What is the Future of Front End Web Development?

I was asked to do a little session on this the other day. I'd say I'm underqualified to answer the question, as is any single person. If you really needed hard answers to this question, you'd probably look to aggregate data of survey results from lots of developers.

I am a little qualified though. Aside from running this site which requires me to think about front end development every day and exposes me to lots of conversations about front end development, I am an active developer myself. I work on CodePen, which is quite a hive of front end developers. I also talk about it every week on ShopTalk Show with a wide variety of guests, and I get to travel all around going to conferences largely focused on front end development.

So let me take a stab at it.


The Issue with Preprocessing CSS Custom Properties

CSS has Custom Properties now. We've written about them a bunch lately. Browser support is good, but of course, old non-evergreen browsers like Internet Explorer don't have them and never will. I can see the appeal of authoring with "future CSS", and letting a preprocessor backport it to CSS that is compatible with older browsers. Babel for CSS! Why not?!

It makes me nervous though - because it's only some use cases of Custom Properties that you can preprocess. There are plenty of situations where what you are doing with a Custom Property just isn't possible to preprocesses. So if you do, you're putting yourself in a pretty weird situation.


Why I don’t use CSS preprocessors

Roger Johansson:

I don’t feel the “problems” CSS preprocessors intend to solve are serious enough to warrant the cost, i.e. to me the solution is worse than the problem.

The volume of the chorus in favor of preprocessing (I sing tenor) is so loud, I suspect it's drowning out a decent size group of people who prefer not to use them.

In a surprise twist ending though, Roger does say he likes some forms of CSS processing, but does it directly on the source CSS itself.