Tag: Survey

State of JavaScript 2019 Survey

Well, hey, look at that — it’s time for this year’s State of JavaScript survey!

You have taken this survey last year. Or in 2017. Or in 2016. It’s been going on for a little while now and it always lends interesting insights into things like the features developers are using, the popularity of specific frameworks, and general trends. And, since the survey is going into its fourth year, we may start to get some real insights into the evolution of JavaScript over time.

So go ahead and take the survey. The more people who take it, the better results we get.

In case this is new to you, the survey is brought to you by the same folks who brought us the first State of CSS survey just this year. You can listen to Sacha Greif chat with Chris and Dave about that one over on ShopTalk for little gems about the results.

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Three Predictions From the State of CSS 2019 Survey

Running a developer survey like the State of CSS is a multi-stage process. First, you need to collect the data. Then, you process it into a usable shape. Finally, you come up with nifty ways to visualize it and release it to the world.

But then, once the dust settles and the traffic dies down comes my favorite part: actually thinking about the data. By taking a deeper look at our data, as well as observing how the community discussed our findings, three unexpected trends ended up coming into focus.

But first, some background for those not already familiar with the project.

I first started the State of JavaScript survey three years ago in 2016 as a way to answer my own uncertainties about the future of web development. At the time, JavaScript fatigue was running wild and I thought a comprehensive developer survey could prove itself the antidote.

The original State of JavaScript 2016 edition

Turns out I hit a nerve: that first survey turned out to be very popular, and our audience has grown each year since, along with the scope of the survey. (I was also joined by Raphael Benitte, creator of the Nivo.js dataviz library, to help me with data processing and visualization.) This year marks the first time we’re pivoting out into a new dimension, namely the not-so-simple world of CSS.

Taking on CSS

Prediction 1: CSS still has a lot of unexplored territory

One of the things we wanted to quantify with the survey was how much of CSS was still left “unexplored.” In other words, what CSS features are developers either unfamiliar with, or else hadn’t yet used. For that reason we decided early-on to focus our Features section on new CSS properties, like shapes, masking, or scroll-snap rather than “boring” floats or tables.

The resulting data paints an interesting picture: it turns out that when you look at it this way, CSS morphs from a familiar landscape to a wild, unexplored jungle.

A look at comparing Flexbox vs. CSS Grid provides a good illustration of this trend. While nearly everybody who’s heard of Flexbox has also used it, only 55% of developers who are aware of CSS Grid have actually tried it. That’s a big gap, especially for a technology as important as CSS Grid!

Layout Features

Or take CSS Shapes: 68% of developers are aware of them, only 31% of that group has actually used the feature.

CSS Shapes

This all points at a big gap between what we collectively want to learn and what we actually know. It’s that potential for growth that is exactly what makes CSS so exciting in 2019.

Prediction 2: Functional CSS will keep rising

If you’re old enough to remember the CSS Zen Garden — or to have actually learned CSS through it (in which case I know how you feel, my back hurts when I get up in the morning as well) — then this next trend might seem weird, or even downright wrong.

CSS Zen Garden: one page, many themes.

Functional CSS rejects the platonic ideal of pure, untainted markup free from any styling concerns and embraces “functional” (aka “atomic” or “utility”) classes. Think <div class="text-red text-medium border-1">...</div>.

Adopting this approach means you can’t magically update your stylesheet and change your entire design without modifying a single line of markup. But be honest, how often does this happen anyway? Compared to the often theoretical elegance of the Zen Garden philosophy, libraries like Tailwind and Tachyons provide tangible, real-world benefits, which explains why they’re so highly regarded. In fact, those take the #1 and #4 spots, respectively, in terms of satisfaction ratio in the CSS Framework category.

Awareness, interest, and satisfaction ratio rankings for CSS frameworks.

Tailwind especially seems to be picking up speed, at least judging by the Twitter engagement from its community in response to the survey results. Having just hit version 1.0, it’s definitely a project to keep an eye on!

Prediction 3: The battle for CSS has just begun

Looking at our data, I can’t help but wonder if “JavaScript fatigue” will soon be replaced by “CSS fatigue.”

When evaluating technologies, it’s important to look not just at raw usage numbers, but also at user satisfaction. After all, you don’t want to jump on the latest bandwagon just to find out its current occupants can’t wait to hop off it.

This scatterplot chart that’s divided into quadrants is perfect for this. It plots usage against satisfaction, making it easy to isolate popular, high-satisfaction tools into their own quadrant.

Usage vs. Satisfaction

What’s apparent in this chart is that the most densely populated area is the “Assess” quadrant. In other words, the low-usage, high-satisfaction technologies that are still battling it out for supremacy. This is exactly the state that the JavaScript ecosystem finds itself in as well. Many contenders, but few decisive winners as of today.

This is not necessarily a bad thing: yes, it does make the average developer’s life harder when it comes to picking the right tool, but hey, this is why we do what we do! Additionally, competition can only be good for the ecosystem as a whole. Once the dust settles, we’ll hopefully end up with the best possible options having survived!

CSS in 2019

Overall, the State of CSS survey shows that this is not your grandpa’s CSS anymore. For years, we developers have loved to complain about the inadequacies of CSS and its lack of powerful features. But in 2019, CSS is challenging us to put our money where our mouthes are: here’s all the features you’ve always wanted. Now what are you going to do about it?

I, for one, am very excited to dive even deeper into this new world of styling. And, of course, to tune back in 2020 to see what new trends we find then!

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Why CSS Needs its Own Survey

2016 was only three years ago, but that’s almost a whole other era in web development terms. The JavaScript landscape was in turmoil, with up-and-comer React — as well as a little-known framework called Vue — fighting to dethrone Angular.

Like many other developers, I felt lost. I needed some clarity, and I figured the best way to get it was simply to ask fellow coders what they used, and more importantly, what they enjoyed using. The result was the first ever edition of the now annual State of JavaScript survey.

The State of JavaScript 2018

Things have stabilized in the JavaScript world since then. Turns out you can’t really go wrong with any one of the big three frameworks, and even less mainstream options, like Ember, have managed to build up passionate communities and show no sign of going anywhere.

But while all our attention was fixated on JavaScript, trouble was brewing in CSS land. For years, my impression of CSS’s evolution was slow, incremental progress. Back then, I was pretty sure border-radius support represented the crowning, final achievement of web browser technology.

But all of a sudden, things started picking up. Flexbox came out, representing the first new and widely adopted layout method in over a decade. And Grid came shortly after that, sweeping away years of hacky grid frameworks into the gutter of bad CSS practices.

Something even crazier happened: now that the JavaScript people had stopped creating a new framework every two weeks, they decided to use all their extra free time trying to make CSS even better! And thus CSS-in-JS was born.

And now it’s 2019, and the Flexbox Cheatsheet tab I’ve kept open for the past two years has now been joined by a Grid Cheatsheet, because no matter how many times I use them, I still need to double-check the syntax. And despite writing a popular introduction to CSS-in-JS, I still lazily default to familiar Sass for new projects, promising myself that I’ll “do things properly” the next time.

All this to say that I feel just as lost and confused about CSS in 2019 as I did about JavaScript in 2016. It’s high time CSS got a survey of its own.

Starting from scratch

Coming up with the idea for a CSS survey was easy, but deciding on the questions themselves was far from straightforward. Like I said, I didn’t feel confident in my own CSS knowledge, and simply asking about Sass vs. Less for the 37th time felt like a missed opportunity…

Thankfully, the CSS Gods decided to smile down upon me: while attending the DotJS conference in France I discovered that, not only did fellow speaker Florian Rivoal live in Kyoto, Japan, just like me; but that he was a member of the CSS Working Group! In other words, one of the people who knows the most about CSS on the planet was living a few train stops away from me!

Florian was a huge help in coming up with the overall structure and content of the survey. And he also helped me realize how little I really knew about CSS.

Kyoto, Japan: a hotbed of CSS activity (Photo by Jisu Han)

You don’t know CSS

I’m not only talking about obscure CSS properties here, or even new up-and-coming ones, but about how CSS itself is developed. For example, did you know that the development of the CSS Grid spec was sponsored by Bloomberg, because they needed a way to port the layout of their famous terminal to the web?

Did you ever stop to wonder what top: 30px is supposed to mean on a circular screen, such as the one on a smartwatch? Or did you know that some people are laying out entire printed books in CSS, effectively replacing software like InDesign?

Talking with Florian really expanded my mind to how broad and interesting CSS truly is, and convinced me doing the survey was worth it.

“What do you mean, ‘Make the <table> circular’?” Photo by Artur Łuczka

About that divide…

The idea of a CSS survey became all the more important as my new-found admiration for CSS seemed to coincide with a general sentiment that HTML and CSS mastery were becoming under-appreciated skills in the face of JavaScript hegemony.

Myself, personally, I’ve always enjoyed being a generalist in the sense that I happily hop from one side of the great divide to another whenever I feel like it. At the same time, I’m also wholly convinced that the world needs specialists like Florian; people who dedicate their lives to championing and improving a single aspect of the web.

Devaluing the work the work of generalists is not only unfair, but it’s also counter-productive — after all, HTML and CSS are the foundation on which all modern JavaScript frameworks are built; and on the other hand, new patterns and approaches pioneered by CSS-in-JS libraries will hopefully find their way back into vanilla CSS sooner or later.

Thankfully, I feel like a minority of developers hold those views, and those who do generally hold them do so out of ignorance for what the “other side” really stands for more than any well-informed opinion.

So that’s where the survey comes in: I’m not saying I can fill up the divide, but maybe I can throw a couple walkways across, or distribute some jetpacks — you know, whatever works. 🚀

If that sounds good, then the first step is — you guessed it — taking the survey!

Take Survey

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The #StateOfCSS 2019 Survey

You know about the State of JavaScript survey, where thousands upon thousands of developers were surveyed about all-things-JS, from frameworks to testing and many other things in between? Well, Sacha Greif has launched one focused entirely on CSS.

This is super timely given a lot of the content we and other sites have been posting lately centered around learning, complexity, changing roles, and more. Sacha captures it nicely:

This is especially interesting since it comes at a time where many are talking about a “Great Divide” between the “front” of the front-end (HTML, CSS) and the “back” of the front-end (JavaScript and its many frameworks and libraries). […] [T]he survey will be a great chance to take a snapshot of the community as it currently exists, and see how this evolves over the next couple years.

Sounds like a good goal. Let’s help by putting some responses in there!

Take Survey

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