When Chris asked me to write about “one thing I learned about building websites this year” I admit my brain immediately went through a list of techniques and CSS properties I started using this year. But then I paused. Other people can write about that much better than I can. What’s something that I specifically have learned?
Then I realized that I’ve been “learning” the same lesson for the last five years, yet I keep falling into the same trap time and time again. I always think that far more people are using the latest, coolest technology out there than there really are.
I think most of you feel the same. If you follow Twitter or any web development blog, it’s almost like everyone is using the latest and the greatest. And the latest and the greatest also seems to change weekly, if not daily. “What’s your favorite React state library? Well it’s Redux, no wait MobX, no wait Unstated, no wait Recoil, no wait, Jotai, no wait, Valtio, no wait…” The constant change can be exhausting, like you’re always falling behind compared to your peers.
But that’s not remotely the case. The vast majority of web developers use “boring” or “old” technology. That makes sense intuitively: most of the stuff on the web today was built …before today. When that needs to be maintained, it’s in the technologies that were in use when it was built. And herein lies the crux: We all maintain old things more than we build new things.
So you feel like everyone else gets to play with cool stuff like “auto-reloading serverless static deploys” while you’re still updating your configuration. Trust me, there are way more people updating their Grunt configuration right now than doing a serverless static deploy (whatever that may be).
I could mention the percentage of websites that run WordPress versus the percentage of sites that run React, but that’s not really the point. If you spend time in the web dev community, it feels like one is old-hat and the other isn’t.
Old can be solid, it can be dependable and it can be predictable. There are times where it’s fun to try new stuff and tell people about it, and there’s times to reach` for the technology you know so you can get stuff done.
My guess is that I’ll keep thinking, “Well no one really uses
$foo anymore,” well into 2021 and beyond—it’s such an automatic thought. But I have to keep reminding myself that it’s wrong. For whatever value of
$foo, there are tons of people still using it, and it’s still valuable.