Artificial intelligence is now pretty much everywhere, nearly flawlessly executing not only basic tasks but also meddling in creative types of jobs that were initially a human’s prerogative, such as painting, writing, composing music, etc. Software and web development is considered to be one of these jobs. So, the question is - will AI replace front-end developers? Or any other developers, for that matter?
With the fact that front-end developers are engineers too, the involvement of AI can pose numerous problems as well as solutions. Will artificial intelligence completely eliminate the need for certain specialists? With front-end development services being one of our fortes, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to dive deeper into this subject.
Speaking of the latest trend in front-end development, come check out the rest of our blog for tons of valuable insights or just learning something new about design and development that will help you in your job or business. Now, without further ado, let’s go back to the article.
What do front-end developers do?
According to numerous descriptions of front-end developers around the web, we all know that front-end professionals are web developers that focus on transferring design and data onto the web solution’s graphical interface.
When visiting a website or a web application, everything you see and can interact with straight away is the work of a front-end developer - all the design, content, interactive elements, etc. In contrast, back-end developers deal with the backstage portion involving performance, storage, and security.
All these tools help front-end developers determine where to place certain elements on the user interface, map out the navigation, and plan other aspects of the website or application’s layout to present it in the best light possible.
Basically, the main tasks and responsibilities of front-end developers involve the following:
- Creating website maps and page templates according to the user research and UX/UI design;
- Building and maintaining websites and web applications using programming languages for markup, styling, and scripting;
- Regulating the web solution’s performance regarding the server, database, bandwidth, browser, etc.
- Creating test routines that will show what’s not working and implementing improvements;
- Writing supporting code and documentation;
- Designing and editing web page content, plus developing style guidelines;
- Regularly perform website updates;
- And many more.
Can web development be automated?
Web development has been changing and evolving way before the introduction of artificial intelligence. What was initially a creation of static and quite boring websites at the beginning of the 21st century has turned into a development of beautiful dynamic pages we can observe today.
Even though websites have become more complex and rich, the user experience remains the number one priority, which is why web development automation should first eliminate part of what makes the development process complex and therefore add to user experience overall.
Overall, many aspects, especially routine ones, are already being automated. Just think of all those website-building tools. They simplify website development to the point where you only need to choose a few templates to create a functional web solution.
The repetitive aspects of creating custom user interfaces are where automation comes in handy. They can now be done with minimum effort, increasing productivity and granting more time for human interaction and other important activities.
There are few who doubt that AI will change the work of web developers. Let’s see what it can do.
What AI can do for front-end development
What is AI, though? In short, it’s when a computer can perform or behave as a human in the closest way possible. Machine learning and deep learning fall into the artificial intelligence category - both are its subsets, along with natural language processing, robotics, neural networks, etc.
So, what exactly can artificial intelligence do for front-end development? Well, first and foremost, AI can write code. AI-generated code is already a reality - one of the first instances of this was code made with the help of Recurrent Neural Networks back in 2015 by a Stanford Computer Science student. RNN is currently one of the essential aspects of deep learning.
Now, many more tools have been created that help developers write code. One is called DeepCoder and is the work of Microsoft and Cambridge University researchers. The other one, named Diffblue, uses AI to generate unit tests.
Tools like these can write code because they have been granted access to massive code databases. They then can find code fragments perfect for any specific situation. With unit testing, the program mimics the usual developer’s behavior and, therefore, perfectly automates it.
Where artificial intelligence falls short
To find out where artificial intelligence falls short, let’s see how it works in the first place. Most of the work of AI is based on “feeding” it important data and then it using that data to make thought-out decisions.
In the case of web development, that data is code previously written by other developers. There needs to be an input from where artificial intelligence can learn. However, you can’t supply AI with all the intricacies of human behavior and communication.
Like most jobs today, web and software development requires skills and qualities that are innately unique only to human beings. People will still be needed to fine-tune all the work done by artificial intelligence.
Even though machines can learn, they will never be able to understand what they have learned in the first place. Ultimately, AI mainly falls short in its need for human supervision and the fact that it cannot replace the lion’s share of customer service. But it can help.
How AI is changing the work of developers
Artificial intelligence is already heavily assisting with website and web application design. For example, relatively recently, Microsoft has provided the web development industry with a tool called sketch2code. It basically uses AI to transform sketches drawn by hand into functioning HTML prototypes.
Front-end developers and designers can simply draw their vision of a future user interface, and the tool will automatically convert that idea into a working prototype. Having been trained to detect various HTML elements using computer vision, the program is now able to also apply text recognition to catch handwritten pieces of text.
Without this tool, developers usually spend hours upon hours combining those texts and objects into HTML snippets. So, one of the main ways how AI is currently changing the work of frontend and web developers is by reducing the workload manifold.
Another excellent example of AI-powered web development automation is the help with the process of program testing and bug fixing. The process itself is quite repetitive and involves finding patterns and irregularities. You know, that thing that AI does exceptionally well.
For example, the Microsoft research lab is on its way to creating a tool that will detect bugs if developers were to provide said tool with a brief description of the problem they’ve encountered.
And last but not least, user experience. We know that UX works best when taken care of by humans in front-end development. Yet, one of the elements that can always be bettered just by including AI’s power of automation is customer service.
Chatbots are a perfect example of user experience meeting frontend automation. They are always available, not dependent on human working hours, and over the years, they got pretty good not only at addressing basic customer inquiries but also solving more complex problems and even detecting human emotions and predicting behavior.
Will front-end development ever be fully automated?
No, we don’t believe it will. Too many internal factors and overall aspects of front-end development make it a particularly poor candidate for complete automation. Take static vs. interactive parts of creating user interfaces, for example.
AI is an excellent addition to the front-end because of the way it can alleviate tons of repetitive tasks. Tools we mentioned earlier can create HTML prototypes and use CSS to further develop static pages.
But where the development process requires a careful selection of tools and platforms to create visually pleasing and dynamic websites and applications with animations and other interactive elements, a human touch is still necessary.
Yet the fact remains that, just like with any other job, the addition of artificial intelligence to the everyday toolset will make front-end development evolve. The position may not even be called the same in the future, but that won’t mean that front-end specialists will become totally obsolete.
There will, at all times, be problems that only human beings can solve. And that’s the beauty of growth and progress. Many jobs that existed in the past, even before industrialization, have been automated, yet humans still persevere.
Our unique skillsets and perspectives, paired with one of the things computers cannot yet grasp - the human connection - are the reason we are still here, doing our jobs. In the end, it just paves the way for even more complex tasks.
AI as a tool for developers
As we’ve already established, AI has proven to be a handy tool for developers, set to enrich and amplify their everyday arsenal.
The demand for various types of websites, web solutions, and software has skyrocketed over the last decade, so AI’s help with repetitive front-end tasks seems to be a lifesaver.
With AI as one of the essential tools for developers, the role has already started shifting from technical to more customer-driven and focused more on the bigger picture.
Ultimately, to answer the question in the title - will AI replace front-end developers? Not really. Not in the foreseeable future. But it looks like it’s going to be one hell of a helping hand.