I have recently seen a number of blog posts/articles in which the authors (web designers) are complaining that Frameworks are taking away their business. For the non-geeks reading this article, a framework in the world of web design is defined “as a package made up of a structure of files and folders of standardised code (HTML, CSS, JavaScript documents etc.) which can be used to support the development of websites, as a basis to start building a site.”

The most popular frameworks are Twitter Bootstrap, HTML5 Boilerplate, Foundation, Skeleton, Gumby, Less, etc.

As the definition suggests, a framework comes in the form of a package containing predefined standardised code. This is the same code that a designer/developer will use if he/she creates a website from scratch. The most used code is already contained in the package and can be adjusted. The framework also allows for the user to add additional code to create different looks, styles, functions, interactivity etc.

Now that we know what a framework is we need to get to the question: Are frameworks killing web designers? Why is this question even asked?

As a web designer myself I can testify to the finicky attitude we sometimes have when it comes to creating a design. The design will be in your head for some time and you will already be considering some code in your head even before you sit down in front of the computer. As you start tapping away at the code you start with a process that can only be described as “giving birth to your idea”. No other code than your own should be in front of you at this point in time.

Using a framework is also frowned upon in the industry and a web designer does not want to get caught using a framework as this may advertise his/her inability to produce proper code.

I have heard designers arguing that code allows any person to create a website. Is this really true?

Whilst it is up to designers to make up their own minds I wish to share my perception and view on frameworks.

1. Speed:

We are living in a fast paced world and things are speeding up at a rapid pace. If you want to take two months to design and develop a decent sized data driven website, good for you. I am not aware of too many customers that would want to wait for extensive periods to have a website created for them. In a world where speed is of the essence it is good to know that there are frameworks that will speed up the development of the website considerably. A framework does not do the design for you. It simply gives you a framework on which you can build the design and all the bells and whistles that may be required.

2. Costs:

Many frameworks are open source software which simply means that it is community based developed software that are consistently updated and reworked by dedicated community members. In turn it means a lower price to the client which in my books is not something to ignore. More clients at lower costs means more consistent business and also more time for after sale service.

3. Security:

Frameworks which are widely used such as Bootstrap has big security implications. Once again the large community behind a framework can be seen as long-term testers. When security vulnerabilities are found it gets reported at the framework’s website which will get it fixed.

4. More focus on web content:

With more time on the web designer’s hands, thanks to less coding, more time can be spend on important matters such as developing proper web content. In previous blog articles I have discussed the importance of relevant, information rich, content and the massive role this plays in search engine optimisation. Unfortunately I have seen too many web designers not focussing on content due to over commitment to the overall design of the website. I am not saying less time should be spent on the design. I will actually defend spending a lot of time on the actual design. The web content should however get the same amount of time and should never be rushed.

To my mind there are only two disadvantages with a framework.

Firstly is its limitations, as its core behaviour cannot be modified. This can however be overcome by carefully selecting a specific framework that suits the clients’ specific needs.

Secondly can be the learning curve involved in getting to grips with a new framework. This also neutralises the web designers’ concern that anybody can now use a framework to build his or her own website. Sorry, you still need to understand all the scripting languages to develop a website, even with a framework.

Back to the question: No I do not think frameworks are killing web designers. In my view it is technology that should be embraced and technology that should be used in the interest of your clients.

You are welcome to comment on this post, agree or disagree with my views. Please also ask me any question you may have relating to this article.

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