Principles for user-centred front-end development

As a front-end developer, it’s sometimes difficult to place yourself in a company or even in a project. Principles can help frame what we do and give us a focus.

What does a front-end developer do?

I loved the framing of front-end from ‘Why you should hire a frontend developer’

“Ultimately the job of a frontend developer is to make people’s lives better, or at least not make it worse.”
Charlie Owen

The web we choose to build needs to reflect this, how do we not create barriers for people who want to use our websites or services?

Defining front-end principles

I reflected on this with another DWP…

One of the things I love most about Newcastle is the great community of meet-ups.

As well as frontend NE there is Sunderland Digital, NUX Newcastle, JavaScript NE, Ladies of Code and PHP NE to name but a few. (You can find more at

We’ve started talking about recently is how to encourage more local speakers to talk at events.

In the last 8 months, we’ve only had few submissions from local speakers, that isn’t to say we haven’t had events with local speakers. …

When I started talking to Gavin, who ran both DIBI and Industry Conf, he said that “running a conference will be one of the most challenging things you ever do”, he wasn’t wrong.

Niels Leenheer — on stage at FrontendNE flying a drove via JavaScript photo credit Ashley Baxter

It seemed a natural progression from running a regular meet-up but I maybe underestimated the amount of work there was to do.

You can check out a few more details on the conference at and our regular meet-up at

For the conference as a rough guide we had these areas:

  • find a venue
  • find speakers
  • find sponsors
  • run diversity fund
  • run call for speakers
  • promote…

If you missed it I did some thoughts from Meetup #1.

for this meet-up the focus was navigation.

The day was split into two parts — in the morning Craig did a deep dive into the agent service for Bereavement payment service. He talked about how they had designed the end-to-end processes with agents.

The afternoon was setup to allow us to talk about what navigation is, and how it is applied in services.

We come up with the following definition for what is navigation:

The thing which enables a journey

We had a lot of chat about this, we…

If you’ve ever worked on an agile team you’ve talked at length about story sizing.

If you’ve never been involved it is the process of development teams giving a size to user stories, this can help (or hinder) various other parts of the team.

The good parts

I have to admit, I hate planning poker on teams — but there are some benefits that make it worthwhile

  • promoting discussion of the story
  • understanding of factors outside of your role that need to be considered
  • can help create a suitable workload
  • helps understand the balance of work on the team
  • we can split large…

When we talk about design systems, a lot of time is spent talking about what a thing is, creating a shared understanding to what things are is just as important as what the names themselves.

These things are thought about as getting progressively bigger in size.

The smallest thing i.e an input

One of the parts of my job I enjoy most is getting to spend time with the wider team and sharing what we are doing.

Thursday, Craig and Simon hosted a patterns meet-up in Leeds. This work has stopped and started a few times now for various reasons, so it was great to see design starting to move this on.

The day started with an introduction to where we have been and where we are going, it was great to see what this wasn’t about. …

I had an odd feeling looking at my weeknotes notes, they where blank this is probably reflective of an over busy week!


The Monday before a sprint ends is always an odd one, I seem to spend a long time closing JIRA tasks and making sure everything is ready for the next sprint.

I spent a little time getting my head around the next two weeks worth of work, a new version of voluntary National Insurance contributions for agents. This seems like it is going to fill a lot of time in my next couple of weeks.


One of the…

My s01e04 where not a typical week most weeks what I do is generally a lot more focused around development work (as you will see very shortly), but I am excited that I now have a streak of two.


I pushed an update to govuk-elements-nunjucks, it is kinda odd having that there, as it serves a couple of my projects but could be maybe beneficial by someone else running it, but give to give it some updates.

This now has the new radio and checkbox styles so should make upgrading a couple of the UIs on services a little easier.

My forth weeknotes — my first was back in April , this is some bad scheduling. I decided to change the format and do a daily post leading to a weekly post, hopefully this will be less disjointed.

I had some accessibility work on Friday I couldn’t finish so I went head first into this. It is always a bit sensory overload working with screen readers — but that is one of the best ways to get context about an issue. (apart from working with users).

I’d also started looking at a couple of GraphQL tutorials, it is interesting…

Colin Oakley

front-end developer in Government into html, css, node.js and a11y. Co-orginizer of Frontend North East.

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