Don’t be Afraid to Lean on CSS Frameworks

Not everyone can utilize their creative side of their brain, or the creativity is utilized in different ways. Frontend CSS framworks are a blessing for those of us developers that can create any type of application you desire, but if we had a choice we’d stick with default browser styles.

Not All Developers Are Created Equal

Before Bootstrap CSS, formally known as Twitter Bootstrap, came out you could compare the designs of websites I’ve created reminiscent of Geocities designs. To be honest, lately I haven’t worked too much on front-end websites. A lot of what I do is backend orientated, or service orientated that either has javascript logic or I’m taking a design or pre-existing code someone created and implementing it into the system I’m developing, and I’m fine with that. I’m not a designer, I give a warranty to all my clients and coworkers that I’m not a designer. I don’t claim to have an artistic eye, my doodles consist of circles and my best effort to create a smiley face.

I code, that’s what I do, it’s in my blood. I’ve been coding for the past 20 years. Give me a text editor, a cup of coffee and a few hours and I’ll develop you an app.

It’s going to look boring, but it will work

There is something great about using Bootstrap CSS since it’s inception in 2011, almost four years ago. It’s that I’ve followed the changes, I’ve messed around with all the components, and I’m still learning how to use it to it’s fullest potential. I’m not going to claim this site is the optemie of the perfect vanilla Bootstrap CSS layout, it’s not, but it’s functional and I put about 2 hours of work into the design. It’s responsive, the design elements are consistant across browsers, and I’ve gotten to a point where I can get an idea how it’s going to look as I’m writing out the HTML syntax.

Themes? Where we are going, we don’t need themes.

Unless there is a request to use a theme, I just stay away from them. I’ve found the ones that are free, they are about 80% there but there is always something missing. It could be a hover state is off, some elements were skipped over and forgotten about, or the design decisions just don’t make sense.

Bootstrap actually comes with an alternative theme by default, since in one of their previous versions they decided to go flat to speed things up, they provide a “theme” which enables more 3D effects to elements.

When you’re developing a backend system that isn’t public facing but is an internal tool, you’re probably not going to care about font types, colors, icons. You’re going to use Font Awesome where you need to, and concentrate on the backend. You may take an hour to go through the app when you’re done with milestones to make sure it’s responsive and displays elements correctly. Bootstrap comes with so much that you shouldn’t worry about design decisions, those decisions have been made for you, embrace them and keep developing.

Okay, but what about Framework X?

I’m going to do a brief rundown of my opinion of other frameworks:

  • Foundation - this is an awesome framework, a true alternative to Bootstrap and if you search you’ll find they mention they were around before Bootstrap, were “mobile first” before bootstrap, and who knows, maybe in a year they’ll claim to be “application first” with the release of their application CSS framework.
  • Pure.css - It’s OK. I feel as if they don’t give you as much as Bootstrap, but I think that’s the point and I don’t think there is any framework out there that gives you as much as Bootstrap.
  • Gumby - I looked into it once, but didn’t give it a second thought because it relies on Ruby. You could call me “old school” in the way that I haven’t grasped the concepts of using SCSS or SASS. I’ve used it, it’s nice, but it seems more trouble than it was worth.
  • Unsemantic - This is a successor to the 960 grid system, the first grid system I used. This is a great option if you need a grid, and just a grid.
  • Skeleton - This was the first CSS framework I used, and it was in an internal backend system. It has been refreshed in late 2014 and the developer is going to start giving it some more love, but it used to look similar to the early versions of Bootstrap CSS. I would suppose the reason for this is the developer, Dave Gamache, used to be a designer at Twitter, same as Mark Otto, the front-end developer of Bootstrap CSS.

There are plenty of others. I’ve looked into them…some made my fan spin on my laptop, others were too basic where Skeleton would fit perfectly, and others just weren’t complete.

Wrap it up, Doug

Point being, don’t worry about having a great, unique design unless your project absolutely calls for it, or you have the talent. For example, this site doesn’t call for a great design because it’s focus is to provide useful information to developers quickly (does it do that? I hope so), and as you now know, I don’t have the artistic ability to come up with a web design.

So I’ll focus on what I know: PHP, Go, Javascript, databases. As the saying goes, if you’re a jack of all trades you are a master of none, and I’m no jack of all trades…and attempting to be a master of a few.

Last Updated: 2015-01-20 18:54:13 +0000 UTC

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