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My biggest challenge with JavaScript

Whenever someone signs up for my daily developer tip, I ask them one question:

What’s the biggest challenge you face as a web developer?

I get back a lot of interesting answers.

The most common responses are things like knowing what to focus on, finding good learning resources, finding new roles, and just generally feeling like there’s too much to know.

But for the first time ever, last week someone wrote back and asked me what MY biggest challenge is. Here’s my response:

Thanks for asking! No one has before, actually!

I think the thing I struggle the most with right now is determining when something new is going to change the way our industry works for the better (like responsive web design did 5 or 6 years ago), and when it’s just a fad that will fade away in a year or three (which is how I feel about our obsession with things like Angular and React).

I try to avoid jumping from fad to fad, but I also don’t want to be that old guy who misses out on something that’s an important leap forward for us. I spend a lot of time thinking about the longer term impact of the things we make (and make with).

Glad to have you on the list!

To add a bit of color to this example, when I first got into web development 6 or 7 years ago, Ethan Marcotte had just recently coined the term responsive web design.

While a lot of older developers had moved on from table-based layouts, they were still firmly in the “websites for desktops” mindspace.

Many I talked to said things like, “I’ve heard of RWD, but I have no idea how it actually works.” They were intrigued, but didn’t see it as important enough to take the time to really dig into.

One of the first jobs I interviewed for while trying to leave my old career in Human Resources was for an internal UX job at the company I was working at. When I asked the interviewer if they were focused on adapting their work for mobile, she told me:

Mobile is a fad, and one I that think is on its way out. Our customers don’t want to do these things on their phones.

I declined that job on the spot, by the way.

I’ll never forget that moment, though. Because it was obvious to me that there was an old guard of developers who didn’t get it and couldn’t see the big shift that was coming in our industry.

Now that I’m part of the older guard, and I’ve been doing this a while, I’m always afraid that will happen to me.

I fight for things like progressive enhancement, simplified development processes, using as little JavaScript as possible. And in today’s industry, that makes me a bit of a dinosaur.

I like to think I’m rebelling against the status quo and focusing on building more a resilient web, but I’m also advocating for older methods of doing things.

Am I the interviewer who didn’t see the big shift mobile was about to cause? That’s my biggest challenge!