Don’t let your tools rule you

March 31, 2018

I’ve been building websites and web apps since about mid-2014. That year, I’ve seen several trends take hold, such as responsive web design with Bootstrap or Foundation, the use of front-end JavaScript frameworks such as Angular and Ember, Gulp and Grunt for task-running, Bower or NPM for dependency management, Browserify for taking NPM modules and allowing them to work in a browser, and probably a bunch of other stuff I can’t think of right now.

Now, however, Webpack has seemingly unseated Gulp, Grunt, and Browserify, Bower is going away, Ember and Backbone are relegated into irrelevance with React, Vue, and Angular, and it hasn’t even been four years. So how do you keep up with all the changes?

Short answer, you don’t. You need to learn to be independent of these tools. It is dangerous to back these horses without having any idea about how they work. You don’t need to understand everything about them, just enough so that when any one of them go belly-up, you understand enough about how they work to transition to a new tool. Or, better yet, take the opportunity to make a simplistic version of your own!

I understand the need to adopt these tools, and the numerous benefits they provide. It’s kinda like hiring a bunch of programmers from multiple, specialized teams to help you succeed in your next project. For free, usually! They abstract enough BS away to let you focus more on your business problem, and less on the implementation problem. But they aren’t silver bullets.

I’m a businessperson at heart. Pragmatism is my mantra, and you should pick the right tool to complete your job in the smallest amount of time possible. Just don’t take pride in what you don’t know by hiding behind these tools.

Next: Forest for the trees

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