Sitefinity Resource Packages: To Bootstrap or not to Bootstrap? (Part 1)

Stu Furlong | September 06, 2016 Comments
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If I compiled a list of words front end developers hear the most, “Bootstrap” would be very high in the ranks. The most well-known front end framework created by Twitter is reportedly used on over 10 million websites and applications at the moment. When Sitefinity Feather was released, one of its major selling points was out of box integration of Bootstrap into its widgets and templates. It was a good move on their part – as having the most desired framework built in allows developers to immediately start their projects with good aesthetics. The question is:  

Does this mean it’s the right path for your Sitefinity Project?  

A brief understanding of frameworks

In case you aren’t familiar with what Bootstrap or any framework is, essentially it is a set of pre-created, themed, front end code (CSS and Javascript) that gives developers instant access to pre-styled components, without having to write any of the base front-end code themselves. For example: instead of writing the CSS for a button myself, I can link to Bootstrap, use the CSS class “btn” on a link – and I instantly have a styled button on my site with almost no effort.

Sitefinity’s support for frameworks

Although the Bootstrap framework is out of the box for Sitefinity, Progress has made Feather flexible in a way that any framework can be applied to Feather with a little bit of work. They also support a minimal framework if you want to start your project bare bones. This is a huge reason we love to work in Sitefinity because all the front-end flexibility you could need is available - if you need it.

The pros and cons

It may seem like a no-brainer to have Bootstrap installed on your applications (and sometimes it is), but there are a number of reasons you may want to take a custom path. In this two part post, I’ll look at various aspects of both high level and technical details of development to help you decide the best option for your project.

Project Design

The best place to begin is to think of the design of your project. Are you looking for something cutting edge? Something that sets your site apart from others? This is what we frequently see at Americaneagle.com so naturally, as a front end developer, I have a love/and “not-so-love” relationship with designers. They push boundaries and design project after project with new features and ideas which suit the exact needs of each client. This sometimes poses a challenge for front end developers, but it’s why I love what I do!

Bootstrap wasn’t created for these scenarios and the more complex your project design is - the more Bootstrap may get in the way for developers. For these projects, you’re having to write your own custom code anyways, but instead of a blank canvas – you often must overwrite Bootstrap default styles and functions.

So when is Bootstrap beneficial, you ask? Bootstrap really shines for applications that do not have any pre-determined theme as an almost instant set up comes with it. This is especially beneficial for developers with minimal front end experience looking to make a quick app, or a project team that is comfortable with the basic design foundation which Bootstrap has to offer.

Documentation and Community

The Bootstrap website provides a plethora of documentation and has an enormous community given how much it’s used throughout the internet. This means if you need help implementing the Bootstrap code, there’s a good chance you’ll find an answer to it on a quick Google Search or while perusing their site. In Sitefinity, since Bootstrap is being used out of the box, any bugs that come up specifically regarding the framework will be addressed and fixed by the Progress team. This gives Bootstrap a huge advantage using it alongside the CMS.

One common misconception is that Bootstrap is software. This is not true, and I cannot stress that enough! Bootstrap and all front end frameworks are simply pre-written CSS and Javascript. This means that any front end code issues you run into - regardless of framework - are well documented throughout the web. Bootstrap documentation will be helpful when working with their code, but the second you begin writing something custom, you’re on your own! Using Bootstrap does not mean their documentation will have all of the answers for custom problems you may face.

Still deciding?

There isn’t a 100% right or wrong answer about which path to take, and these are just two major factors you should take into consideration when determining your base framework with Sitefinity. If you aren’t convinced in either way yet, in my next post I will cover equally important items such as coding practices, accessibility, and optimization.

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