Should we change Web development?

Should we change Web development?

I have been a front-end developer for quite a long time, and the reason I chose to deal with interfaces instead of other flavours of coding like back-end or data is that I like when the results of my work are very visual.

I have been a front-end developer for quite a long time, and the reason I chose to deal with interfaces instead of other flavours of coding like back-end or data is that I like when the results of my work are very visual.

Having pursued a design degree taught me how people think visually when they want to convey a message, even when those people are not professionals of design.

These people and the early-time professionals dealing with designing for the web discovered they had to deal with a technology not built for what they often used to do with printed graphic design, a hypertext technology called HTML, basically designed to be mainly text — static — like in books but with links.

Since very early on, the web supported images as well as some basic formatting for the text and the page’s background. So people had to be extra creative when working against poor connections and very limiting standards when designing a visual experience on the web. Connections improved a lot, as it is attested by all people watching video online in 4K, but the limiting standards, as they surely improved, may not have improved just as much.

In the beginning, there were tables

Back to the very beginning of “pop-culture internet”, some people came up with a neat workaround for layout: using the HTML built-in tables (obviously, built to display value tables) to establish a hacky “grid” that could be used for layout, with large caveats all around. This approach is, disgracefully, still used in e-mails today, as important e-mail clients intentionally do not support modern layout technologies, supposedly for security reasons or to intentionally keep e-mails as plain as possible.

Stacking up the divs

After Internet Explorer 5 a new era of layouts started, which changed everything but also introduced new issues to the developer. CSS was there with a new “tableless” layout model based on floats and clears, that didn’t solve all layout issues but at least could be used instead of the dreaded tables. 

HTML independence

A bit later, HTML was cemented as a media for content only, with new standards that ended on HTML5. In real-world development, though, developers would not care about this separation as nobody actually wanted “themes”, but they started to care mostly because of search engines, that meaning Google.

Flex, grids, and CSS redemption

Back to CSS, the situation of hacky, limited power to layouts came to improve (again, just a bit) when the “flexible model” was introduced on the third iteration of CSS standards. With this model we could now control flexible layouts in a much more complete way, killing the need for some of the hacks used. It is/was still not everything that someone needs for making layouts, though, not to mention the API for it is downright confusing, so even experienced people just learned what it can do and did it with some trial-and-error or through cheat sheets, which tells me that something is wrong there.

There’s something rotten

wrote an article some months ago that went deep on how the separation between CSS and HTML (presentation vs. content) was put in jeopardy by frameworks like Bootstrap and Tailwind. By that time, as now, I pointed out that it makes no sense to stick to the separation of concerns as it is something designed for a Web that we never got to see.

programming web-development html javascript css

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