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Responsible JavaScript

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We just made a note about this article by Jeremy Wagner in our newsletter but it’s so good that I think it’s worth linking to again as Jeremy writes about how our obsession with JavaScript can lead to accessibility and performance issues:

What we tend to forget is that the environment websites and web apps occupy is one and the same. Both are subject to the same environmental pressures that the large gradient of networks and devices impose. Those constraints don’t suddenly vanish when we decide to call what we build “apps”, nor do our users’ phones gain magical new powers when we do so.

It’s our responsibility to evaluate who uses what we make, and accept that the conditions under which they access the internet can be different than what we’ve assumed. We need to know the purpose we’re trying to serve, and only then can we build something that admirably serves that purpose—even if it isn’t exciting to build.

That last part is especially interesting because it's in the same vein as what Chris wrote just the other day about embracing simplicity in our work. But it’s also interesting because I've overheard a lot of engineers at work asking how we might use CSS-in-JS tools like Emotion or Styled Components, both of which are totally neat in and of themselves. But my worry is about jumping to a cool tool before we understand the problem that we want to tackle first.

Jumping on a bandwagon because a Twitter celebrity told us to do so, or because Netflix uses tool X, Y or Z is not a proper response to complex problems. And this connects to what Jeremy says here:

This is not to say that inaccessible patterns occur only when frameworks are used, but rather that a sole preference for JavaScript will eventually surface gaps in our understanding of HTML and CSS. These knowledge gaps will often result in mistakes we may not even be aware of. Frameworks can be useful tools that increase our productivity, but continuing education in core web technologies is essential to creating usable experiences, no matter what tools we choose to use.

Just – yikes. This makes me very excited for the upcoming articles in the series.

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