Profile pic of Tommy KuTommy Ku's Blog

Reading and thinking

5 reasons every web developer should make a startpage

Posted on June 02, 2019

Before I talk about “startpage” let’s look at the word “homepage”. What is a homepage? A homepage shows up when you open your web browser. In Firefox, the starting page users first see when they open up the browser is referred to as “homepage”.

Setting page of Firefox, with item referring to homepage
Firefox refers to the page on browser start as homepage

In the early 2000s people make the “homepage” of their browser Yahoo! (Is it still a thing now?). At least I did until Google became popular.

Now back to the term “startpag”, it can be the page when your browser first starts, or the new tab page.

As a web developer, whether experienced or not, you may wonder why does a startpage matter? The default page looks good and is fine! Here are 5 reasons that maybe you should build your own instead of sticking to the default.

Reason 1: You own your browser start page

No matter which browser you use, nowadays all major browsers have an option to set the homepage. You may not want to diverge from the default, but the freedom of choice is always yours.

Default startpage of firefox
Firefox’s startpage right out of the box

Do you like your browser’s default? All of it? Is there nothing you wish to add or remove from this page?

You can change it if you want! As technologists we love to tinker with our tools such that they work better for us. A browser start page is no exception!

Reason 2: You can do anything you want

In an earlier post I’ve detailed how to set up a basic start page and you can do the same.

Regardless of your level of sophistication as a web developer, there are always things that you could do to improve the existing start page of your browser. From as simple as changing the greeting message to as elaborated as fetching RSS feed from a upstream API proxy or your own server.

On the online community where people share their startpages, you can easily find people having their “waifu” on their startpage.

Waifu is a term for a fictional character, usually in anime or related media, that someone has great, and sometimes romantic, affection for — Urban Dictionary

Yes, you can do that. Nobody’s gonna judge because it’s your personal computer. Will your boss frown on it when he/she walks past your desk? I don’t know.

There are productive things you can add to your startpage, say a calendar, weather forecast, RSS feed, alarm, current time in another country and more.

It’s your startpage, you can add whatever you want to it. (Just try saving yourself the embarrassment of somebody seeing what you actually put on it)

Reason 3: A transition project from a hello world to a Todo MVC

For those who’ve just begun building websites by typing something into a text editor, a hello world webpage is simple.

<h1>Hello World</h1>

For a seasoned web developer though, you may be familiar with bundling tool like webpack which bundles, transpile and optimize code from hundreds of node modules to turn some framework-powered JavaScript code sprinkled with syntactic sugar into a 6MB main.js. (OK I may be exaggerating and ignoring techniques that reduce bundle size such as tree shaking, but you get the point)

I mean, how can you go from hello world to a Todo MVC?

You can start from something simple like a start page. Developers can be employ some intermediate techniques one at a time. How can you absolutely center something? Use flexbox/CSS grid. How can you add content to the page dynamically? You could use DOM API/jquery first, and slowly work up to something like virtual DOM.

Nobody is gonna judge. You can try out new things to progressively improve your startpage at your own pace.

Reason 4: Become part of a community

There is a community on Reddit /r/startpages where people showcase their creation. Sometimes, you may find interesting pieces of craft that would inspire your next creation, or techniques you’ve never thought would be possible.

You could throw your work out there and as far as I see, it’s a supportive and encouraging community.

Reason 5: It might come in handy

I have a laptop-converted home server sharing files with SMB, hosting download service with Aria2 and streaming media with Plex. I’m not particularly good at remembering port numbers which each of these service is using. So a startpage on my browser or served at port 80 of the server helps.

I also hide a bunch of services inside a VPN with its own list of IP/hostnames-port combinations to remember. I simply can’t remember them. Now with a startpage, I don’t have to.

Of course, usually I just need to remember the first few characters of my most used sites because browsers nowadays have good autocomplete feature. The bookmarking feature also helps remembering links on different servers without requiring a startpage. A startpage isn’t strictly necessary, but it’s fun, so why not?

You could also look at...