Front-end development is booming. I have been doing this for a long time and never was it so much fun as these days. Front-end specialists are in high demand, browsers are updating quite rapidly and stumbling over each other to support the latest goodies.

Then there is an explosion of tools. We all have a hard time keeping up. Every week new JavaScript- or OOCSS frameworks and task-runners are popping up promising to make our lives easier.

A Simple Site

I am writing this post as Markdown in Sublime Text. To the left of my editor window is a browser running this website locally through a Gulp workflow.

The moment I hit save gulp re-generates the Jekyll site and my browser-window refreshes to show the new content. The same goes for my Sass .scss or JavaScript files: when I update them Gulp goes and does its magic.

Magic, in this context, is a whole load of tasks: combining various .scss files, compiling those to .css, minifying them and moving them to the /css folder. Various .js files are combined, minified and moved too. Images are optimized. Jekyll Markdown files converted to HTML and minified. And. So. On.

But this is not all: I also have my local site open in my phone’s web browser. Whenever my site refreshes, my phone does too. No manual action required. No <ALT>+<TAB>. No <CMD>+<R>. One Save in my text editor. Magic.

I keep all the files for this weblog in a Git repository. When I’m done writing this post (soon, I promise!) I’ll commit the updated files (but not the generated static _site/) and push to a Github gh-pages branch.

The moment Github receives my Jekyll files it recognizes this is a Jekyll website and automatically generates the complete site, serving it at a domain I configured. One git push and my site will be deployed. No FTP. Not even a hosting account needed. Magic.

But: all this is for the simplest of static blogs!

Tools are neat but will not save us a lot of time in the short-term

Magical Timesinks…

Most front-end developers I know use tools like Sass and Grulpt. If you are not yet using a VCS like Git you should stop reading this post and start using it. Come back when you’re done.

However, we should not obsess over tools too much. KISS and POSH and all that. These tools are neat but will not save us a lot of time in the short-term.

Fact: while I no longer have to compile my Sass files by hand or update my navigation in multiple places I am now figuring out how to fix flippin’ Rubygem issues, where to find the best Gulp plugins or learning about Browserify

Instead of figuring out how to get this rounded border working on IE6 I am fixing issues is my gazillion dependencies. Or just reading up on Gulp after I just started using Grunt.

These tools do not save me time. In the short-term.

But It’s Cool!

You know what? I’m totally fine with ‘wasting’ a lot of time fiddling around with them. I am a front-end developer, I work on the Web. This is what I do: I fiddle, I experiment. I learn

How about you? Do you love tinkering with these new tools or do you feel overwhelmed? reply on Twitter or submit an issue on Github

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