Frank Chimero:

That breaks my heart, because so much of my start on the web came from being able to see and easily make sense of any site I’d visit. I had view source, but each year that goes by, it becomes less and less helpful as a way to investigate other people’s work. Markup balloons in size and becomes illegible because computers are generating it without an eye for context. Styles become overly verbose and redundant to the point of confusion. Functionality gets obfuscated behind compressed JavaScript.

I want to make a few points about this piece overall.

  1. First, HTML tables and spacer gifs are not simpler than Flexbox and CSS Grid. More importantly, tables are not mobile friendly. They should never ever be used in modern web development.
  2. If someone’s building with “overly verbose” stylesheets that override each other as they cascade, they’re doing it wrong. If it’s difficult to understand what’s going on in a DOM because there are too many nested DOM nodes, they’re doing it wrong. If you want an example of a modern web app that avoids these pitfalls, look no further than my distance tracking web app for athletes.
  3. This complaint that, “Functionality gets obfuscated behind compressed JavaScript” is a real kicker. In a 2002 web era, what would be different here? Is Frank wishing that the JavaScript simply didn’t exist, and by extension, the functionality? Or is he wishing that it existed on the backend, where you couldn’t view it whatsoever? Or is he wishing that it remained as JavaScript, albeit not obfuscated (thereby murdering load performance)? If the litmus test for whether an app is great or not is by how easy it is to decipher the source code, then all iOS apps are by extension the devil incarnate.
  4. Just because somebody publishes a 90-page ebook doesn’t mean that font faces are as complicated as all that. It just means that they’re trying to sell an $8 ebook and realize it’d be a harder sell if it were only 15 pages. Granted, anything to do with web technology can get complex if you choose for it to. If you’re working for Facebook, maybe you need a 90-page ebook to decide exactly how you want to serve up your fonts. But for the little web design projects that it sounds like Frank is doing, he doesn’t need it.
  5. A web page in 2018 can be as simple as it was in the early 2000s if you choose for it to be. The only thing that’s changed is that in the intervening years we’ve built tools that let you make things more complex if you need for them to be. The early 2000s quite frankly didn’t have the sophisticated web apps that we have today, and arguably they could not because the tools did not exist. It does not take a mandatorily greater amount of work to achieve the same things on the web today than it did 15 years ago. Rather, there is a greater depth of complexity awaiting you if you need it. In other words, we didn’t go from A to B. We went from A to A and optionally B if you need it. That’s progress, not regress. Frank writes of his past days back when the web was ostensibly great, “Perhaps I was fascinated by the potential of bashing together something in my room, hitting a button, then having it be ‘out there.‘” I still do that all the time, in 2018, and it’s still great. Again.

(Via Nick Heer, who is still struggling to remember the syntax of Flexbox, which tells me he’s not writing much Flexbox.)