I tweeted this yesterday and it seemed to resonate with some folks:
Just a little reminder that it’s about 100 times more important what you build than how you build it.
— Chris Coyier (@chriscoyier) December 10, 2017
What I was feeling when I wrote that was a little tired of endless discussions on tech minutia and yearning for more focus on what we are building and discussion about why.
If you’re a reader of this site, you and I live in the same bubble. It’s a nice bubble. It’s full of smart people who like to chat about web design and development. I live it and love it.
It’s easy to get into a heated discussion about frameworks, what type of class names make the most sense, which optimization techniques are most important, or what part of your code base is should be responsible for styling. Those are great discussions that guide our industry.
But what is more important? The naming convention you chose or if your user can actually book a flight? Which state store library you picked or if you actually had the scarf your user was looking for? Which command line tool pulled your dependencies or whether someone was able to find and read the instructions to send in their court appeal?
I was trying to encourage people to build and think about what they are building rather than get too discouraged about the how. You’re building things for people and that’s such a big responsibility. One that outweighs technical choices, as important as they seem.
I enjoyed the pushback I got on it though.
Most of it centered around the fact that if you make poor tech choices, that limits the quality of what you build and slows your ability to change and adapt to changing user needs. Fair enough.
Good tech just might lead to directly better features and UX for your users. Fair enough. Good tech might be a differentiator between you and your competition. Fair enough.
My favorite was calling out the story of the three little pigs. If you aren’t familiar, there is a Big Bad Wolf that is trying to eat the piggies. Each of them built a house to protect themselves. I imagine you can guess which of the pigs did better: the one who built their house out of hay, or the pig who built their house out of bricks.
Drew McLellan gets into this in All That Glisters, but focuses on the old vs new tech issue:
There are so many new tools, frameworks, techniques, styles and libraries to learn. You know what? You don’t have to use them. You’re not a bad developer if you use Grunt even though others have switched to Gulp or Brunch or Webpack or Banana Sandwich. It’s probably misguided to spend lots of project time messing around with build tool fashions when your so last year build tool is already doing what you need.
And this gem:
Software, much like people, is born with a whole lot of potential and not much utility. Newborns — both digital and meaty — are exciting and cute but they also lead to sleepless nights and pools of vomit.
He goes on to say that what you are building might help dictate your tech choices. Ah yes, the what. Not only is what your things does litearlly the only thing people care about, it also helps guide tech choices.