Join James Williamson for an in-depth discussion in this video Frameworks, part of Introduction to Web Design and Development.
Some frameworks are lightweight and give designers a minimal starting point and a focused set of features. While others employ a much more comprehensive approach and offer a wide range of choices and features. As with any tool there are pros and cons to using frameworks. Let's take a quick look at how most frameworks work and then discuss when they're appropriate. At the core of any framework will be at least one CSS file. The CSS file will contain styling that represents the focus of the framework. Now, for some this will be responsive layouts or layout grids, typography, forms, browser resets, theme styling or a mixture of things.
While they're fairly simple to use, with this much functionality built in, you'll need to pay close attention to the framework documentation in order to take full advantage of what they have to offer. Now, thankfully most frameworks have detailed documentation that makes it pretty easy to get up to speed on how to use them. The main reason designers use frameworks is to speed up development time. With a framework the mark-up for typography, layout and other styling, they're already worked out. Perhaps most importantly, cross browser compatibility issues are addressed in most frameworks, eliminating what can be a tedious task.
In that sense designers can rapidly create and style prototypes or even finished sites without having to author a ton of separate styles on their own. An often overlooked reason to use frameworks is for the education that they provide. A high quality framework is the result of literally hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of lessons that are learned the hard way by other designers. By using a framework you're not only benefiting from their knowledge, but you're able to dig into what makes the framework tick and figure out how to approach design different issues on your own.
If you broaden your horizons and experiment with multiple frameworks, you can get a fairly broad survey into how the professional web community tackles most problems and that can be absolutely invaluable for new designers. However, frameworks aren't for everyone or for every project. Most of the time your projects might not even use half of what a framework has to offer. So, without taking the time to go through it and strip out all the unused code, your projects are gonna be a lot bigger than they need to be which impact performance. You're also restricted to working based on the way the framework is constructed.
That's not always a negative, but if you don't choose wisely you could end up with a framework that doesn't fit your own personal workflow or standards. Also, if the framework is too restrictive you end up having to spend an inordinate amount of time to modify the framework for that particular project. While it's nice to have the head start, you don't want to spend twice the amount of time in overriding or modifying a framework's styles. So, whether frameworks are the right fit for you or not is largely a matter of personal preference. I recommend researching the ones that seem the best fit for your needs and then start experimenting with them.
Be sure to check out the additional resources movie at the end of this course for a list of popular frameworks that can help get you started. Once you've had some hand-on experience with them you'll be better prepared to determine whether or not they'll work for you.
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- What is web design?
- What is a web designer?
- Learning to code
- Choosing a web host
- Working with a CMS
- Exploring how websites are structured
- Choosing your framework or software
- Designing with standards and accessibility in mind