A Return to Simplicity

I always loved building applications as a team of two, but mainstream technology has become unnecessarily complex and tedious. New advances promise a welcome return to simplicity.

A tunnel with thistles and spiders and light at the end
A tunnel with thistles and spiders. Image generated with AI by DALL-E.

In the early days of E-accent we were just two people.

It was still the glory days of the J2EE development framework, which was a royal pain in the butt to work with. But Ruby on Rails, which we had just adopted as our framework of choice, was revolutionising web development and made it productive and fun.

We built our first web application in six weeks, while learning Ruby and Ruby on Rails along the way.

Our joy was short-lived. Clients started to ask for native smartphone apps, which meant developing the same application on multiple platforms. More developers were needed, the amount of overhead increased, development slowed down.

Then came JavaScript frameworks, Single Page Apps and Progressive Web Apps. Now we had to worry about front-end and back-end development.

As front-end development required JavaScript, developers figured they might use JavaScript on the back-end as well, which added unnecessary complexity and overhead. Developing a web application with two people in six weeks, like we did in our cowboy days, seemed like a distant memory.

Fortunately, there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel.

One interesting development is the advance of the core web technologies CSS and (plain vanilla) JavaScript.

Modern-day CSS can do the most amazing things like grid layouts, highlight effects, rotating or resizing elements, image filters, and charts.

JavaScript has matured to the point where it can easily be used without a library like jQuery or a JavaScript framework like ReactJS or AngularJS.

Even more important is HTML over the wire, which drastically reduces the amount of JavaScript needed in the front-end.

Web development is beginning to make sense again.

Then there is no-code and low-code, which allow the exact type of web development that I like: putting a web application together in a few weeks with a team of two — a domain expert and a developer working side by side.

Finally, artificial intelligence-based tools have matured to the point where they can assist developers with generating and troubleshooting functions and substantially increase their productivity.

Exciting times are ahead of us. We can have the tremendously powerful tools of today and the joy of web development of 2005. Let’s have our cake and eat it!

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