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Blog: Must Backend Applicants Supply Frontends?

Over at https://www.quora.com/As-an-entry-level-backend-developer-when-building-a-project-i-e-API-should-they-have-a-frontend-in-order-to-land-a-job-considering-you-don-t-have-frontend-skills/answer/Dave-Aronson someone asked me,

As an entry level backend developer, when building a project (i.e API) should they have a frontend in order to land a job considering you don’t have frontend skills?

Or, to clean up the question a bit, my version:

When an entry-level backend dev is creating an API project, so as to land a job, do they need to supply a front-end as well?  This seems beyond what should be asked of a back-ender.

My answer:


As a backend dev, whether entry level or higher, it can be very difficult to demonstrate such skills on their own.  Someone who wants to see what you’ve done will have to stare at the code.  Not only won’t that be as helpful as having something anybody can easily look at (and better yet, use), but also, as you are an entry level dev (assuming you don’t mean you’re EL only at backend but quite experienced at other forms), your code is probably not as readable as they might like, and that might count against you.

So, it may not be absolutely necessary, but you would benefit greatly from it having some form of usable front-end.  That does not mean learning the JS Framework of the Week, visual design skills, accessibility, and so on, as are often expected of front-end devs.  Even a backend dev should have enough understanding of the basics of HTML, HTTP, the web request cycle, and JS, to be able to create a very basic front-end that will submit a query or command to an API endpoint and do something visible with the result.  It doesn’t have to be flashy, modern, and pretty, though it’s better if it’s not downright ugly.  (So you might want to learn basic CSS as well.)  The purpose is to give them some way to interact with your API (much more simply than using Postman or something similar), so they can see whether the calculations are correct, the processing is reasonably quick, and so on.

That said, some of them may want to stare at the code, and see exactly how you’ve designed the API itself (ideally also from documentation), to assess their quality, so be prepared for that too.