Frank Mitchell

You don't always need to frame things

One of the questions I’ve been asked a lot since building Prolix is, “Why didn’t you use a framework like jQuery?” The short answer is, “Because I didn’t need it.”

There’s no point in diving unless you can swim

When I started working on Prolix, I knew next to nothing about JavaScript. I still don’t know much about it, but I’m making a point to learn. I’ve read JavaScript: The Good Parts. I’ve looked at the code behind [web apps Iadmire][]. And I’ve poured over every line of jQuery until I understand what each one does.

Frameworks are wonderful things. They speed up the development process and make changing things easier. They help you write more portable code. They are wonderful tools that make my life as an engineer better.

But personally, I’ve never felt comfortable using a tool I don’t understand. I know that violates the whole concept of “layers of abstraction”, that you should be able to use something without having to understand how it works. But when my electric knife sharpener breaks, I want the confidence that comes from knowing that I can pull out a whetstone and still get stuff done.

JavaScript is such a fundamental part of web development that I wanted to really understand it before I started using a framework that abstracted it all away from me. Now that I’ve built Prolix, I’m a lot more confident about my ability to use frameworks like jQuery in other projects.

Size matters not, until it does

When it comes to application development on the mobile web size matters. The smaller your code, the faster it’s going to download and execute. Even when it’s minified and gzipped, jQuery is still 24 kilobytes. While things like the Google Libraries API help, they don’t eliminate all that sting.

Instead, here’s the 276 byte version of jQuery I used in Prolix:

function $(id) {
  return document.getElementById(id);

function html(id, text) {
  $(id).innerHTML = text;

function animate(element, animation) { = '';
  setTimeout(function () { = animation;
  }, 0);

Yes, it only supports WebKit animations, but that’s okay. Animations aren’t necessary for the game to work. Because the only platforms I was targeting were CSS 3 compliant browsers, I didn’t need all the cross browser compatibility that jQuery provides.

Instead, I wrote the minimum amount of functionality I needed in as few bytes as possible. Including jQuery would have made Prolix 1.25 times bigger, and I wouldn’t have gained much from it.

Not every photo needs a frame

Frameworks are great for starting up, for helping you compose an application and focus on the core functionality. When you’re writing something big, or if you need it to be really robust, tried and tested code from a framework is much better than rolling your own.

But if you really want to learn a concept, or you need to keep the code as small as possible, frameworks just get in the way.