I’ve been making websites since 1999 when I was a fresh-faced 8th grader. The new millennium looked bright—in no small part due to the sense of unbound possibility instilled in me by the still nascent World Wide Web. It captivated me, and I built monuments to its beauty. Needless to say, the Web and I changed in the ensuing years. I was attentive to the changes in web design and development during the Web Standards Movement. After that I lost the plot. Or perhaps the industry lost the plot.
When it’s one guy versus an entire industry, it’s easy to reason to that the one guy is just a hack. After all, how could so many people be wrong? Imposter syndrome is a devious foe, but so is groupthink. For now I think it’s the industry that’s gone astray.
Losing the plot
When I took my web design and development skills pro in 2008, my guides were the articles on A List Apart, and Andy Budd’s seminal book, CSS Mastery. To me, the ideas and methods proclaimed by these sources, were not just one way of building websites. They were the way, superior to the bad practices we previously wallowed in, and a rediscovery of the Web's original design paradigm. We found the plot. And I assumed that the bad practices would soon be relegated to antiquity. They weren’t.
Theoretically a frontend framework could sit atop a sensible foundation, by employing the methods of progressive enhancement, but such an application is rare. Frontend frameworks make HTML templating so easy, that they imply—or developers infer—that backend HTML would be redundant. To this degree, the ethos of the tool is responsible for the way it is used.
In addition to my engineering criticisms of frontend-only sites, there’s a moral argument, and it has to do with accessibility. Part of the dream of the Web is universality—instant information access for everyone. When we don’t choose progressive enhancement, we shut the door on real people, and mock the spirit of the Web.
Finding the plot
As I’ve given them the cold shoulder, have frontend frameworks served me a dish of ice-cold revenge? If “the best revenge is massive success” I think the answer eludes us presently. Clearly there’s massive interest, if stars on Github mean anything, but is there success? The number of sites actually using a frontend framework remain low, and the space continues to evolve rapidly. Time will tell.