Reorganizing the Front-End Development Team

Nathan Schmidt, UI Developer

Article Categories: #News & Culture, #Front-end Engineering, #Recruiting

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I started at Viget as a front-end developer and now we have a Platform Development team and UI Development team.

I started at Viget on the Front-End Development team, a few months before we reorganized to the Platform Development team and UI Development team. I moved to the UI Development team because I am passionate about the UI side of development and I love the opportunity to be challenged and grow in my skills as a developer. 

What is the difference between the Platform Development team and UI Development team and and why did we reorganize?

Team History

When Viget started in 1999, websites were pretty simple and the design team could design websites as well as develop them. As Viget got into the late 2000’s sites increasingly became complex and designers needed to know more about advanced CSS and JavaScript. Some designers enjoyed front-end development, others preferred to stay with design.

In 2008 we hired our first dedicated front-end developers. While we were self-sufficient, we still reported to the design directors and were a part of the design team. After hiring more dedicated front-end developers, we established our team standards in 2012. One year later the front-end development team (or FED as it was called internally) was established as a fully independent team. We no longer reported to the design directors but had our own managing director.

8 coworkers lined up, smiling
2012 | Front-end Development team

As the team grew most projects had two front-end developers on it and they naturally split up the work into platform and UI development. As the years went by it became clear that some front-end developers had a growing interest in platform development and building custom plugins, components, and backend infrastructures. 

The other front-end developers enjoyed making the designs come to life through user interaction, custom UI patterns, and animations. The natural progression of the team was going towards platform and UI. At the start of 2022, the front-end development team reorganized into two teams - the Platform Development team and the UI Development team.

Projects & Roles

Projects at Viget are defined into two categories, content/marketing sites and digital products. Digital products are typically built using Rails, Django, Phoenix, and or React. These can be enterprise level tools and software which can be consumer-facing or internal-facing applications/websites. Content or marketing websites are most of the time built using a content management system (CMS) such as Craft or WordPress. These sites could be ecommerce, organizational, or large marketing websites.

Team Roles

Platform developers work on content/marketing websites. They are responsible for building out the fields, entry types, custom plugins, and hooking into API data. These sites could be selling products with complex data structures or an informational site with thousands of pages and media assets. 

UI developers build out the visual side of a marketing site or a digital product. This would be setting up templates, UI components, global UI styles, and implementing accessibility standards. UI developers work on both marketing websites and digital products.

Project Work

Platform developers primarily work on building out all sizes of CMS and UI developers work on the UI side of a CMS or digital product. 

Some examples of projects that the Platform Development team has worked on are MW Industries, NFLPA, and Hamilton. These projects typically have third-party integrations with the CMS and have intricate data structures which makes these projects both challenging and enjoyable.

Logos from MW Industries, the NFL-PA, and Hamilton

UI Development projects have quite a range because they can be a single page such as ESPN’s history of Lebron, a content/marketing site for National Park Foundation or a digital product like Stern Pinball’s Insider Connected platform. These UI projects incorporate detailed design systems templates and custom interactivity. These projects can be complex but are exciting and satisfying to build. 

Logos from clients ESPN, National Park Foundation, and Stern Pinball

Skills

We covered the roles of each of the teams and how they participate in a project, but what are the skills that a Platform or a UI developer needs at Viget? Both teams have the skills to be considered full stack developers as all of us have experience with both backend and front end programming languages. But our advanced knowledge and personal interests place us in the Platform or UI team.

Platform developers need to understand the fundamental and advanced workings of at least one CMS platform (e.g., Craft, WordPress). They need to be able to implement data models that can scale and grow with the project, write modern PHP and JavaScript to build functionality, and design high performance databases.

UI developers need to be able to implement designs on a wide range of devices with consistency. They need to be well versed in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Building out reusable development templates as well as knowing the interworking of digital accessibility to creating websites that work for everyone. 

Markup
## Platform Development Skills

  - CMS platform (e.g., Craft, WordPress)
  - Database design 
  - PHP
  - JS (React, Vue)
  - HTML
  - Git
Markup
## UI Development Skills

  - Reusable system templates
  - Digital accessibility
  - HTML
  - CSS 
  - JS (React, Vue)
  - Git

There are a lot of skills that cross over between teams, which allows members to adapt and help each other out on projects. While there is crossover in skills, Platform developers are the experts on CMSs and have more knowledge of backend languages. UI developers are the experts on front-end templating languages that can be integrated with any backend system. Specific skills needed for a position within the Platform or UI team go to our careers page.

As we learn and grow personally, we grow the knowledge of the team as a whole.

Team Culture

At Viget, one of our values is to learn and grow and that is reflected in how both teams collaborate and support each other. We value expanding our skills as well as broadening our personal and professional experiences. We have individual UI and Platform team meetings once a week as well as joint team meetings to share knowledge and connect as teams together. As we learn and grow personally, we grow the knowledge of the team as a whole. We have time each week dedicated to supporting each other when challenges arise. 

There are also opportunities for personal development such as going to conferences or learning a new coding language. While the role of each team changed and has become more defined, the overall culture and collaboration of both teams are the same.


A lot has changed since the start of Viget in 1999, from being part of the design team to now being two specialized teams. Platform and UI Development have different roles on projects and different skills, but both have a shared culture of learning, growing, and collaboration. I am coming up on my one-year anniversary at Viget. Over the last year, I have learned so much from the shared knowledge of the team, and love the amazing clients we get to work with. We are always looking for new team members and have an amazing apprenticeship and internships program. Check out the positions we are currently hiring!

Nathan Schmidt

Nathan is an UI Developer in Colorado. He loves applying creative thinking to web development and bringing interactive components to life.

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