Charles Harries

| Stream

Hard problems in the browser

Frontend roles encompass a vast range of skills. Some of them have been solved by cloud infrastructure providers, and the rest take years of experience.

Fun, exasperating/-ed post from Dave Rupert today about the various hats worn by web developers on the frontend, from design to effective caching, from tracking to accessibility. He's right that frontend roles encompass too much responsibility.

Dave's ending question is a good one: "What's one change we could make to eliminate 80% of the work?" In response, Swyx pointed out that a lot of modern cloud infrastructure—think Vercel, think Netlify, think Supabase—is trying to provide solutions for that 80%.

I suspect, however, that many of the difficult things that Dave mentions in his post occupy the remaining 20%. It's true that Vercel (among others) is building an SDK for the web, and they do provide solutions for e.g. querying the data layer, for caching, or for analytics. They're doing a very, very good job.

But a lot of the "soft" skills associated with building in the browser—things like writing effective CSS, producing accessible markup, or building design systems—aren't, and arguably can't be, produced as an easily consumable libraries. Dave's right that it's "hard to be an expert at the front-end."

All of that being said, cloud infrastructure providers have made it very easy to get 80% of the way there, and for a lot of use cases, 80% is good enough. I wonder if the frontend has a lower average level of experience, since those providers solve a lot of tough problems—problems that, on the backend, I expect you'd need a degree in comp sci to solve. I wish the Stack Overflow Developer Survey let you view experience by role.

The web is a harsh manager, Dave Rupert

Web Frontend