Thoughts on Using Web Frameworks

If you’re involved in web design, you’re probably familiar with at least one of the popular front-end frameworks. Foundation

Are frameworks a crutch, or can they be a useful tool to experienced front-end developers? Do they have a place in our workflow if we want to build websites that don’t look like every other website out there?

Here are some thoughts on the good and bad of front-end frameworks:

Types of Frameworks

“Framework” is a broad term — in reality, there are multiple types of front-end framework, each with different goals. High-level frameworks like Twitter Bootstrap and Foundation provide fully-styled elements right out of the box, allowing developers to construct fleshed-out websites without the need for customization. Lower-level frameworks like the HTML5 Boilerplate provide useful code snippets without enforcing their own styles on developers, but require major customization to be useful at all.

Let’s look at the pros and cons:

Pros

Cons

Conclusion

Personally, I’m a fan of Bootstrap, Foundation, and Boilerplate, though I don’t use any of them in my projects. (I used to use HTML5 Boilerplate in everything, but I’ve since weaned myself off it in favor of purely custom code.) I love tearing them apart to see what clever techniques their developers are using, and I keep any relevant snippets handy so that I can integrate them into my own projects. It was Boilerplate that first introduced me to asynchronous Google Analytics code and the jQuery CDN/fallback system. I have since integrated those components into my own projects, while avoiding anything bloated or unnecessary.

Personally, I advise against using web frameworks in your projects. New developers may find their growth stunted by over reliance on prefab code, while experienced developers are often slower using a framework rather than starting from scratch. To me, the benefits outweigh the costs. In a recent Industry Radio Show live chat, Pedro Carmo (@drocarmo) phrased this reasoning quite eloquently: “I think frontend frameworks disable people’s creativity. It teaches you how to edit code, but not to create code.” Amen.

Don’t get me wrong, all three frameworks I mentioned are impressive pieces of work. But why use someone else’s impressive work when you can be making your own?

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