An ode to web pages

Last year, when I read this satire of modern web development, I chuckled. When the npm left-pad dependency controversy left many npm projects unable to build, I questioned what we were doing. These days, I just chalk it up to the maturing of web development. It’s the JavaScript renaissance, right?

But in my heart of hearts, I miss the early days, when I was nothing more than a website enthusiast. Back then, there was nothing to npm install. No dependency trees. Version control meant adding the suffix “-old” to file names. I thought my code-editor with built-in FTP to be the ultimate tool because you could edit files directly on the server! Local development was as simple as editing a doc in a folder. Did you know that web browsers are perfectly happy to open an HTML file on your computer? No domain, hosting, MAMP, Vagrant, or database necessary.

All of our profiles look alike

Before social media, before apps, before vlogs, blogs, and the like, there were web pages. Often, someone would refer to their online profile as their “home page.” I kind of feel bad for web developers just starting out who may not experience the wonderful delight of designing and building their own unique and quirky online abodes. Don’t get me wrong, many developers have personal websites. But they are just boring blogs and portfolio sites1 like the one you are reading now. They’re well designed, minimal, or look like Bootstrap. But they used to be alive with personality.

Before social media monoliths made us into little mechanical turks for advertising platforms, we had organic homes on the web. We had pages that were ours. And they could look however you wanted. And you could write whatever you wanted on there. And there wasn’t a “report/flag” button. There weren’t weirdos tagging themselves in your photos. There weren’t advertisements if you didn’t want them. There weren’t comments if you didn’t want them. There were no photo dimensions to adhere to. No 140-character limits. No BS. Or lots of BS. Either way, the choice was yours because you owned your site and you could do whatever you wanted.

How to make a web page

Spoiler alert. This is still a perfectly valid way to make a website. Just because you see a bunch of tutorials about hard-to-use frameworks, libraries, and services doesn’t mean you have to use them. Just because you can use build scripts, CDNs, Sass, Less, React, Gulp, Grunt, WordPress, Laravel, Django, Rails, or whatever it is, doesn’t mean you must.

If you are just starting out, here’s an excellent guide by Chris Coyier on CSS-Tricks that will get you through the technical hoops of getting a domain and a web server. From the there you can start making a web page.

Don’t know HTML or CSS? Try this beginner guide on HTML Dog.

Challenge

Make a web page. Make it about anything you want. Put it on your web server or hosting service. Don’t have web hosting? You can some at NearlyFreeSpeech.NET for $0.252. Then share it with the world.

Addendum

Chris Hawkes, a developer I follow on YouTube, happened to post a video that coincides with my point here that web development has gotten kind of crazy.


  1. I’m exaggerating to make a point. I don’t want a resurgence of sparkling MySpace profiles any more than you do. 

  2. NearlyFreeSpeech.NET doesn’t have an affiliate program—I get nothing by linking to them. I do it because they are awesome.