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Do Frameworks, Libraries, and Themes Speed Up Your Development?

July 17th, 2014 by mdmcginnis

Web developers can be funny (in case that’s news to you). Myself, I get tickled by the Vanilla JS website. According to the Vanilla JS team, “Vanilla JS is already used on more websites than jQuery, Prototype JS, MooTools, YUI, and Google Web Toolkit – combined… It is the most lightweight framework available anywhere… your users’ browsers will have Vanilla JS loaded into memory before it even requests your site.”

How can it do that? Because they’re joking – vanilla.js is an empty file (or an empty line in production sites). It reminds you that if you want to fade out elements or make an Ajax call, you can use plain vanilla Javascript – you don’t need jQuery. In fact, jQuery takes more lines of code to do the same thing as Javascript (well, if you include some newlines).

Yes, frameworks and libraries can speed up common web development tasks. But you have to learn how to use them first. And then, what about tasks that are not so common? Then you have to figure out the “jQuery way”  or the “SASS way”  to solve the problem.  Or the “Zend way” or the “Node.js way” or the “AngularJS way.”

I have the same problem with WordPress themes and plugins. They offer widgets to do common tasks, but if they don’t do what you want, you have to figure out what they are doing – what function you have to fix, in what file.  The other day, I felt a little challenged because I couldn’t find some of the CSS for our new Canvas-themed WordPress site.  “But wasn’t it in your stylesheet, Michael?” No, since themes are “highly customizable,” the options panel was generating a separate set of styles. (Note to team: the options panel can be disabled.)

Veteran Linux users will recognize the underlying problem. That’s why they like to use the command line, because it does exactly what you want – as long as you don’t mistype anything. When people who feared code started to blog, they often remained prisoners of their fears. For example, simply to change <?php echo get_the_title(); ?> to <?php echo get_the_title()," | My Blog"; ?>, they would have to install a WordPress plugin. They had to do things the hard way because they didn’t know an easier way. Part of being a professional web developer, of course, is knowing the easier way – working directly with HTML, CSS, etc.

Handholding is fine as long as you can get your hand loose when you need to.

Thursday, July 17th, 2014 Programming
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