The Frameworks Paradox
The more complex a website, the bigger the need for a framework, the less effective an external framework.
This is not new, and not even a paradox because an internal—homemade—HTML/CSS framework is always an option. However, it’s an often missed fact that external frameworks, no matter their short-term advantages, come with many problems down the road.
You know best the needs for your projects, and from a certain complexity on, an external framework inevitably means lower quality at a higher cost compared to an internal framework.
At its core, the situation has not changed since 2015, when The Little Book of HTML/CSS Frameworks was released (cf. the updated German edition from 2019). Yet I wonder how much time we have until web developers don’t even write their own style sheets anymore—let alone frameworks.
Update (April 22, 2020)
As I’ve said elsewhere, the frameworks paradox is exactly why at Google we developed Go and Maia (the internal, not well-known HTML/CSS frameworks), why Twitter created Bootstrap, why Facebook developed React, &c. pp.
At a certain complexity you need your own solution—a solution tailored to your needs.
In an ironic twist (or, as this post wants, paradoxically), internal frameworks that were made available externally have blurred the understanding of what frameworks are, what they’re there for, and when they’re needed and not needed. This may not implicate you—but it definitely implicates our field.
I’m Jens Oliver Meiert, and I’m a web developer (engineering manager) and author. I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.
If you have questions or suggestions about what I write, please leave a comment (if available) or a message.
Have a look at the most popular posts, possibly including:
- The Web Development Glossary (More Than 2,000 Key Terms for Developers)
Perhaps my most relevant book: CSS Optimization Basics (2018). Writing CSS is a craft. As craftspeople we strive to write high quality CSS. In CSS Optimization Basics I lay out some of the most important aspects of such CSS. Available at Amazon, Google Play Books, and Leanpub.
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