The problem I’ve regularly encountered in my work is that I don’t get to do my job the way I think is best for both me and my employer or client. The employer, who isn’t the web development expert, almost always has a clear idea of what real web development is supposed to look like: Single-Page-Apps and React (or React-like frameworks).
An intimation that it wouldn’t be the right solution for this particular problem is taken as an admission of incompetence.
I’ve experienced this. And I think this observation is even more true when it comes to recruitment.
While I’ve always been bothered by the downsides of SPAs, I always thought the gap would be bridged sooner or later, and that performance concerns would eventually vanish thanks to things like code splitting, tree shaking, or SSR. But ten years later, many of these issues remain. Many SPA bundles are still bloated with too many dependencies, hydration is still slow, and content is still duplicated in memory on the client even if it already lives in the DOM.
Yet something might be changing: for whatever reason, it feels like people are finally starting to take note and ask why things have to be this way.
Interesting to see a decade-long perspective. I especially like how Sacha revisits and reasseses design principles from ten years ago:
- Data on the Wire. Don’t send HTML over the network. Send data and let the client decide how to render it.
It’s since become apparent that you often do need to send HTML over the network, and things seem to be moving back towards handling as much as possible of your HTML compilation on the server, not on the client.
At the risk of grossly oversimplifying things, I propose that the core of the debate can be summed up by these truisms:
- The best SPA is better than the best MPA.
- The average SPA is worse than the average MPA.
I’ve got the same hunch as Nolan:
There’s a feeling in the air. A zeitgeist. SPAs are no longer the cool kids they once were 10 years ago.
And I think he’s right to frame the appeal of single page apps in terms of control (even if that control comes at the expense of performance and first-load user experience).
A fascinating and inspiring meditation on aerodynamics.
This is very convincing.
Some interesting thoughts from Tim here. What if CSS could “displace” design decisions from one area to another?
For example, a flexible line spacing value in one container could influence margins that surround the text block. That change in spaciousness may mean that nearby headings need size or spacing adjustments to stay feeling connected.
This feels like the complete opposite way that most people approach design systems—modular, componentised, and discrete—but very in-line with the way that CSS has been designed—interconnected, relational and cascading.
To complement her talk at Beyond Tellerrand, Stephanie goes through some of the powerful CSS features that enable intrinsic web design. These are all great tools for the declarative design approach I was talking about:
This is a great little tip from Eric for those situations when you want an element to be centred but you want the content inside that element to remain uncentred:
max-inline-size: max-content; margin-inline: auto;
And I completely concur with his closing thoughts on CSS today:
It’s a nice little example of the quiet revolution that’s been happening in CSS of late. Hard things are becoming easy, and more than easy, simple. Simple in the sense of “direct and not complex”, not in the sense of “obvious and basic”. There’s a sense of growing maturity in the language, and I’m really happy to see it.
Twitter’s only conclusion can be abandonment: an overdue MySpace-ification. I am totally confident about this prediction, but that’s an easy confidence, because in the long run, we’re all MySpace-ified.
What Robin said.
This is a really excellent four-part series on web performance that really dives into the technical details and asks all the right questions:
Some thoughts on CSS, media queries, and fluid type prompted by Utopia:
We say CSS is “declarative”, but the more and more I write breakpoints to accommodate all the different ways a design can change across the viewport spectrum, the more I feel like I’m writing imperative code. At what quantity does a set of declarative rules begin to look like imperative instructions?
In contrast, one of the principles of Utopia is to be declarative and “describe what is to be done rather than command how to do it”. This approach declares a set of rules such that you could pick any viewport width and, using a formula, derive what the type size and spacing would be at that size.
The headline is a little misleading because if you follow this advice, your multi-page apps will be much much faster than single page apps, especially when you include that initial page load of a single page app.
Here’s a quick high-level summary of what I do…
That’s an excellent recipe for success right there!
To mark the start of the Dark Skies Festival today, here are some fantastic photographics taken not that far from Brighton.
Chip Delaney and Octavia Butler on a panel together in 1998 when hypertext and “cyberspace” are in the air. Here’s Octavia Butler on her process (which reminds me of when I’m preparing a conference talk):
I generally have four or five books open around the house—I live alone; I can do this—and they are not books on the same subject. They don’t relate to each other in any particular way, and the ideas they present bounce off one another. And I like this effect. I also listen to audio-books, and I’ll go out for my morning walk with tapes from two very different audio-books, and let those ideas bounce off each other, simmer, reproduce in some odd way, so that I come up with ideas that I might not have come up with if I had simply stuck to one book until I was done with it and then gone and picked up another.
So, I guess, in that way, I’m using a kind of primitive hypertext.
The internet, it turns out, is not forever. It’s on more of like a 10-year cycle. It’s constantly upgrading and migrating in ways that are incompatible with past content, leaving broken links and error pages in its wake. In other instances, the sites simply shutter, or become so layered over that finding your own footprint is impossible—I have searched “Kate Lindsay Myspace” every which way and have concluded that my content from that platform must simply be lost to time, ingested by the Shai-Hulud of the internet.
This is a terrific and nuanced talk that packs a lot into less than twenty minutes.
(The secret sauce in transitional web apps is progressive enhancement.)