Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about ChatGPT, Bard, Bing or other similar AI tools. With the release of ChatGPT in late 2022, it took the whole world and internet by storm. There was a level of interest in this technology that hasn’t been seen in quite a while. Since its release, so many GPT inspired AI tools have been born from jumping on the ChatGPT bandwagon such as from interior design to image generation from text. All of these tools… powered by AI.
This naturally leads to a thought provoking question…
Is this the beginning of the AI revolution?
Reminiscent of the movie I, Robot where Will Smith battled against rogue AI robots?
While we might not be facing a robot apocalypse (certainly not now and hopefully never, ever in the future), the rise of what AI is capable of doing does raise some concerns for the future of frontend developers. It also brings some broader questions…
What will be the role of AI in the frontend development world? Is it even worth pursuing a career in frontend development anymore? Should we frontend developers jump ship before AI makes us extinct?
In this post, I’ll delve into these thoughts, concerns, questions and explore the potential impact of AI on the frontend development industry.
To the Future Frontend Developers
If you’re just getting started on your programming journey, or thinking about switching careers to become a frontend developer, don’t let the fear of AI dampen your enthusiasm. The benefits of a career in tech, and programming in general, far outweigh the potential risks of AI taking over developer roles. While technology and innovation is rapidly evolving, there will be new and exciting opportunities that arise. You will need to be flexible and adaptable to these technological advancements though, as things will change in the frontend developer world. Likely at a slow pace in the beginning.
Having the tech knowledge of how the frontend of an application should look like, what is good and bad code, website load speed, security, and everything else will be invaluable as AI coding grows in popularity. Some companies will reject AI, others will embrace it and those who do embrace it, they will not let AI work independently. Someone (hint: you as a frontend developer) will need to tell it what you want done and at some point review the code that it produces.
Further, AI will open doors to new roles and possibilities within the tech industry. Don’t be afraid of change or to pivot later on in your journey.
Can we Humans Trust AI?
While AI is advancing rapidly, it’s important to recognize that humans are not yet ready to fully trust AI systems. A prime example of this is with self-driving cars. Afterall, human lives are at risk and a certain level of comfort needs to be obtained to convince the general population that self-driving cars are safer than human drivers. In addition, there is no room for any mistakes, glitches, crashes or errors in the software.
But a lot of code does not have a life or death aspect to it like self-driving cars do. Industries with much lower risk potentials will be more willing to accept AI.
Even then, many companies and individuals will still remain skeptical and hesitant to fully embrace AI. These people and companies may fall behind their competition and could face financial trouble themselves in the distint future. However, the good news is that their reluctance for change means that there will continue to be a high need for frontend developers as long as these companies do not go under. In these cases, frontend developers who possess the expertise to create highly tailored user experiences and have a deep understanding of the underlying code, qualities that AI cannot fully replicate yet, will be in demand.
What About no Code Solutions?
When no-code, or low-code, tools first came out there was a worry that these tools might replace frontend and web developers. However, that never happened! There was a lot of talk/chatter about those technologies, but they never really took off or gained mass adoption.
Probably because these tools have limitations, particularly when it comes to high levels of customization and handling large, complex projects. That is where skilled frontend developers excel. Specifically crafting unique user experiences and having the knowledge to navigate intricate code structures. While AI (unlike no-code or low-code) can automate certain aspects of that, it cannot match the craftsmanship and attention to detail of a talented frontend developer.
But you might be thinking… won’t AI end up being in the same boat?
Well it could. Though I think AI is too good and powerful to ignore. There will definitely be some kind of impact on frontend developers. The question is how much and when will it occur? While no-code and low-code tools had a very minimal impact, this could now very well change once they become fully powered by the latest AI tools.
Will they distrupt the frontend and web developer industries?
I think not. At least not yet!
Then What Impact will AI have on FE devs?
So rather than fearing AI, frontend developers have the opportunity to harness its power and level up to become superpowered frontend developers. AI can be used to write code faster, create boilerplate projects, write tests, solve problems more efficiently, enhance learning, and provide valuable insights. As AI technologies continue to evolve, being proficient in prompt engineering (ie: extracting the right answers and guidance from AI tools) will be a very desirable skill for frontend developers.
But… there is a but!
AI does have the potential to impact frontend development teams. Companies that chose to be the leaders of the AI revolution, will require frontend developers to leverage AI in their work to become more efficient and accomplish more work in less time. I see 2 situations playing out from this. Some companies will increase the amount of work projects taken (or workload) due to the increase in worker productivity. In such a situation, I don’t see any changes to frontend development teams.
However, other companies will have bottlenecks in other aspects of their business and they will be unable to take on more work or increase the workload for their frontend development teams. Such companies will optimize (read save money) and reduce team sizes, because fewer developers would be needed to achieve the same results. Frontend teams could go from 5 to 3, or 3 to 2 developers because of the use of AI. In these situations, frontend developers should be worried.
Current limitations of AI
While AI tools like ChatGPT are pretty incredible, they do come with their own set of challenges. Frontend developers will find that sometimes these tools have difficulty following instructions accurately, forget previous context, lead you down the wrong path, or will provide you with less than ideal code (ie: unused variables and import statements). Users of AI tools need to understand the context and limitations of AI-generated code and this is why it is important to still have human oversight and refinement. There isn’t enough trust in AI-generated code yet for non-programmers to create production ready frontend code because to their lack of knowledge. This highlights the importance of having skilled frontend developers to ensure code quality and to provide the necessary human interjunction, prompts and expertise when needed.
It’s also worth noting that some companies may simply resist using external AI tools completely due to concerns about data confidentiality, security, or simply they will prefer to develop their own in house AI tool solution. Any resistance to adapt AI will mean good news for frontend developers as long as these companies do not go out of business from competitors who do embrace AI.
I believe that future frontend developers should continue to pursue their passion for programming and web development. The demand for skilled developers will persist, although with evolving roles and responsibilities. While AI has the potential to fully disrupt the dynamics of frontend developers and also development teams, it won’t make frontend developers obsolete any time soon. However, by staying ahead of the curve, adopting prompt engineering skills, and leveraging AI as a tool, frontend developers can enhance their productivity and efficiency. Making them more attractive employees.
However, it might be wise to not place all your eggs in one basket (ie: frontend development) as a career for the rest of your life. As the future is unpredictable with the advances in AI, especially since it has become readily available to the general population. Equally hard is to predict the exact level AI will obtain and how integrated it will be in our day to day lives. If AI is able to write its own prompts, debug and fix mistakes to complete a task/assignment, this will be a total gamechanger and very worrisome for many careers, including frontend developers. Currently AI is not at that stage yet. However, you could be cautious and make some backup plans (like me with learning how to day trade stocks), or build some secondary skills that are less likely to be replaced by AI, as a just in case.
Remember, AI (at this point in time) is not coming after your frontend developer job. It’s offering you an opportunity to amplify your skills, become more adaptable, and to embrace the possibilities that AI brings by using it as a tool for frontend development. The world is becoming increasingly tech-oriented, and your programming skills will remain invaluable. So keep learning, keep innovating, and keep thriving as a frontend developer that embraces AI technology.
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