Bronto Hosts The Iron Yard

Last week, I was privileged to speak to the students of The Iron Yard Academy about my experience in front-end development. Bronto has a long-standing partnership with the expanding code school in the American Underground campus, and each time we host student tours of our space or sit in the audience for their Demo Day event, it’s exciting to see their drive and innovative spirit firsthand.

The demand for the intensive program that The Iron Yard offers is easy to understand. With the explosion of new trends in the world of programming, along with a job market that favors job seekers with in-demand skills, it’s important to have a curriculum and project work that reflect the current environment.

Things have changed dramatically since I started back in the dot-com years, especially with front-end development. I talked about learning JavaScript during a time when it was considered quite the opposite of the popular language it is today. The resources and tooling were sparse, and it was challenging to build interactive features. Still, since JavaScript is a standardized language, many of the core interfaces, such as MouseEvent, have retained the same basic support over the years. Below is an image drag and drop sample pulled from the archives of dynamicdrive.com. With just a few minor updates, I was able to run it in this pen. You can also check out the original version from way back in ’99.

codepen-animated

The biggest difference with front-end development today is choice. Sure, you can still develop powerful features with bare-metal JavaScript, HTML and CSS, but there are so many great solutions out there to aid your workflow. It’s hard to resist including them in your circle despite the tradeoffs in managing the additional overhead.

At Bronto, we use a lot of Backbone and jQuery. Both are sufficient for implementing sophisticated features, but we also leverage other technologies in our front-end stack:

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 8.18.54 AM

The real fun began after my presentation. The students had such a broad range of interesting questions regarding business strategy, company philosophy, architectural concerns and future trends. I was blown away by their intelligence and enthusiasm, and I’m even more excited to see their ideas at the next Demo Day!

Exploring JS Charting: Part 1

Choosing the right charting library for your front-end stack is relatively small potatoes compared to evaluating MV* frameworks. (Have you looked at TodoMVC lately?) But that doesn’t mean you should grab the first thing that looks cool and skip over questions that should apply to any third-party integration. Before diving in, it’s good to ask yourself:

  1. Does it come with enough features to solve or at least get us close to solving our long-term needs?
  2. Are the examples easy to follow and rework our own purposes?
  3. Does the API have a similar feel to other libraries currently in use, and therefore could it leverage the team’s existing skills?
  4. What about customization? How easy is it to extend components and override styles without breaking compatibility on future upgrades?

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