Frameworks are powerful tools that can make a web developer’s job easier. They provide a standardized set of design and development conventions that can be applied and modified for your website. Say, what? Let me explain.

Imagine you are in the kitchen frying an egg. Your goal is to turn the egg over but you don’t know how you’re going to do it yet. You can try to fashion up your own utensil to do it or you can use an already existing utensil – a spatula. In the same way, frameworks are tools that help you in not having to reinvent the wheel every time you want create different elements on a website.

In this article, I will cover the usefulness of frameworks, popular types, how and when to use them, and what it means to implement a responsive front-end framework for your website.

Usefulness of frameworks

The allure of frameworks is the amount of time that is saved and the resulting efficiency in getting a project rolled out faster because there’s a lot less of the initial work to be done.

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Frameworks take care of tasks like default browser settings, file structures, and layout templates for your website. This automation generates a uniform design for page elements like text, tables, forms, and buttons, amongst other things. Even complex navigation menus become standardized with frameworks as it can be consistently applied across your website with ease.

There are many different frameworks available for web development – first let’s make the distinction between front-end and back-end frameworks to help you understand the usefulness of these solutions.

Back-end frameworks

Back-end frameworks are meant to make the responsibility of interacting with the database an easier endeavor for the developer. It automates a lot of functions and processes that developers use to record and retrieve user-inputted data.

Front-end frameworks

Front-end frameworks are very helpful on the presentation side of the website, creating a good foundation from which to build pages. These frameworks combine HTML, CSS, and Javascript to be really effective in creating conventions for various elements.

HTML conventions allow for standardization for elements like typography, while CSS conventions can help standardize positioning of elements in a grid-like system on the pages. This makes it easier for the developer to arrange and organize elements into a simple and uniform design across multiple displays and browsers. Javascript conventions offer the ability to style more advanced components like image carousels, lightboxes, button behaviors, and pop-ups.

On another note, there are Javascript frameworks that focus on full application support – like AngularJS and Reactjs. Libraries of Javascript code like jQuery are also helpful in developing conventions that can be readily implemented in websites.

To recap, the use of frameworks helps the developer get up and running quickly without having to get bogged down with the initial hurdles that come with setting up a website. It creates uniform code across all pages of your website and presents a clean look for the users. This in turn solves common issues like typography consistency and positioning issues on different pages.

Best of all, frameworks resolve any issues with browser compatibility and responsiveness, which will be discussed in a few paragraphs.

There are many popular frameworks that focus on different directives and outcomes.

The most popular framework is Bootstrap, originally developed by Twitter to maintain consistency in their interface development. It is a very polished and efficient framework that makes website development easier and faster. It has standardized conventions that are well recognized for HTML elements like buttons, alerts, forms, and typography.

Foundation is a framework created from the Zurb style guide and much like Bootstrap, offers a complete solution for front-end design. Many large companies like Facebook, Yahoo, and Ebay utilize Foundation in their layouts. The framework encourages web developers to expand on the conventions and personalize them for developers’ websites.

Skeleton is a lighter framework that doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles that accompany the heavy-lifters like Bootstrap and Foundation. This encourages greater customization by only providing styling on the most basic and necessary elements. Developers who only need specific components to be styled utilize light-weight frameworks like Skeleton to achieve their goals.

A simple Google search of ‘popular front-end frameworks’ will turn up a lot of results for top frameworks being used and recommended. It’s definitely beneficial to check out the different options and see which suits your development needs and design goals.

How/when to use frameworks

Regardless of whether a developer uses a full front-end framework like Bootstrap or a lightweight option like Skeleton, frameworks are an efficient tool that should be seriously considered in every developer’s process.

Recognized frameworks offer more ease in collaboration as developers can access the same libraries for design conventions without having to resort to individual opinionated decisions. Additionally, there is support from the specific framework community with tutorials and articles on how to effectively use the framework.

The ease of implementation and efficiency makes it almost a necessity to use frameworks in a developer’s website process. Any time a developer is finding themselves creating an ever-growing proprietary list of CSS rules, it’s probably a good idea to look into using a framework.

A responsive framework

One of the best features of utilizing a framework is that it helps create websites that are easily accessible and are able to be viewed across different browsers on different devices. A lot of frameworks accomplish this with dynamic code – utilizing classes that can be reused and formatted to take into consideration the device and/or browser that is being used.

In other words, the layouts of webpages will change – certain elements will disappear and text will be smaller on smaller screens, while certain Javascript elements might not take effect at all. On larger screens, the extra real estate can be used to showcase higher quality images and more sophisticated design elements.

In this current age when users are just as likely to view websites on their mobile devices as well as on their computers, it’s important to have a responsive website that creates an enriching user experience no matter what interface the user interacts with.

Conclusion

Critics of front-end frameworks cite front-end frameworks as the source of a lot of cookie-cutter websites that are identical in appearance and interaction. But let’s go back to the cooking example: a spatula is just a spatula – a lot of people have one and utilize the tool in the kitchen. But the food that is created will vary wildly across the spectrum, depending on the cook.

In the same light, front-end frameworks are simply a tool that can be utilized to create diverse and distinctive websites. They are efficient, but it is up to the developer to make sure it is effective.

Learn more about making effective websites by checking out CareerFoundry’s Web Development Course.