Jens Oliver Meiert

The Frameworks Paradox

Post from April 2, 2020 (↻ May 28, 2021), filed under .

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.

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on April 29, 2020.

I’m Jens Oliver Meiert, and I’m an engineering manager and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to the W3C and the WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. Other than that, I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

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Cover: The Web Development Glossary.

Perhaps my most comprehensive book: The Web Development Glossary (2020). With explanations and definitions for literally thousands of terms from Web Development and related fields, building on Wikipedia as well as the MDN Web Docs. Available at Apple Books, Kobo, Google Play Books, and Leanpub.

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