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Lucio Delelis
Lucio Delelis

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The 3/4ths Stack (web) Developer

Or how to get away with not keeping up to date with JavaScript fads

As of years ago we're all familiarized with the concepts of front-end and back-end development; that is, being fully in control of one "half" of a decoupled (or not!) web application. This implies working independently of the progress/blockades of the other "half"'s team. Sounds great, right?

Well, it is great, if you're working in teams.

But what about the lone wolf that had a cute idea for a product/novelty, but has no idea how Nodejs works, or how to connect to a database engine to store their stuff, or has only dealt with terminals to run npm run serve and let the magic fairies of GNU/Linux deal with changes?

And what about the seasoned developer that devised the perfect, 100% reliable, tried-and-tested groundworks for a future-proof eCommerce, but can't make a landing page worthy of today's (in my opinion highly exaggerated) style standards, or figure out how the heck CORS requests work with JavaScript's cryptic XMLHttpRequest object?

Well, what is it? Credit to William Erhel

You might be thinking now: but dude, you like, totally skipped over full-stack developers dude, come on!

And you're right, I didn't mention them, because learning a full stack takes time, effort, and compromise. Which of course, if you can afford to, by all means go ahead and learn the half you're lacking.

But before you pull out your credit card and empty your most recent paycheck in intro to <current trendy framework> courses, think about whether you really need to learn a whole new way of thinking, toolset, language, etc. to finish up your project.

Let's recap a bit. You have a great idea, which requires work on both sides of the coin, and you can only do your part on one. You can't stay as a "half-stack" dev, and completely learning another stack would take way too much time to consider it.

Enter the "3/4ths-stack developer" concept. That is: you might not be able to create an enterprise-ready, 99.9999(...)9% SLA system with charming, mobile-first, progressive, and fully responsive views, but at least you can ship a product that doesn't make potential clients want to shut their screen down on first contact.

And that's just fine: our main idea here is to get by without depending on a team, and doing just enough of what we're missing.

But dude, how can I like, become this weird stack developer you mention?. Well, luckily as much as we have battle-tested, all-encompassing development frameworks on both sides, like Django and React, we also have tiny, "write 10 lines and be done with it" tools that save us the tedious work.

What makes these tools particularly useful to 3/4ths-stack devs is that they were made with a "micro-framework" approach in mind. They allow developers to get up and running with minimal work, and build up from there, being able to scale up to an actual framework should it be needed.

Some examples are as follows:

  • Front-end
    • Tailwind (CSS)
    • ZURB Foundation (CSS)
    • Preact (JS)
    • Templating engines (Django, Rails, etc.)
  • Back-end
    • Sinatra (Ruby)
    • Flask (Python)
    • Koa (Javascript)

Summing up: Stacks aren't huge scary monsters under your bed anymore. It's extremely easy to get something simple running on either side with minimal effort. And with modern best practices, scaling these options should your idea take off (I pray it does, reader!) is a seamless process with the adequate knowledge.

So grab your simple tools, some tutorials, and let's get busy!

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