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Front-End Tooling Trends at Making Waves and Beyond

I recently came upon an excellent article that covers the results of a survey run by Ashley Nolan. Ashley asked over 1000 Front-End Developers about the tools, frameworks, and techniques they use in their daily work. The results  were very close to what we see at Making Waves, which made me think “Yeah! We’re doing great!”

The aim of the survey was to find out if the most buzzworthy things actually work well in projects. I think all of you have seen headlines boldly stating that Backbone.JS/AngularJS/React/Ember.JS (pick one) is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Same thing with nearly all the other tools and frameworks. Googling gives you no tangible indication of which option to pick, since all of them are clearly the best choice. So how do you actually choose? Though I believe in research and thorough experimentation, there is no real chance to try out everything before the next thing emerges. So is statistical data truly relevant for making these decisions? I think so. Why shouldn’t we let the community do the research for us? If one pick works for most Front-End Developers, why shouldn’t it work for me?

In reading the article, I was also looking to confirm that the tools we use at Making Waves are today’s most sought-after tools.

Let’s get to it: What did the results indicate?

Q1 – Preprocessors
What is your CSS Preprocessing tool of choice?

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How glorious! Sass, which has been my personal favorite since forever, once again appears to be the tool most Front-Enders pick! I saw this coming even when the Less guys finally put all that “Sass magic” into their preprocessor. At Making Waves, we have experience in all of the usual (preprocessor) suspects, but we generally seem to use Sass the most often and instead treat other choices for experimental tools. Interestingly, a large percentage of responders refrain from using a preprocessor at all. I believe this might be connected with the increase in the postprocessing field, which brings us to the next question.

Q2 – PostCSS and Rework
Have you heard of the following CSS processing tools?

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Postprocessing definitely takes some of the hassle out of writing regular CSS. We’ve all noticed this already. It seems to be gaining popularity day by day. The survey author asked about two big players, but I think that’s simplifying the field a bit. A lot of smaller tools play extremely well even when you incorporate them into your preprocessor-based workflow. That seems to be the most popular approach at Making Waves.

Q3 – Task Runners
What task runner do you prefer using in your typical project workflow, if any?

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We’ve been looking for the best Front-End workflow for a while now. We’ve researched a variety of tools and are leaning towards Gulp. Not surprisingly, the community seems to share our interests.

Q4 and Q5 – Knowledge and Usage of JavaScript Libraries and Frameworks
Which JavaScript libraries and/or frameworks do you have experience in?

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Which JavaScript library or framework do you use in the majority of your projects?

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I’m quite surprised to see jQuery included in this chart. It’s a different animal than Angular or React. I don’t feel surprised when I see jQuery used alongside another framework. Most often, that’s exactly what we do. Nor am I surprised to see that most Front-End Developers are comfortable with it, as it’s the first big time saver you find when starting to learn JavaScript. And so it is with Underscore. It’s odd that a significant number of people haven’t heard of it!
The interesting data comes in when we start to compare the other frameworks listed in this question. Angular seems to be the one that most have settled on. React is definitely gaining a lot of attention these days. When it comes to the state of the things at Making Waves, we’re definitely accustomed to jQuery and Underscore, and we’re putting a lot of effort into mastering Angular, React, and Knockout, too. What was not covered in this survey is ECMAScript 6, which we’re becoming more and more enthusiastic about!

Q6 – JavaScript Module Bundlers
Do you use a JavaScript module bundler in your workflow?

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Q7 – JavaScript Testing
What tool do you use to test your JavaScript (if any)?

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Testing is another topic I’d love to see more conversation about. At Making Waves we’ve done a lot of research and experimentation on this topic. Mocha and Jasmine seem to be the tools at the center of coffee machine discussions. Unfortunately, JavaScript testing isn’t always the first thing that comes up when setting up a project. It’s definitely a field we could pay more attention to. Fortunately, every single project we start presents us with an opportunity to grow.

Q8 – Miscellaneous Tools
Which of these tools do you have experience with?

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When it comes to the tools listed above, I’d be very cautious in using this data to draw conclusions about the state of things at Making Waves. It seems that some of these tools aren’t used all that often. On the other hand, everyone was definitely tempted to check them out at some point. The use of these tools appears to be based more on personal preference.

Final Thoughts
To tie things up, I’m very glad to see that Making Waves is definitely in line with the trends of Front-End Technologies. We’re using state-of-the-art tools. We test all the new and exciting releases. We’re passionate and enthusiastic about everything Front-End, but have a down-to-earth approach that lets us wisely choose the tools we want to incorporate into commercial projects. This is a crucial building block that allows us to build outstanding experiences for end users and for the developers who take over our work as well.

If you’re interested in reading more on the technologies used at Making Waves, please read about our Technology Radar.

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