I’ve been making websites in some form or another since 1995. After 25 years of experience I think I’ve accumulated enough knowledge to know a few things. Here’s some things I’d like younger developers to think about, in no particular order.
- Sometimes a website is just a website.
- The browser is already a client; HTML is its language.
- The web is built around server-side rendering.
- You can provide your data in more than one way; consider HTML to be one of several possible data representations.
- Scaling your server helps everyone. Expecting client-side scaling only helps people with the fastest computers and Internet connections.
- Not everyone has (or can use) a mouse.
- Not everyone has (or can use) a keyboard.
- Not everyone has (or can use) a touchscreen.
- Not everyone can see colors or pictures the same way you can.
- Not everyone can process information the same way you do.
- It is inhumane to move things around on people.
- HTML is already an ideal representation of DOM nodes.
- HTML is a rich framework.
- You can probably do that layout change in CSS.
- Before you roll your own UI component, consider that HTML probably provides it. If it doesn’t provide it, that’s probably for a reason. Attaching DOM events to a
<span>is probably not the best way of doing things.
- Not everything has to be a “single-page application.”
- Even if you need to preserve client state between page loads (for e.g. music or video playback) you can let the browser do most of the heavy lifting by
fetch()ing a new page and replacing your content container at the DOM level.
- Infinite scrolls are inhumane. People need to be able to reach “the end.” There are forms of eternal torment described in religious texts that are less mean.
- If you must do an infinite scroll (and you don’t), make sure that there’s nothing you need to reach at the bottom.
- Give people consistent but random stimulus and you will be habit-forming. Getting people hooked on your product might seem like a good idea, but the tobacco industry feels the same way.
- If you design with CDNs in mind, then a server round-trip won’t be slow.
- It is okay to use multiple languages in a thing. Not everything has to be isomorphic.
- Always validate your data server-side; anything that comes from the client is suspect.
- To the developer, “isomorphic” code breaks down the barrier between client and server. To a malicious client, it means they potentially have control over the server too. Be sure about where your data is coming from.
- Browsers change. Relying on browser-specific behavior means you’re relying on that one browser at that one point in time. Code to the standard, and test everywhere.
- Use polyfills to support browsers that don’t yet support the standard you’re using.
- It’s okay to copy others; it’s how we learn things. Just remember to learn from it.
UPDATE: Welcome Hacker News. rickpmg brought up a very good addition to this list:
And make sure the back button works?
Also a few folks were wondering what I meant about preserving client state between page loads. This isn’t intended to be a tutorial but what I mean is you can do something like this:
Just a rough sketch (and of course this breaks the back button, tsk tsk) but you get what I mean, I hope. (And if you want things to be even more lightweight you could have the other page be represented by a JSON blob as fetched through an API or whatever.)
Another update: This isn’t really webdev-specific, but:
- Not all users or developers are men