Front-end framework or CSS from scratch?

Front-end frameworks are rising in popularity.  From Twitter Bootstrap to Zurb Foundation, these tools can save a tremendous amount of time by doing a lot of CSS heavy-lifting for a web site.

I will be comparing a few frameworks for use in my first web application.  But first, I should tell you why I am even considering one.

What’s a front-end framework?

The unsophisticated definition: a framework provides a basic user interface for your web site, and you build from there.  It saves you time.

More specifically, a framework:

  • Makes responsive design much easier.  Your content will look good on any device.
  • Provides a familiar, intuitive interface for your users.  Links are blue.  Buttons look clickable.  These subtle design decisions, already made for you, make your site easier to learn.
  • Works cross-browser.  The best frameworks are well-tested on all of the major browsers, so you won’t have to do as much debugging.

Should I use a framework?

There are pros and cons.  Chris Coyier of CSS-Tricks summarizes them in a post from 2007 that is still relevant.

For sites that need to be heavily customized or introduce a new kind of interaction that isn’t standard, it may take longer to customize a framework than to build from scratch.

But, as Chris wrote about one major framework, “I think a web app startup could do a lot worse than starting with this to get up and running quickly.”  That sums it up for me.  I am a one-man band on this project, so time is of the essence.  I’ll be using a front-end framework.

Frameworks don’t excuse ignorance

Someone could use a front-end framework to build a site without knowing any CSS.  That’s fine, but the site will look like thousands of others.

In reality, anyone doing front-end development should know how to write CSS from scratch, without the cushion of a framework.

So, in addition to using a framework for my web app, I am going to read a real CSS book.  Stay tuned for updates on that.

It’s time for speed dating

The past few years have seen dozens of new front-end frameworks.  To find the right match for me, I need to spend a little bit of time with each of them.  You’ll come along for the ride in an upcoming posting.  Keep in mind, though – everyone’s framework soulmate may be different. brings Rails job offers to you. Free for candidates. Salaries from $75,000 to $250,000. Sign up now!

One thought on “Front-end framework or CSS from scratch?”

  1. I don’t like to use any CSS framework, whatever the project I’m working on. Always I prefer to build my CSS from the scratch.

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