Master frontend tooling

Staying ahead of the frontend development curve is difficult, and it's easy to quickly feel out-of-date or left behind. 

But fear not, help is at hand. Daniel Flynn and Rob Tarr, developers at top consultancy Sparkbox, will host an in-depth workshop on frontend tooling at Generate New York on 27 April. 

You will learn how to make the leap into compilers of all kinds, get up and running with source control (tl;dr: use it!), discover development process tools, and explore the great ways to extend the build process in your current work. To top it all off, they'll mix in all the other tasty essentials you’ll want to know about: owning the terminal, automating deployment, and much more!

Ahead of their workshop, we caught up with Daniel and Rob. 

Daniel and Rob, you will also host a workshop on frontend tooling at Generate New York. What are your three favourite tools right now and why?
Daniel Flynn: 
Webpack has revolutionised the way I approach a frontend project and the build artefacts we are delivering to customers. ESLint gives my projects a clear coding style that allows other developers to roll on, create PR’s and add quick value without labouring over syntax differences. Finally, STExplorer is an amazing tool that helps you understand how JS is parsed. It also helps you build transformers for Babel, plugins for Webpack, and codemods with a 'Chrome-like dev-tools experience'.

Rob Tarr: Webpack allows me to bundle up all of my assets and handle dependency management in a really clean manner. Babel gives me the ability to use the latest features, but target older environments through transpilation. This makes me a happy developer. And Jscodeshift makes refactoring large codebases easy and fun.

How do you stay up-to-date with the latest tools, technologies, processes, and so on?
DF: A lot of what I discover comes from a few newsletters I get (Panda Weekly, Echo JS), attempting to keep an eye on my Twitter feed, and also through my co-workers. I am blessed to be in a work culture that encourages experimentation, discovery and teaching so my co-workers teach me a lot about different tools I never would have thought to try out!  

My recommendation for learning tools quickly comes down to finding a simple, small application that you can break without any fear of repercussions. Personally, I have an app I called 'String to Emoji' where I try out new frameworks, tools and performance strategies. 

RT: Similar to Daniel, a big part of how I stay up to date is through my co-workers. They are a wealth of information. I also get Peter Cooper’s JavaScript Weekly newsletter. I have a couple of small sites (my personal one, an app my family uses, etc.) that I tend to rebuild when I want to learn a new piece of technology. 

Sparkbox has taught the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio how to build websites for several years—now they want you to be able to do the same

Sparkbox has taught the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio how to build websites for several years—now they want you to be able to do the same

What are you currently working on?
RT: At Sparkbox, we have some really cool projects going. Here are a few:  

  • We have spent the last year working with Gap to help them build out a multi-brand design system that’s integrated with their development pipeline. We had a blast sharing about the first iteration at the Design Systems Meetup in San Francisco last month.
  • We are working on a large-scale web application design and development project with an organization in the bay area that helps organizations understand how to do business with other cultures.
  • We are helping design and build a website for a local nonprofit that delivers meals, cleans homes, and provides transportation for women with breast cancer.
  • Our team has developed curriculum to teach Girl Scouts how to build websites! We just released the first version of that site at
  • We have two full-time apprentices in the office right now. They are learning hard and spending a lot of time pairing with our team.
  • We are refactoring a lot of our workshops this year, including the Build Right: Frontend Tooling workshop that we will be offering at Generate this year. We’re also working on Build Right: Modern JS, Build Right: Modern CSS and an updated Build Right: Collaboration.

For a little taster of the Sparkbox workshop check out the complete web design toolkit (part 1 and part 2) that Sparkbox's Adam Simpson and Neil Renicker wrote for net magazine a few years ago. The new workshop will cover all the latest developments and make sure you're completely up to date with your frontend skills. 

Eliminate development pain and friction now and buy a ticket to the workshop. There are also workshops on usability testing, information architecture and running design and content sprints. If you buy a combined workshop and conference pass, you will save $125! But hurry, there are very limited places for the workshops now. 

Can't make it to the NYC conference? There's also one in San Francisco on 9 June. Tickets are on sale now!

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Oliver Lindberg

Oliver is an independent editor, content consultant and founder of Pixel Pioneers. Formerly the editor of net magazine, he has been involved with the web design and development industry for more than a decade and helps businesses across the world create content that connects with their customers. He is passionate about content, user experience, accessibility and designing for social good.