In the web development world, you encounter the terms “front-end” and “back-end” pretty frequently. Just to refresh, front-end development is all about the parts of a website that users see, while the back-end is more about the “behind the scenes” functionality.
Using a framework to construct your website’s front-end has a lot of advantages (and is pretty easy to boot!). Let’s go over what front-end frameworks are and why you should consider incorporating them into your web development work.
Also referred to as “CSS frameworks,” these are packages containing pre-written, standardized code in files and folders. They give you a base to build on while still allowing flexibility with the final design. Typically, front-end frameworks contain the following components:
- A grid which makes it simple to organize the design elements of your website
- Defined font styles and sizing that varies based on its function (different typography for headings versus paragraphs, etc.)
- Pre-built website components like side panels, buttons, and navigation bars
Depending on the specific framework you choose, there’s a lot more they are capable of as well.
Why Use One
There are a lot of good reasons to use a front-end framework instead of starting all your code from scratch:
- Save time! Obviously, if you’re writing every single line of code by yourself, it’s going to take a lot longer to launch your website. Frameworks can help get you started with the basics.
- Add extra components that you might not have otherwise. It’s always nice to have the option to tack on another button or two without creating any extra hassle for yourself.
- Know for sure that the code works. Instead of spending a lot of time writing your own code only to discover that it doesn’t work (or isn’t compatible with 60% of web browsers), you’ll know that you’re using pre-tested, functional code.
It's also important to clarify how not to use front-end frameworks. Treating them as a replacement for having code-building skills won’t do you any favors. Get familiar with HTML and CSS first, and then you can start using the shortcuts. Treat your framework as an assistant, not a crutch.
Examples of Front-End Frameworks
Not all CSS frameworks are created equal, so make sure to do your research about which one best fits your unique needs. Here’s a quick overview of the top five:
- Bootstrap: The most popular one out there. It has tons of stars on Github and lots of resources to get your questions answered. One of the easier ones to use, but some say it has a very distinctive “Bootstrap” look.
- Foundation: Offers a lot of flexibility and customizability. Good for those who are experienced with front-end development and like to cover the basics while retaining a lot of creative control.
- Stylus: Expressive and stylish CSS language. This framework can only be used on Node.js applications.
- Semantic UI: Concise, intuitive, and makes debugging your code nice and simple. It gives you a lot of design freedom and adapts to your needs.
- UI Kit: The framework to use if you’re interested in developing iOS apps. It has a basic style that makes it easy to develop your own site look.
Frameworks are incredibly helpful tools for front-end design, especially if you have a job where you’re frequently developing that side. They allow you to speed up your workflow and increase your productivity without sacrificing quality or functionality, while still leaving the door open for a unique, customized look. Just remember to use them as a tool to complement your skills, not as a way to cut corners—and enjoy!