As President Kennedy implored:
“My fellow developers, ask not what your Framework can do for you. Ask what you can do for your framework!”.
Yeah, I know, not quite the exact quote. But sometimes it feels that you have to do more to help your framework work than your framework does to help you.
Maybe it’s time to ask yourself, what is your Framework really doing for you … and do you still need it?
First of all, let me make clear that I have no inside knowledge and am not privy to any secrets - my views are based purely on using the platform, hanging out in Slack and watching the presentations.
It’s also maybe useful to describe where I “am” as a web developer. I used to use Angular 1 and then 2, never really cared much for React but was aware of it (and like Redux) but was totally sold on WebComponents and the benefits of any framework being built on the platform. When Angular 2 turned out to be a huge letdown and Polymer had turned 1.x it was time to change and I’ve been happy with the choice. I find it quicker to develop apps and I’m spending more time on app-development and much less on endless framework upgrades plus the end results start and run faster.
The Polymer CLI and Polymer Starter Kit are really fantastic tools for quickly bootstrapping your Progressive Web App development - you get a slick PRPL pattern Single Page App complete with Service Worker and lazy-loading views, all with pretty much zero effort. So simple, so easy.
The simplicity of course makes sense for a starter kit but it can mean that exactly how to implement more advanced features may not be obvious and leave you lost. Once your app starts to grow and you decide you need some views to have their own custom toolbar in the app-header or menu options in the app-drawer for instance, or you just want to use a paper-dialog in some part of the UI - how should you do it?
Does the app-shell (
my-app.html) element become cluttered with functionality to pass on toolbar options and state? Is your paper-dialog showing behind the overlay instead of on top of your app and you don’t know why?
As it always seems with web-development, it’s easy to “cobble something together” that seems to work … but isn’t really clean and tidy. Here’s some approaches that I’ve been using.
This works great for discreet isolated pieces of state but as you work with larger and more complex apps there are definite benefits to be had by using something like Redux to centralize things.
To demonstrate how simple a framework is to use and how productive you can be with it, the examples provided are often deliberately simple to fit the easy-use cases. It makes sense to keep things simple for people learning but it can sometimes leave a gap when you need to step beyond the trivial and start building more complex, real-world apps.
One place where this seems to be especially apparent is when it comes to state-management and Polymer is of course no exception. The typical examples you’ll see most often involve a single parent and one or more child elements and some binding between them. But what if things are not so simple? How do you pass state between things? Do you need to start adding Redux to do it?
One of the mistakes I saw a lot of when Agile was taking off as “the hot-new thing” was people declaring that they didn’t need to do design anymore. Of course there was no big-upfront design - the kind from the waterfall days where people first analyzed and designed a system in full before punting it to the next team to build (which rarely worked out well) but some planning and design is important, even if you’re just creating a small hobby project.
Part of the process should often involve prototyping to help decide or prove which technologies you’re going to use as these will also factor in to the design of the app. It also gives you an opportunity to kick-the-tires of some technologies if they are things you haven’t used much before prior to building too many things around them. Making late-stage switches can be costly.
This isn’t going to be an exhaustive comparison of every possible client-side framework, storage technology or hosting option. Of course I have some technology choices in my head before I even begin based on my current skillset and experience (isn’t it an amazing coincidence that the “best” technology to build any app with is always the one the developer likes to use?!) But I’ll try to go through the reasoning behind some of the choices I came up with.
Here’s a question that comes up a lot in Slack: you have multiple views in your Polymer app and notice that anytime the URL changes, they all respond and try to update, even the ones that are not visible. What’s going on? How do you make a view truly inactive?
If you’ve started your app based on the Polymer Starter Kit then you know it provides a great out-the-box setup complete with PRPL pattern and views as separate elements for lazy-loading.
Everything works great at this early stage because the only routing involved is the top-level switching between views (or fragments), there is no routing within views. Only when you start adding some per-view routing do you run into the issue. Here’s what’s going on and how to fix it.
We’ve all seen and used them, we may even have written some ourselves. They seem such a great idea at the time and using them seems to make life easier. I’m talking about Framework Specific Components.
I want to talk about why WebComponents are much better and they should be the first think we look to use and create whenever possible.
Hang out in any front-end web development chatroom for even a short period and you’ll come across the same set of “help me” or “how do it?” questions over and over again. They are not difficult issues once you have learnt about them but until you do and while you are learning frontend development they are often a source of confusion and frustration.
So I thought I’d try and cover a few of the common issues that seem to come up repeatedly …
While we’re used to systems nowadays being distributed and running across multiple services on multiple platforms when it comes to front-end web clients many people still have a rather “monolothic” outlook on things.
Many times this is down to technology imposing restrictions on us - it’s difficult enough to make some frameworks and all their component pieces work together to deliver an app without also throwing in the challenge of making multiple different frameworks coexist (part of the problem with the rise of “frameworks” instead of libraries).
It can be particularly problematic when an aging app needs to be upgraded. You may have an Angular.JS app and be faced with the choice of whether to re-write it as an Angular v2 / v4 app or switch to using the Redux / React stack instead.
Both represent a lot of work and the difficulty making frameworks coexist can be a real challenge with any attempts at doing things incrementally. This is where WebComponents can really help.