visual iteration for a reason: it’s a vital component of the “design thinking” process in which effective solutions are discovered through iteration. Working in web code, individuals who are fast at design in Figma currently get bogged down, even if they are amazing programmers. It doesn’t have to be that way.

We’re looking to break down barriers so that we can contribute to our apps based on who we are as individuals, not limited by the design/dev divide. With MightyMeld, devs on the front-end can own more UX, quickly dialing in those fine details as they feel out their builds. And for teams without a design-focused dev, technical designers can take over UI implementation by working on the live build.

Embracing Overlap for a Brighter Future

As new technology gives devs the ability to visualize their apps and update them with clean code, the roles of front-end engineers are poised for transformation. The adoption of visual coding tools for high-end web-apps will not only streamline the development process but also elevate web UX for everyone.

Front-end engineers will find their jobs becoming more enjoyable, efficient, and creative. The frustrations of the constant back-and-forth with designers will give way to collaborative synergy, where teams can focus on what truly matters: creating outstanding digital experiences. As devs generate better UI with less work, apps will reach heights never before dreamed possible.

Bridging the gap between design and development is not just a theoretical aspiration but an emerging reality. The new tools are here. It's an exciting time to be a front-end developer ready to embrace this transformative change.