Comments on The Cult of the Complex

12 Reader Comments

Back to the Article
  1. With many of the development trends, it seems like the problems are self-inflicted by not quite understanding something. So in creating a solution, the core problem isn’t understood and results in overcomplication.

    I think the business pressure of ‘deliver fast’ has also played a part in complicating workflows under the guise of automation. If I can say such and such is automated, it’s immediately perceived as being efficient, even though the costs of set up, maintenance and on-boarding aren’t considered.

    It’s also interesting that we say we care about the environment and being inclusive, yet don’t approach development with the mindset that every byte has a cost, nor make accessibility a requirement.

    So my question is, where are the companies and agencies who focus on these things - solving the actual problem and taking the time to simplify the complex? This mindset must still be out there somewhere, right?

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  2. > where are the companies and agencies who focus on these things

    I’ve been involved with web accessibility for 18 years now, and currently the company I work for provides, amongst other things, instructor led training on how to meet accessibility requirements. I routinely meet “developers” who don’t even know basic HTML. Here’s one for you: next time you are talking to a developer, ask them about Description lists (previously called definition lists, but renamed in HTML5). If they can’t code up something as basic as that, is it any wonder they don’t get the whole ‘semantic structure’ bit of HTML?) Double bonus points if they know how table headers and ids work.

    I lament the fact that there is no formal training in web technologies, so you have a legion of developers out there who don’t know what they don’t know. It’s fine and dandy to know how to work with frameworks, but I challenge hiring managers to have potential candidates hand code a basic web page in notepad during their interview, and if they can’t do that, why are you hiring them? And is it any wonder things start to crumble when they aren’t built on a solid foundation?

    BTW, if you aren’t sure:
    Description Lists -

    Table headers and ids -

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  3. Sometimes, not very often, npm goes down. Then I literally can’t work anymore as I need to do an npm install to pull down hundreds of packages before I can write a single line of code.

    Times like this make me realise what life as a web developer has become.

    I completely agree, web development has become too complex and I don’t know what to focus on and what to learn anymore. As soon as you learn something its out of date and replaced by something else. It makes me concerned with the future of the industry and my future career.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  4. Mr. Zeldman thanks for this article, is really fresh air! I work in a fantastic small reality where we still know almost 100% of the code (both frontend and backend) we are using for websites or web applications.
    But having a glance at job offers or when we need to cooperate with some other professionists, it seems the world cannot live without knowing at least 3 frameworks and the “basic” knowledge of HTML, CSS, js is not even mentioned nor considered, just something school thing, not professional.
    So it is some time I have been asking myself if I am outdated with my “hand made” coding way, even if I don’t feel, as I could solve any problems, interface with any system.
    Reading your article, a source for sure “on the topic”, really lift me up. So thanks a lot!

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  5. This article really pleased me. I said to my team recently, after we spent time going through Jen Simmons excellent Grid tutorials, “I think CSS frameworks are doomed. Why will we need them anymore when layout can be this simple?”

    I used the word “simple” referring to how slim the HTML markup was, thanks to the power of a true layout engine in CSS.

    This kind of simplification has spread to how we will handle our progressive enhancement as well. This excellent video: had us discussing that our next move is to provide very simple, clean layouts to all browsers that do not support grid. Since we no longer have to use hacks (floats, inline blocks, or other tricks) to create the layouts we have, we plan to ditch them entirely for browsers that can’t comprehend a layout engine. I’m also discouraging “flex-box fallbacks” so that we are planning to use Grid in the way our team intends and Flexbox in the way our team intends, not as a supplemental workaround.

    I’m dreaming of really tight CSS files with this mindset and really tiny HTML - and I couldn’t be more excited!

    Now, to use the “The results can be dangerous” link from your article to scare my workplace (e-commerce site) into ditching a fair amount of the 3rd party services and cookies in use and I will watch our performance scores soar! :)

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  6. “I am baffled and numbed by the growing preference for complexity over simplicity. “

    I think we should all remember that “complexity” and “simplicity” can be relative notions. There’s a near-endless supply of programmers who think functional programming is the simplest thing ever, but are baffled by “float: right”.

    Also, dismissing a new technology as “too complex”, “overkill”, etc. is often a lazy way of not having to adapt to a changing landscape.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  7. Great insight (as always) Jeffrey.

    This leaves me with many questions like:

    How do we ‘disrupt’ the trend of ‘complex’ to raise the emphasis on a semantic and purposeful web?

    How do we reward the efforts of those who choose less tools (less complex) in favor of better HTML?

    The craft-beer movement has ‘disrupted’ the corporate beer making industry, could there be a similar ‘craft web making’ movement that would ‘upset’ the trend of complexity?

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  8. Back in 2003 it was this website that got me properly thinking about and exploring building page layouts using CSS and HTML.  Over the years I’ve been turned on to new approaches and technologies by revisiting ALA on a regular basis.  I have to say when things like SAAS and LESS came out and even before that when jQuery was finding its feet it used to just baffle me that people were using these tools without a clear fundamental understanding of the layer that they working on top of.  It’s like the many Rails developers I know these days who have a really bad - I mean a REALLY BAD - understanding of basic Ruby development principals.  Or the many front-end developers who rely on mixins to accommodate older browsers without understanding why browsers vendors have (or had) their own specific CSS rules. Or the many WordPress “developers” who can only write PHP when the code being written is strictly defined within the syntax and functionality of the core WordPress libraries.

    I think the main takeaway from this article is that, much like history, if you don’t understand the mistakes you made in the past then you are forced to repeat them in the future. Using a framework or a library or whatever is actually pretty pointless if you don’t know WHY you are using it and WHAT its doing and HOW its doing it.  Because if you understand the WHY and the WHAT and the HOW chances are you won’t use it.  You’ll do it by hand.  Because you know how to do it by hand.  And for me that’s the skill I look for when hiring a front-end developer because anyone who understands the foundational principles of HTML, CSS and vanilla JS will have zero trouble mastering Angular or React or whatever other (excellent) framework may be required for a particular project.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  9. It is a common conception that most online webmasters and the web world as a whole is occupied by the 18 to 34 year old male.  Though this may be prevalent thinking, there is booming evidence of today’s’ retiree, making websites, and as astute in internet business endeavors as their younger counterparts, with a unique set of qualifications in their favor

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  10. “in a field where young straight white dudes take an overwhelming majority of the jobs (including most of the management jobs) it’s perhaps to be expected that web making has lately become something of a dick measuring competition.”

    I think it’s worth considering whether sexualized slurs based on skin color, gender, or sexual orientation really serve to advance what you’re trying to say. It might seem like harmless bigotry, but racism is a process that needs fuel to sustain itself. Statements like the ones you’re making promote the idea that we should evaluate people on the basis of their external characteristics rather than by the content of their character. It’s an attitude that is profoundly toxic to positive discourse, and it’s worth emphasizing that those you’re choosing to stereotype won’t be the only people (or even the primary ones) that are negatively affected by this kind of thinking.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  11. Enjoyed reading the article above , really explains everything in detail,the article is very interesting and effective.Thank you and good luck for the upcoming articles

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  12. As a developer that used to love developing internet experiences in code, I am frustrated as well as numbed by the growing choice for complexity over simpleness. Intricacy benefits convincing people they might not potentially do your work. Simpleness benefits everything else.

    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  13. Sorry, commenting is closed on this article.