“The Modern Web”

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A couple of interesting articles making the rounds:

I like Tom’s assertion that React (which he’s using as a stand-in for JavaScript frameworks in general) has an ideal usage:

There is a sweet spot of React: in moderately interactive interfaces. Complex forms that require immediate feedback, UIs that need to move around and react instantly. That’s where it excels.

If there is anything I hope for the world of web design and development, it’s that we get better at picking the right tools for the job.

I heard several people hone in on this:

I can, for example, guarantee that this blog is faster than any Gatsby blog (and much love to the Gatsby team) because there is nothing that a React static site can do that will make it faster than a non-React static site.

One reaction was hell yes. React is a bunch of JavaScript and it does lots of stuff, but does not grant superpowers that make the web faster than it was without it. Another reaction was: well it actually does. That’s kind of the whole point of SPAs: not needing to reload the page. Instead, we’re able to make a trimmed network request for the new data needed for a new page and re-rendering only what is necessary.

Rich digs into that even more:

When I tap on a link on Tom’s JS-free website, the browser first waits to confirm that it was a tap and not a brush/swipe, then makes a request, and then we have to wait for the response. With a framework-authored site with client-side routing, we can start to do more interesting things. We can make informed guesses based on analytics about which things the user is likely to interact with and preload the logic and data for them. We can kick off requests as soon as the user first touches (or hovers) the link instead of waiting for confirmation of a tap — worst case scenario, we’ve loaded some stuff that will be useful later if they do tap on it. We can provide better visual feedback that loading is taking place and a transition is about to occur. And we don’t need to load the entire contents of the page — often, we can make do with a small bit of JSON because we already have the JavaScript for the page. This stuff gets fiendishly difficult to do by hand.

That’s what makes this stuff so easy to argue about. Everyone has good points. When we try to speak on behalf of the entire web, it’s tough for us all to agree. But the web is too big for broad, sweeping assertions.

Do people reach for React-powered SPAs too much? Probably, but that’s not without reason. There is innovation there that draws people in. The question is, how can we improve it?

From a front-of-the-front-end perspective, the fact that front-end frameworks like React encourage demand us write a front-end in components is compelling all by itself.

There is optimism and pessimism in both posts. The ending sentences of both are starkly different.