Great to begin with, frontend frameworks are integral for developers (but a nightmare for designers).
I’m not really a designer (Could you tell?). I know good design when I see it and I will take a good crack at making something look nice. I understand the importance of an intuitive user interface and how usability & accessibility are just as important as SEO and responsiveness.
As a web developer I am actually more interested in getting the website working – how it works, why it works and how I can make it work as efficiently and quickly as possible. I want to write beautiful, powerful, elegant code. Thats where I tend to find beauty in what I do – the engine, not the body.
So, when creating a new app, what’s one of the first things I do? I get a frontend HTML5/CSS3 responsive framework. This helps me churn out user facing bits in double quick time – and not only that but it tends to look bloody good too with very little effort.
You may have heard of Twitter’s Bootstrap. That was my first love. Right now I am in the arms of another – Zurb’s Foundation. Both are equally amazing responsive frameworks that make creating pages, such as forms, tables and full page layouts so quick and so simple it feels like cheating.
So where is the problem here? I will tell you… The deeper you get into a project, the more you realise that actually, using one of these frameworks makes your site look exactly the same as all the other sites that are using the same framework.
Unfortunately, that framework is now so deeply integrated into the code of your views it’s not going to be a simple thing to swap it out. In fact, it’s going to be nightmare.
So what’s the best thing to do here? I have found that asking myself some really simple questions before a single line of HTML is written saves an insane amount of time in the future. These are:
1.Do you have both the desktop and mobile designs already?
If yes, what the hell do you want a framework for? You know how it’s supposed to look, you know how it’s supposed to respond, stop being lazy and start your design from scratch – even better, write a little brueprint you can use in the future for such occasions! (but keep the blueprint super simple, you don’t want to start building another Bootstrap – there already is one). Wasting time forcing a shoe-shaped framework into your glove-shaped designs is only going to hurt later on.
2.If I put the time in now, will it save me later on?
Buttons, forms, labels, links, headings and tables to name but a few – Will all these elements be used in my site and will the time taken styling them have an impact of the time I have to complete the site? If i spend time now getting the page layout exactly how I want it – will that retract from time I could be spent developing the application logic, or will it infact save me time at a later date when the framework doesn’t do what I want it too?
3.Do I care?
Will this application be public? Should I be concentrating on the business logic and user interface and not how good it looks? Then I don’t care that it looks the same as every other site right now, I’m using it!