Find out why certifications targeted at backend developers shouldn’t be overlooked by frontend developers
One of the most exciting elements of a career in website design and development is the constant change. Client expectations, software updates, new practices and audience trends are constantly evolving. These dynamic expectations make constant learning a way of life for any ambitious frontend developer.
Working in the Sitecore community brings with it additional challenges, expectations and rules. There’s a multitude of opportunities to create modular designs that empower clients and Sitecore features like personalisation for clients to take advantage of.
Whether you’re a frontend or backend developer, having a holistic understanding of the platform can only help teams create better considered solutions. Achieving Sitecore certification is a great way to foster learning and demonstrate platform expertise.
Why did I decide to get certified?
The certification for ‘Platform Associate Developer’ is not targeted to better frontend skills or even related to Sitecore best practices for in terms of frontend development. It’s aimed at backend developers.
There’s often a blurry line between whether to develop something with a backend or frontend technology focus. The way we interact with the browser on a project by project basis often requires more immediacy as technology advances.
As Sitecore no longer runs the certification that is specific for frontend developers, I thought I would tackle the backend focused developer exam to equip myself with the knowledge to make better development judgements and to feed my curiosity.
I work with Sitecore exclusively and I want to get a good understanding of what happens behind the scenes, rather than just leaving it the backend developers. So, I decided to jump in the deep end and take the certification exam. This year I was lucky enough to attend the SUGCON Europe Conference in London (thanks Kagool). And since they were administering exams at the conference, I took the opportunity to get involved.
Getting my hands dirty at SUGCON
The prerequisites and target audience for the certification exam are those who have experience building ASP.NET MVC web applications and an understanding of C# and LINQ. As you may be aware, this is not something that frontend developers really have to get their hands dirty with, but I was willing to learn if it would improve my knowledge of Sitecore.
However, I wasn’t going into this blind, I do have some understanding of C# and MVC from a previous role. I have a tendency to want to gain as much knowledge about the tool I’m using and be able to get the best from a platform, as I’d previously gained certification as an Umbraco Professional, I was keen to step it up for as a Sitecore certified developer.
Could you be a Sitecore certified developer?
Of course. If you’re a front-ender that’s driven to learn and are keen to step up how you approach your code – then it’s a great help. The key areas you should consider for the exam are:
• Creating and Editing Items
• Development Environment
• Fields and Field Types
• Module Packages
• Sitecore Documentation and Support
It might seem tempting to only focus on the big ones that you don’t already know much about, but I’d advise against that approach. The exam requires a minimum score of 80% to pass, and things that might seem obvious and easy such as Fields, Field types and Templates make up as little as 32% of the marking criteria. So, it’s worth casting a wider net.
Bonus tips for passing the exam
1. Take the eLearning course provided by Sitecore when signing up for the certification. This briefly covers all of the listed areas mentioned and get you used to some of the Sitecore terminology used in the exam.
2. Read up on Helix. There were a few questions on Sitecore’s Helix design pattern, this is really something that you should be aware of when working with Sitecore. Sitecore MVP Martin Davies has written some great articles that are worth a read:
Other great information sources:
• Sitecore Developer Network – dev.sitecore.com
• Sitecore Documentation Site – doc.sitecore.com
• Sitecore Knowledge Base – kb.sitecore.net
• Master Sitecore YouTube channel – youtube.com/mastersitecore
• Helix Documentation Site – helix.sitecore.net
What does the exam entail?
As everyone taking the exam was in the presence of Sitecore staff we did not need to be monitored on video, which is normally required when taking the eLearning exam. The exam had a time restriction of 90 mins and was strictly closed book, it consisted of 50 multiple choice questions and getting over 80% correct is considered a pass.
The exam platform has a handy feature which allows the user to mark any question as ‘Review later’, I did this on a few of the questions I was unsure about and went back through them at the end.
I finished in roughly 45 mins and the results are immediately presented on the screen, which is good. I’m pleased to say that I passed and that gaining the status of ‘Sitecore certified Developer’ does give me a sense affirmation in my Sitecore abilities. The result certainly put me in good spirits to enjoy the rest of SUGCON.
Do frontend developers need to take the exam to work on Sitecore projects?
You don’t need to become Sitecore certified and not that many see the benefit, but if you’re anything like me and feel having an understanding of how the projects are handled by backend gives you a leg up to make better decisions, then it’s worth considering.
If you’re fairly new to Sitecore and are looking for some hints on frontend development in Sitecore, check out Sitecore MVP Matthew Neil’s post – Sitecore tips every frontend developer needs.
Or if you’re a frontend developer looking to join a dedicated Sitecore agency with more Sitecore MVPs than any other UK agency, get yourself to our careers page.