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Javascript VS. HTML & CSS

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the frustration and in many cases, arguments, happening between designers (CSS & html specialists) and Javascript developers. Increasingly Javascript developers, who are experts at programming, are taking on CSS and HTML roles. They see these as easy, but don’t (always) understand things as thoroughly as those of us who have been doing them for nearly 20 years (I feel old).

This article, The Great Divide, from Chris Coyier at CSS Tricks looks at the ever growing divide between the different skill sets required for someone who assumes the job title ‘front-end developer’. For me, front-end developer has always meant HTML and CSS, but these days it generally refers to Javascript developers. When did they get to steal our job title?

I’ve spent a lot of time learning to craft elegant HTML and I don’t see myself as any less of a front-end developer than I was when I started. WordPress is seeing a similar change. Currently Javascript isn’t needed for theming (beyond a bit of jQuery perhaps), but will that change in the future? With the changes that are planned for site editing will we need to use React or similar in themes?

To be honest I think it will go the other way and theming will be reduced to the point where a designer isn’t needed. Maybe even themes aren’t needed. But, where does this leave designers? If we’re not writing HTML and CSS what is there left for us to do?

On Twitter, the other day, I saw someone asking why he should learn React for use in WordPress. He hasn’t done so, and it seems people have called him lazy because of it. I think this is incredibly unfair. Not everyone has to learn it. Perhaps he has no need for it. Perhaps his clients are happy with the default blocks. Perhaps his workflow doesn’t call for it.

Whatever the case, it’s up to him: he knows what his role requires and perhaps React is not it. If he’s asking to be convinced that learning React is the right thing to do, then it sounds like he doesn’t need it at the moment.

There’s enough division in this world without introducing it into our job. This is about more than just CSS in JS. It’s about building the best possible thing in the best possible way.

Javascript developers often don’t care about design systems, or accessibility, or semantics. So why not work with people who do, and give them the appropriate amount of respect. And vice versa.

Designers talk a lot about empathy. Considering the needs of the website users. I think more empathy and understanding is needed here. Front-end development is a team sport – and it needs people with varied skill sets to create the best product.

This story first appeared in MasterWP, a weekly newsletter for WordPress professionals.


Web Design

Ben View All

Ben is a lifelong Nintendo fan who also likes to build websites, and develop games. He also buys way too much Lego.

4 thoughts on “Javascript VS. HTML & CSS Leave a comment

    • He hee. I spent 11 years working at – a Flash games site :).

      But I don’t think so. It definitely has a place, but not in every project. My concern is that a) people use it when it’s not needed and b) the attitudes of some developers who think it’s the only way and look down on people with other skill sets.

      • I was being a bit flippant of course, having spent a long time with CSS (since IE4.0) it always puzzled me why developers wanted to make it into a programming language. I fall between the Designer & Developer camp, I used to call myself a web design engineer, but now I’m a WordPress implementer. I like what Javascript adds to the user experience, but I don’t always like the way it does it. My big concern is that junior developers are using javascript frameworks the way we once used frontpage….

      • I agree totally. There’s a lot of inappropriate javascript usage. Using it because it’s “cool” rather than because it benefits anyone.

        Oh – and Frontpage 🙁

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