A new kind of style — Is “LESS” more?

June 28th, 2012

I’m a fairly traditional front-end developer. I taught myself HTML and CSS a long time ago, and a huge part of me loves the familiarity of hand-coding HTML and CSS from scratch; I’ve worked out a system of organization and commenting that makes my markup process very smooth and straightforward. So when I was asked to work on a project that had been started with “LESS,” I wasn’t sure what to think. Is this supposed to make something that’s already very simple… simpler? I’ve never used CSS frameworks like LESS or SASS, so after a bit of research and preparation, I dove in.

LESS, if you’re not familiar with it, is sort of like CSS on steroids. It blends CSS with JavaScript to enable incorporation of variables, mixins, functions, operations, and style nesting, giving the developer the capability to incorporate more programming methodology into their styles, thereby simplifying the process. This is very similar to the popular SASS, which uses Ruby rather than JavaScript. It’s a really great idea, and could save the programmer-minded web developer a lot of time.

To make a long story short, however, I’m not ready to make the switch. Having been a secondary developer coming into a half-completed project, I experienced first-hand how frustrating it can be for a developer to take over using an unfamiliar coding method on an otherwise straightforward project, and would really hate to be the source of frustration to future developers.

I can absolutely see the value in using LESS for personal or proprietary projects in which you know that you will be the only developer working with the code. For the sake of flexibility with other developers, as well as compatibility with new style rules, however, I’m perfectly happy sticking to my old-fashioned stylesheets. I’m very interested to see whether these methods become widely adopted by other developers, however, and am open to making the switch if either becomes more widely accepted and supported.

If you’re a LESS or SASS user, I’d love to hear your opinion on utilization of these methods, and your vision of their future in the web development realm.

For more information about implementing LESS, and the comparison between LESS and SASS, check out this great SmashingMagazine article.

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