Developing Websites The Opposite Way

I’ve been on the web for a very long time now, so long, that I don’t even remember the day my parents came home with the nifty AOL CD. Back then there really was no “web design”, CSS or even any real best development practices. People just got on and hacked their way until they got something working up.

Then came along tables, and with it we started getting designs that slightly resemble the sites of today. Then came CSS and best practices – and here we are today.

In the past year or so the web has undergo a quick change. It seems that everything is changing so quickly, that it’s tough for one lone developer to keep up with what’s going on and what is and what isn’t acceptable to do anymore.

While following best practices and keeping up with the trends and changes is important, sometimes it’s just as important to learn what to filter out – and more importantly to listen to what your own experience tells you what is or isn’t right.

Mobile Fights

The biggest issue going on on the web today seems to be the issue of mobile development. Should we go native or web? Should each device get a separate experience or should they all look similar? Is it ok to use a completely separate site for mobile or just use media queries?

This issue irks me most of all because it reminds me of the days of the browser wars. We’ve fought so long and hard to get rid of terrible browsers, including IE6, so that we no longer need to hack code or use separate styling for each browser. Yet now the experts are fighting amongst ourselves about whether this same issue needs to happen in the mobile world.

I’ve give you a hint: unless you have a really large site that also incorporates a shopping experience, you don’t need a separate version of your site for mobile. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say you don’t need to do anything in mobile, except make sure you don’t have any layout issues.

I spent a while pondering whether my own site needed a mobile version or not – but after using and reading my own site on both my iPhone and iPad, I can happily tell you that my site is easy enough to use on it’s own. The buttons are large and easy to push and the text is easy to read. Why would I need to moblify it after all?

It’s good that  the industry is fostering debates about what’s best for the web, because debates are what push the web forward. Just remember that not everything they talk about pertain to you or your clients’ sites.

HTML5, CSS3, Kill Me Now

As a front-end developer, I’ve been looking forward to the prevalence of HTML5 and CSS3 as much as anyone. But I’ve been seriously irked by the way it’s been used to create what should be left to Photoshop, to allow excuses for browser hacks and just the general way it’s used as a buzz term and an end-all-be-all of the internet.

In truth, neither HTML5 nor CSS3 truly change much of anything. Yes, we can now do rounded corners and shadows and we have some new tags that can be used, but the old standards of design and development still apply – there needs to be a purpose for everything. We don’t need to make icons in CSS3 or include videos (akin to the animated gifs of the 90’s) otherwise we’re digressing instead of progressing in terms of the quality of our code and design.

I have to be honest, the buzzwords of HTML5 and CSS3, the arguments of whether they can be used or should be used and the general abuses of it have worn me out. This is when it’s best to turn to your own experience to figure out how HTML5 and CSS3 really need to be used. Is it okay to use HTML5 tags and hack IE, and/or use JS (which weren’t we just told not to rely on JS for functionality a few months back?). I don’t think so. My idea is that we need to implement something that again goes across browsers and across devices.

What Now?

What do we do when the experts are fighting amongst themselves and disagreeing with everything each other says? Do we listen when they tell us to do a bunch of extra work that really doesn’t help the client or ourselves out?

It’s up to you to decide if you want to go in their direction, or in the opposite. I choose the opposite way.