There are countless front-end frameworks and boilerplates available - H5BP, Bootstrap, Foundation, Skeleton, 320 and up, I could go on. With so many fantastic, freely obtainable code bases, surely a front-end developer’s life when setting up a site is made much easier: Download, unzip, and ta-da - you’ve got a site up and running in no time. Just
add water customise and you are good to go, right? Erm. No. Not for me.
Your Own Code Just Fits
Having worked closely with other developers and looking at different frameworks, it is clear that we have our own ways of coding sites. Luckily, there are standards and best practices that help us stay in-line and work with each other, but we all have our preferences and quirks. It’s like driving a car: The pedals are for speeding up and slowing down, the steering wheel for changing direction, and the lights to illuminate the way. It’s the same for every car, but everybody has an individual driving style. Yet, if you adhere to the rules of the road, arrive at your destination, and haven’t harmed any fellow road users en route, your way of driving is the right way.
So, if you have a usable, accessible site, which is built on well-structured, well-commented, and valid code, then you are coding the right way.
And it is because of these individual coding styles that we will always feel most comfortable with our own code.
If you have worked with other developers, you will probably know that your way of coding ‘gels’ with some developers and with others it can feel like a struggle. You can understand another person’s code and structure and work with it, but it will never sit 100% right. For me it’s the same with frameworks and I agree with Stephanie Hobson:
Frameworks feel like putting on someone else’s wet clothes. Baggy and clingy in all the wrong places and I can’t get it to hang straight.
Know The Purpose Of Every Piece Of Code
I do not mean to say that we should ignore frameworks and spend days trying to solve a problem if a great solution has already been found - the very opposite. I find great inspiration in looking at updates and techniques, particularly in H5BP and Bootstrap. But I can’t bring myself to just ‘slap it on’ and be on my merry coding way.
I need to be able to understand the existence and purpose of every piece of code, why exactly it is where it is and what it is needed for. My own thought-processes need to be connected to every line to make it truly my own.
Rachel Andrews puts this perfectly:
I am concerned that these [frameworks] are being promoted as something everyone should include from the outset, rather than being a toolkit you draw on to deal with problems once they have arisen. […] make sure every bit of code added to your project is there for a reason you can explain, not just because it is part of some standard toolkit or boilerplate.Stop solving problems you don’t yet have
I think that the best prerequisite to knowing your site inside and out is to build it around your own base.
I Show You Mine...
After all of this, it is needless to say that I have my own base files. They are not as drastically simple as Rachel’s, but they provide a good sturdy shell for a new site to move into.
I constantly update these based on new experiences and know them so well that I can quickly edit or remove parts according to a site’s needs. If I come across great techniques and solutions for specific scenarios, I keep them separate and easily accessible. I feel most comfortable that way, and I believe this makes me a better coder, too.
So, go forth, be free, and roll to your own base. Your sites, skills and fellow developers will thank you for it.