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Everything easy is hard again

Last week, Frank Chimero published “Everything easy is hard again”, an article based on a talk about the circular and ever changing nature of making things for the web.

If you find yourself frustrated by the pace of change in our industry and all of the things you need to know, it’s a must read.

The most head-nodding quote of the whole article for me happens early on:

What if I nailed it? Why change if it’s working?

I talk about this a bit in “The New Hotness”.

I’m done chasing new technologies and approaches just for the sake of knowing the newest thing. I practice something Sara Soueidan advocates—just-in-time learning.

What’s old is new

CSS Grid combined with flexbox allow you to do some pretty incredible things with layout that used to be impossible or incredibly hard.

They’re also things I, frankly, haven’t needed to do, so I don’t know CSS Grid yet. For me, old fashioned floats with a simple percentage-based grid works just fine.

I particularly like Frank’s take on it…

And now, after flexing with flexbox, along comes CSS Grid: a powerful new feature that promises to make responsive web design even more confusing. Of course, I am joking about this, because Grid is a big improvement in controlling layout on the web. But it is a bit spooky to sit down and learn more about it, because every time I see a diagram explaining how CSS Grid works…

I’m reminded of the table layouts I was doing in 1997. There’s a voice in the back of my head saying we’re stuck in a loop and it’s repeating.

Increasingly complexity and confusion

On the pace of change…

Nothing stays settled, so of course a person with one year of experience and one with fifteen years of experience can both be confused.

And the quote that really drives home how I approach building for the web…

The new methods were invented to manage a level of complexity that is completely foreign to me and my work. It was easy to back away from most of this new stuff when I realized I have alternate ways of managing complexity. Instead of changing my tools or workflow, I change my design. It’s like designing a house so it’s easy to build, instead of setting up cranes typically used for skyscrapers.

Is complexity a bad thing?

Innovation on the web is awesome! It’s what keeps this profession so exciting and interesting to work in.

And I do think that complex design does have a place on the web. I often miss the wild west days of the internet, when Geocities websites were littered with animated gifs, blink elements, and sparkly patterns.

On the other hand, making for the web is often needlessly complicated.

We add complexity for complexities sake. Complex layouts are too often decoration, there solely to be different rather than serve a meaningful purpose to the people consuming your website or app.

Anyways… go read Frank’s whole article. It’s exceptional.