Extend that thinking a little further, it's all-edge-all-the-time. All my static assets are at the edge. All my computing is at the edge. All my data storage is at the edge. The web will always need physical infrastructure, but as the world is more and more covered in that infrastructure, I'm hoping that the default way to develop for the web becomes edge-first.
We asked web builders that we admire the same question:
What is one thing you learned about building websites this year? Here's what they told us.
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Web developers arguably have the most difficult set of constraints to contend with. This is because we have to reconcile three distinct variables to create fast websites: the network, the device, and the browser.
We spend so much time in the bubble of bleeding-edge tech that we lose touch with how the web is really built. Most of the web favors old, stable tech instead of new bling.
I’ve learned to push through this tendency to seclude and embrace my teammates’ talent. Where I used to enjoy taking a heads-down day to research a problem, I now try to shareout in nearer-to-real-time my findings. The feedback loop is tighter.
I've been betting on change for, quite frankly, nearly 2 decades of my career in web technology. But I think my bet might be shifting to the predictability of inertia. We should assume that the default will be to stick to what you know already works rather than constantly looking for what might be emerging next.
Way back in the day, we used to obsessively choose between 2-, 4-, or 8-bit color depth on our GIFs, because when lots of users were using dialup modems to surf the web, every kilobyte counted. Now that a huge number of us access the web via broadband, guess what? Every kilobyte still counts.
I'm very optimistic about the future of web development right now. There are a lot of smart brains experimenting with these technologies, and there's a lot of education happening in the space right now.
Once I really understood the Same-Origin Policy and the whys behind the web's default security policies, a bunch of other web security pieces started to fall into place for me.
Expect that font pairing will become an even more important skill, and picking great fonts for your brand will carry even more weight in the near future.
I’m trying to think of a single instance where a complex, technical issue has arisen this year, where the end-solution didn't come about due to simplification, and I’m coming up blank. Sure, ideas almost always start off over-complicated, but I’m learning more and more that slowing down and refining ideas is the best approach.
2020 was the first year that this trend towards complexity begin to slow, if not reverse completely. Advances in the web platform now let you do more with less.
In 2020, I relearned things I had already forgotten and discovered new things about established elements and properties. There’s so much hidden knowledge to find if you only look for it.
We tend to judge things based on where we started, our personal “Year Zeros.” But what’s “Year Zero” for us isn’t “Year Zero” for others. And in the fullness of time, the good ideas win out and hindsight judges them retrospectively obvious.
I've been "learning" the same lesson for the last five years, yet I keep falling into the same trap time and time again. I always think that far more people are using the latest, coolest technology out there than there really are.
While I’m happy to see progress being made on some fronts, we need to understand that doing technical work to make websites accessible is only part of the picture. We need to realize that usable products can be created in exclusionary spaces. Only by including disabled people in the product creation process can we truly improve as an industry.
I’ve found that my way of building websites hasn’t changed all that much this year. And more importantly, it didn’t have to.
Since its early days, the web has been about sharing information and freedom of expression. Personal websites still deliver on that promise. Nowhere else do you have that much freedom to create and share your work and to tell your personal story.
There is no definitive list of skills to have. There is no mandatory technologies to look for. You don’t have to keep chasing the hype.
Finding high-quality, totally free stock imagery can be a huge hassle. But I’ve found, with some creativity and some patience, there are far more options than I knew!
I've also learned that thinking relatively requires a little perspective. And, no, this has nothing to do with CSS perspective (although I could probably try to make that connection). Thinking in relative terms means momentarily stepping out of your own shoes and seeing things from something else's vantage point.
I spent almost a decade teaching design and, let me tell you, the conditions for curiosity were all wrong this year.
Instead of reaching for all-singing all-dancing toolchain by default, I’m going to start with a boring baseline. If and when that becomes too painful or unwieldy, then I’ll throw in a task manager. But every time I add a dependency, I’ll be limiting the lifespan of the project.
Any time CSS art starts getting attention, there is always someone around to say "that's not practical" or "just use SVG" or something similarly dismissive and boring. It's a terrible argument, even if it was true — no one is required to be Practical At All Times. What a terrible world that would be.
Those of us that have learned to deal with Imposter Syndrome are at risk of slipping into (what I recognize in myself as) Relevance Syndrome—a mid-career complication of Imposter Syndrome. It is what happens when you spend years repeating the mantra, “I deserve to be here,” but have never truly accepted its premise.
It’s critical to me that logical properties are centered around people. Its user-centric because its language direction respective. By using logical properties we invite the individual to bring their diversity, complexity and unpredictability to the table; we can embrace it and rely on the browser engines to properly lay it out.
I learned about the power of web development for organizations and nonprofits outside of tech. I learned that you can leverage your skills to affect change and build long-lasting partnerships.