3 min read

I was on the WebKit.org site the other day, and it struck me that it was a fairly ugly site for the home page of such a well-known browser engine. Lime green to white background transition, drop-shadow headers. It doesn’t even respond; what? I don’t want to take anything away from its functionality – it works perfectly well – but it did bring to mind the argument about frontend frameworks and the beautification of the Internet.

When the Internet started to become a staple of our daily compute, it was an ugly place. Let’s not delude ourselves in thinking every site looked awesome. The BBC, my home page since I was about 14, looked like crap until about 2008.

As professional design started improving, it left “home-brew” sites still looking old, hacky, and unloved. Developers and bedroom hacks, not au fait with the whims of JavaScript or jQuery, were left with an Internet that still looks prehistoric. A gulf formed between the designers who were getting paid to make content look better and those who wanted to, but didn’t have the time. It was the haves, and the have nots.

Whilst the beautification of websites built by the “common man” is a consequence of the development of dozens of tools in the open source arena, I’m ascribing the flashpoint as Twitter Bootstrap. Yes, you can sniff a Bootstrap site a mile off, and yes it loads a bit slower except for the people who use Bootstrap (me), and yes some of the mark-up syntax is woeful. It does remain, however, a genuine enabler of web design that doesn’t suck. The clamor of voices that have called out Bootstrap for the reasons mentioned above, I think, have really misunderstood who should be using this tool. I would be angry if I paid a developer to knock me up a hasty site in Bootstrap. Designers should only be using Bootstrap to knock up a proof of concept (Rapid Application Development), before building a bespoke site and living fat off the commission. If, however, someone asked me to make a site in my spare time, I’m only ever going to be using Bootstrap (or, in fairness, Foundation), because it’s quick, easy, and I’m just not that good with HTML, CSS, or JavaScript (though I’m learning!).

Bootstrap, and tools like it, abstract away a lot of the pain that goes into web development (really, who cares if your button is the same as someone else’s?) for people who just want to add their voice to the sphere and be heard. Having a million sites that look similar but nice, to me is a better scenario than having a million sites that are different and look like the love child of a chalkboard and MS Paint.

What’s clear is that it has home-brew developers contributing to the conversation of presentation of content; layout, typography, iconography. Anyone who wants to moan can spend some time on the wayback machine.


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