An Amish farmer

Build Your Own Framework

I’ve been spending some time on stackoverflow lately and have noticed an uptick in the number of questions that come from beginners using HTML/CSS frameworks.

Here’s an example of one from today:

“I want the two column to move below the seven column when the screen size is small. The only way I figured out to do it is to do something like:
 // jumble of code  //
 But it seems kind of messy and can be confusing. Is there a better way?”

There is a better way, and it’s to not rely on frameworks built by someone else.

I completely sympathize with the person that’s drawn to these frameworks. I would’ve been drawn to them if they existed when I started building sites. They look great, they’re responsive, and you can have a site up in no-time with a little know-how and the old college try. It’s the perfect weekend project. If you never go beyond that stage, then it’s a great option.

Once you decide to start really creating sites though, I would encourage you to ditch the framework as soon as possible and start hand building from scratch. Every developer uses a set of starter files, and the sooner you start creating your own, the better off you’ll be.

If you don’t have a set of starter files yet, I think a great resource is This is Responsive by Brad Frost. The resources on his site will help you to not only discover new patterns, but most importantly you can go the CodePen and see how they’re actually built.

I’m kind of in the same boat with JavaScript right now. I first learned jQuery to control the behavior of my sites, as most people do, but lately I’ve made it a goal to learn actual Javascript. It’s a learning curve for sure, but I think that in the long-run I’ll be a better developer because I’ll understand the underlying language, rather than just a library built for it. In fact, I can already see a huge difference.

There are, of course, very good web developers out there that use these frameworks. The difference is that the professional developer understands how they work, and have likely adjusted the files to meet their needs because of it.

So, to the folks building sites on the weekends using frameworks, my advice is to spend a bit more time and learn to roll your own framework. Understand each line of code in your files.

You’ll ask a lot fewer questions on stackoverflow about something you built by hand. You also get to build something from scratch, which is always more rewarding.

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