Bret W. Lester

My New Website and The Continued Evolution of The Web

This is the second time I've re-done my website in less than a month.

I knew I had to replace the stagnant, artless slab that has been accumulating spam bots for the better part of a decade. So just about anything would be better than my old-old website.

But it was my first dive into front end web development in years. And by the time I realized just how rusty and worn-out my tools were, I had already spent a day on it and was finished.

So the crappy-new version stayed up for a while.

I was unhappy not only with the way it looked but with the out-dated CSS. So I spent another day re-writing it yet again with a more minimal design using a responsive grid layout.

Although responsive design techniques were already familiar to me, grid layouts were not, so it was refreshing to exercise the same neural pathways of discovery developed years ago when learning how to create my first website from scratch. With a little rekindling it was pretty much like what they say about riding a bike.

Creating a website from scratch, by the way, is something that every web developer should do. Don't listen to the non technical types who are quick to point out the innumerable ways to point and click your way to publishing. Any type of developer, especially those with the word "web" in their titles, should know how to hand-code a decent looking website.

I discovered grid layouts one day while examining the source code of the Signal v Noise blog. Finally! I thought. Our savior has arisen! A fully functional replacement for table-based layouts.

Before grid layouts became a thing (in the Web 2.0 days), table based layouts were shunned but their alternatives were not much better.

I guess grid-based layouts are Web 3.0? Or web 2.1? At the risk of sounding ignorant, who the fuck knows.

The point is that the web is continuing to evolve, and now, with the triumphant death of Internet Explorer, it appears to be evolving faster than ever before.

One might be quick to assume that this is evidence of the "web-developer's wet dream" where all software will eventually be written in HTML, CSS and Javascript. It is inevitable that the advocates of a given platform will logically extend their successes; for better or worse; to increasingly more domains but such efforts are doomed to mediocrity at best and catastrophic failure at worst.

While I don't think it is necessarily appropriate for web technologies to extend their reach into every possible client application, I do think it is time for them to replace something like PDF files. For example I never quite understood why PDF became the go-to format for resumes. I always found it more sensible to hand out my resume as an HTML file with CSS stylings. Not only is it better than a PDF in terms of file size and flexibility, a potential employer can examine its source to evaluate an applicant's front-end skills. However, to this day, most employers will glaze over upon receiving an HTML resume even though simply double-clicking it will reveal a perfectly formatted document in whatever browser happens to be the system default.

Another obvious application of web tech is for use in slideshows and presentations. Tools like Power Point should serve as little more than a user-friendly UI for assembling portable static web apps that can be viewed on any computer with little concern for what has been pre-installed. Perhaps this has already happened. I don't actually use Power Point so I don't know. And yes I know, Google Docs obviates the need for Microsoft Office products. But can we assume Google will continue to give away its IP indefinitely? If there is any truth to the prophecies foretelling the downfall of pay-per-click advertising, then probably not.

So what's the point? I guess my point is that I'm impressed with how far the web has come since my beginnings as a web developer. Web development is a much more rewarding and diverse domain now than it was when I started. And with that I'll leave you with this platitude sure to garner likes...

It's a great time to be a web developer.


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