Portrait of a front-end developer

Charles-Louis AllizardTo kick off the new year, we thought it would be interesting to talk to an independent front-end developer to see how the open web ecosystem looks to someone working directly with HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript and related technologies.

We met Charles-Louis Allizard in Paris at the DotJs conference in December 2012. He was kind enough to sit down with us for a brief chat:

Just for a little background, can you tell us about yourself and then describe your career path so far?

Sure... I live in Paris with my girlfriend and enjoy long-board skate, rock music, drum and bass and I’m also an avid vinyl collector. I’ve been a web designer and front-end developer for about 1 1/2 years, almost by accident.

I started out studying to be a chef, but along the way I got interested in making spreadsheet and database tools for the hospitality industry, real estate and financial management. I had a techie flatmate and he helped me learn PHP and WAMP and I started to learn web design, too. One thing lead to another, and in 2011, I landed my first website client.

What do you love most about front-end developing?

Freedom is the key factor. I can create whatever I want, the only limit being my skills – and I am free to choose my clients and partners.

Every new project, whether for a client or for myself, is an opportunity to learn and to experience new and different ways of thinking. The development process itself is extremely rewarding, analyzing problems and solving them to have a positive impact on your client’s business.

How do you see the choice about whether to develop mobile apps with HTML5, native or hybrid technologies?

It’s not really necessary to take a definitive stand. HTML5 apps can be absolutely great and, in some cases, are clearly a better solution than a native app. But not always. HTML5 certainly offers web developers like me the possibility to leverage their existing skills, making it less expensive to build a cross-platform app. And, with responsive design you can use the same app on tablets and desktops too.

The other huge plus is that all updates are pushed to end-users without going through an app store and without requiring the user to do anything at all! Finally, since HTML5 mobile apps are searchable on the open web, you can improve your SEO.

Looking at the choice realistically, there’s still a lot to be done before web apps can be as powerful as native apps are today, especially if you want to use functionalities such as camera or need to build a resource intensive game or app. Having said that, the W3C has established the Device APIs Working Group to enable the development of web apps that can interact with device cameras, vibrators, ringers, calendars, contacts and more. It’s just a matter of time!

What do you think of the idea of an HTML5 marketplace such as AppsFuel?

It looks like a game changer. AppsFuel and the Firefox marketplace are set to take the lead in a paradigm shift. The open nature of these spaces, and the web itself, mean that uses can discover apps via web search, in the marketplace directories or via social recommendation. The HTML5 marketplaces will serve to power monetization, social network-powered discovery and the growth of strong developer communities around this new distribution model that plays nice with the open web.

Have you had a chance to examine AppsFuel’s new carrier payment APIs?

I haven’t used the API yet, but from what I can see it seems quite simple to implement. I like the fact that we can build freemium apps and can monetize our apps directly through the mobile operator. That’s a great solution!

Do you do any specific development for mobile devices, such as apps?

No, I’m not developing specifically for mobile and tablets yet, but I build only responsive, or at least adaptive, websites. Mobile accessibility has become a must. I advise my clients to adopt a mobile-first approach, whether in terms of design or with respect to the content strategy.

Do you have any apps that you’d like to show off?

As I said, I haven’t yet developed a specific mobile app, but here is a mobile-friendly responsive restaurant website that uses Roots WordPress Theme, HTML5 Boilerplate and Twitter Bootstrap. Parisian restaurants typically want a full-flash website with background music, but I showed them that a simple, yet elegant and mobile-friendly, website with features such as click-to-call, easy booking, maps and quick contact details is a better strategy. Check it out: http://restaurant-lecaroubier.com/

What do you see as your biggest challenges?

I would say that learning new technologies is probably the biggest challenge. The pace at which new technology and the end-user environment is evolving requires constant learning and continuing education. But time spent reading, learning and testing new stuff has to be balanced with production! I would estimate that 30-40% of my time is dedicated to continuing education.

What are your favorite development tools?

Well, WordPress is my preferred CMS, so my daily coding routine is mainly in HTML, PHP and CSS. I’m also a big fan of Jquery.

What drives you crazy?

That’s easy … cross-browser compatibility! And loading time optimization can also be really frustrating!

Got any final comments?

I owe so much to the generous spirit that I found in the community of developers. I want to shout out a huge “thank you” to each person that shares their knowledge and skills.

Thanks to AppsFuel for stepping up to challenge the mobile ecosystems, offering such a great opportunity to developers. I also wanted to personally thank Emanuele Bolognesi and the dev team for their great workshop at Paris DotJs conference where I first met AppsFuel. And thanks to DotJs as well of course, it was awesome!

Contacts for Charles-Louis:
@CharleLoui
github.com/kartonnade
fr.linkedin.com/in/charleslouisallizard/

And we’d like to thank you, Charles-Louis, for the time you took to share your thoughts with us and our readers.

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