The “Developer Experience” Bait-and-Switch

Alex Russell describes his thoughts on the current state of JavaScript and how we might sometimes put a ton of focus on the ease-of-use of development at the expense of user experience. So, for example, we might pick a massive framework to make development easier and faster but then that might have an enormous impact on the user.

Alex describes it as substituting “developer value for user value.”

The “developer experience” bait-and-switch works by appealing to the listener’s parochial interests as developers or managers, claiming supremacy in one category in order to remove others from the conversation. The swap is executed by implying that by making things better for developers, users will eventually benefit equivalently. The unstated agreement is that developers share all of the same goals with the same intensity as end users and even managers. This is not true.

Here’s the kicker, though:

JavaScript is the web’s CO2. We need some of it, but too much puts the entire ecosystem at risk. Those who emit the most are furthest from suffering the consequences — until the ecosystem collapses. The web will not succeed in the markets and form-factors where computing is headed unless we get JS emissions under control.

By that standard, it could also stand to reason that the work we put into “design systems” falls into this trap. But there is something to be said about achieving ease of use on this front: a more consistent codebase is probably a very good thing for accessibility, UX consistency, etc. etc.

So, although I agree with Alex’s premise here, I’m not entirely sure I agree wholeheartedly on this subject.

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