I just shipped a single-page application without any frameworks and I feel fine

This past week I built a tool for a freelance client’s website that allows their visitors to find the nearest dealer for their products.

The previous version of this tool was written in Classic ASP (which I also maintained) and pulled its data from an MS Excel spreadsheet. Yes, you read that right, an Excel spreadsheet was the backend data repository for a live website in 2016. I suspect this approach is still out there more than us modern web developers would care to admit.

Anyway, my first job was to move the Excel data out to a real database, MySQL in this case simply because that’s what the web host supported. It ended up being pretty easy thanks to Excel’s ability to export to CSV.

Next, I built out a basic search class for sending queries to the database. I needed to be able to filter the data by any permutations of the available fields (think business name, city, province, etc.). A few simple 5–10 line functions later and it was done.

The API was even easier, I just checked $_GET for my trigger argument and called the associated function in my new search class, returning the result as a JSON payload. This made implementing the client JavaScript super simple.

Other than jQuery (simply for the XHR abstraction) the client-side was built with vanilla JavaScript. I had a few functions for drilling down in the filters, for example, if you selected a province I would only show ‘city’ options that were in that province. There was also one for rendering the HTML of search results. None of these were more than 15 lines of code.

I’m quite happy with how it all turned out and so is my client since they understand the code without having to learn some framework. They’re also able to make some changes on their own without having to involve me, which quite honestly I’m ok with.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against web frameworks, I find them quite useful when they’re appropriate. I do firmly believe that not all web things are in need of a framework. Next time you’re tackling something small, see what it’s like to write it by hand. You might just surprise yourself with how easy it can be and how simple the result ends up.

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