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Responsive Web Design Framework – 5 Challenging Web Development Aspects

web development

Almost every website nowadays has a responsive web design layout, so that it can easily adapt to any device screen size. With technology advancement, the need for websites to become screen friendly has become inevitable. However, the rising popularity of wearable technology like Google Glass, Apple Watch or the Oculus Rift presents web developers with the possibility of facing new complications and challenges. Not a big deal though, for Responsive web design can handle it all. Well you would say, that is what responsive web design is all about. It can take care of your website with ease, for responsive web design makes your site flexible and quickly accessible from any device. And thanks to the responsive design frameworks, which now come packed with everything one needs to overcome these challenges.

What is a Responsive Web Design Framework?

By definition, a Responsive web design framework is a package of structured files and folders that contain documents of standardized codes like JavaScript, HTML, CSS, etc. The framework is the basis on which a web developer can start building a website. Basically, a responsive web design framework aims to provide a structure that is common and which cuts off the additional work that a web developer would otherwise have to build right from the scratch. They can reuse the code again and again. Some of the popular responsive frameworks that we know of are Bootstrap 3, Foundation 5, Semantic UI.

However, even these RWD frameworks have their own positive and negative sides and we need to consider them well to overcome the complications that come with every new technology –

Understanding the Positive & the Negative Aspects Of Using Responsive Design Frameworks

#1 – Browser Compatibility

Sometimes, the debugging process in the browser can take time and can stretch as long as it takes to develop a website. These RWD frameworks are already tested on specific devices and browsers, thus reducing the additional work of testing a website. You would however have to undergo a test and it can vary depending on how much customization you have done to the framework. If it is only the colors, then you would have to do minimal testing, and which can extend if the customization gets complicated like hacking the grid system.

Responsive design frameworks like Foundation and Bootstrap can easily support Internet Explorer version 9 and above. If you have IE 8, then you might have to apply certain tricks to get working with it. But the frameworks are incompatible with versions 6 and 7. Apart from the Internet Explorer, the other browsers with which these frameworks are compatible include Chrome, Firefox, Safari and others. Nevertheless, if you have a browser that has not been tested before, chances are high of discovering bugs in places where you would have to get some unfamiliar codes fixed.

#2 – File Customization

Frameworks like Bootstrap and Foundation have packages containing standard download files, widgets and styles. These packages contain several files that come in both minified and human readable formats and are large in size. One of the most common arguments that web developers have against frameworks is that, one would have to download all the files irrespective of the fact whether it would be useful or not. True that these frameworks come with multiple number of files but that does not mean you would need to download them all for integration. You can customize the package according to your necessity in order to grab the CSS and the JavaScript that will help to run the website. This helps to reduce the bloat, which in turn will also reduce the total time taken to download the file.

However, you would have to reconfigure the package again if you need to add a style or a widget later on. You can nevertheless avoid this by first developing the website instead of customizing the web design. This will help you to decide what features to add and what not to include. Insert selected codes into your package for the features that you want to add. Customize your website design once you have placed the framework properly. You would have to re-download the customized package when the next version comes out. In that case, you would need to carefully remember which of the files you have downloaded and not. Repeat the process to update the files.

#3 – Code Customization

You can make a website unique by customizing the CSS with the use of Sass (Foundation) or LESS (Bootstrap) or by writing CSS from the beginning. Bootstrap contains extensive number of styles that comes with the assumption that you would not be extensively changing them. You can use a separate style sheet to override the CSS or by using the Sass or LESS files. You would have to figure some of the code on your own, for there is not much documentation available for the Sass and the LESS files. Foundation on the other hand, provides a fewer number of styles that are out of the box. You can customize it using a separate style sheet or extensive Sass files for which documentation would be provided. While lot of front end web developers with little experience would find it easy to use Bootstrap, they would find it difficult to work with Foundation given the requirement of one to have immense Sass and CSS knowledge.

Both the frameworks are easily customizable and you can make some simple changes to the Sass and LESS variables even before you download them. One can find innumerable customization options in Bootstrap while the changes in Foundation are only handful. It is necessary to have some familiarity with Sass or LESS, or else the entire framework customization would appear dirty.

#4 – Functionality Customization

Web developers can also customize the functionality by leveraging the JavaScript. The latest versions of Foundation and Bootstrap will require jQuery to enable the functionality of the customized widgets. Screens that are dedicated to Foundation and Bootstrap would already have the download package customized. You would however have to customize the variables once again when the next minor versions come out for the frameworks.

#5 – Accessibility

Both Bootstrap and Foundation offer web developers with valid HTML. However, when considering the extent of accessibility that is provided beyond HTML, Bootstrap provides some advances using Joomla.

Joomla is an open source content management system that has been incorporated with the version 3 of Bootstrap. The developers of Joomla ensure an accessibility that is long standing. That is why, you would find some improvements like screen reader-only styles and ARIA codes. Foundation on the other hand, however, does not prioritize accessibility much and that is the reason why you would not find ARIA codes and screen reader-only styles in their framework.

There is no such thing as the perfect responsive design framework.

If you want to extend the functionality of your framework, you would have to add some extra code in order to make it flexible. While some front end web developers choose to bring up their own CSS, JavaScript and grid system for framework maintenance, nevertheless it would require them to maintain the codes themselves. What a framework does is that it minimizes the time and effort that is needed for testing and maintenance. To conclude, a responsive design framework intends to make a website run quickly with the minimum chance of debugging. With the availability of file customization, your work becomes all the more easy. Besides, using a framework helps reduce the total time required for building a website, thus cutting off the total web development cost altogether.

Building customized web designs is fine, but in case you run short of budget, consider using a responsive design framework. It is a helpful tool for instant production of codes, testing and quick prototyping.

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Sudeep Banerjee

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Sudeep Banerjee is the Founder & President of B3NET Inc., the leading Orange County Web Development firm, since 1999 in California. He is a forward thinking leader with expertise in Digital Marketing, Web Design and Mobile Application Development and Amazon Sales Consulting. He is an author, speaker and a consultant with 28 years of experience. He loves to play Basketball and Golf.