If you work with websites, you’ve likely already noticed that there are patterns when it comes to creating them. They aren’t as bespoke as some people might have you assume. Many aspects of vastly different websites are identical. And yet sometimes it seems as though development spends time redoing the same thing over and over again. If only there were a way to save time.
Well, there are many ways. In various areas of development. Specifically, though we are going to go over the front-end portion of websites and what can be done to save time and avoid rework here. Front-end development is a great area to save time because frequently it undergoes more work than back-end development. That is a website might have numerous front-end versions created over time, all while retaining the same basic structure on the back end. The front-end of your site represents the best opportunity to uncover time-saving strategies to maximise the value you get out of your development time.
We’re going to discuss using components, or theme templates and blocks to save time on development and avoid costly rework. Working in components allows you to save time, yes, but it also unlocks another potential that might have gone untapped if every time you set out to recreate your front-end you entirely recreate the basic layout and features of the site. These components come in the form of templates, website builders, and frameworks. This is how the elements are most often organised to be used by the people building websites.
If you haven’t started using templates, blocks, or components yet, we’re going to show you why you should.
The Web is Already Made Up of Components (Markup)
If you’re a developer, you’ve no doubt already noticed and internalised the concept of markup languages. These tags provide the documents we use to create websites the basic structure by which we can organise our content. For example, the <div> tag allows us to contain other elements and add styles that denote what we want it to look like. It’s a blank canvas that lets us create a custom work of art on the page. At its core, it’s a customizable component.
These components allow for our documents to take shape and they will enable us to mix and match at our pleasure to create full-fledged pages. If you are already familiar with these concepts, you are already familiar with the value of using components to mockup a website. By pre-creating these components, you can begin to engineer more complex designs without having to start from square one each iteration. This allows you to get out of the gate faster and get more work done, but it also allows you to use the knowledge you already have to create the desired product. The front-end, or design and layout of your website.
What Tools Are Available (Templates, Website Builders, Frameworks)
There are three primary groups that these components fall into. Templates, Website Builders, and Frameworks.
Templates are pre-built websites, which usually come with some example content. These are easy to take and reassemble using your material. These are not quite as powerful as the other two options we’ll go over, but these are readily available via markets like Envato. This makes them a ubiquitous choice to use, and since they are everywhere, it is easy to find one that will suit your needs.
Website builders are one of the newer entrants on the scene, but they are also very powerful. Tools like Pagestead, Elementor, and others help you to prototype using blocks, built from deconstructing templates rapidly. This allows for the kind of development allows for the time saving, work-saving, and cost-saving benefits we discussed above more so than templates. These blocks allow users to create sites and pages beyond the scope of a theme with ease, usually without having to touch a single line of code.
Frameworks are the most powerful tool for building sites based on prebuilt components, but they require a bit more expertise, and can usually be incorporated into website builders and themes with ease. If you are a technical person, you can use a framework like Bootstrap or Foundation to build a website component library that is custom made to your application, and that will speed up and save time with development with ease.
Why Should You Use Templates, Website Builders, and Frameworks
We’ll go over in detail some of the benefits to this type of development as opposed to the much admired but ultimately misguided ‘bespoke’ development.
It’s Helps You Avoid Bad Code
If you’ve ever done bespoke development before, you know how easy it is to accidentally include spaghetti code and bad design decisions into your end product. You go in with the best of intentions, but because of stringent deadlines and huge workloads, mistakes are made. This ultimately makes it hard to maintain what you’ve built and makes that next redesign all the more attractive, which perpetuates the cycle. It’s easy to introduce mistakes when you have so much to do and need to do it on a deadline.
Instead, by using pre-built components to build your site you could save time on development, and you would be able to be more careful about following best practices and implementing a clean design with pristine code.
Technical debt is a serious concern these days, and it extends beyond the back-end of the application. The front-end of your website is where you are most likely to see the most technical debt, depending on the technology you’re using. Because trends and accessible technology has been moving so rapidly, it is more important than ever to monitor the quality of your code, and using pre-written components is a great way to get started with that habit.
Avoid Redoing Things
The concept of themes is popular already but what about when it comes to similar looking sites, but not necessarily on the same theme? This is where theme blocks, templates and components can come in handy.
Instead of relying on just one theme, you can use a basic template or framework to create multiple similar variations.
By using a website builder, you could then make these components available to quickly create pages on a site containing those components without having to code each page from scratch every time you need something that looks like what your designers had laid out at the project’s conception. This will save you time and peace of mind because instead of trying to find the relevant file with the code you want to copy, you can reference the prebuilt component you want to use.
Streamline Your Development Process
Instead of getting bogged down working in an IDE, by using block components you can stitch together your site using visual tools, markup, or HTML. You can quickly design your pages and make the code available to your project much faster than if you were to try and do bespoke development or create each of your components manually.
This process can also be extended to work with whatever tools you are already using in your flow, including a variety that your design team might be using, such as Marvel.
Stay Aligned With Design
By using pre-built blocks and components, you can better stay on brand with your design team. One issue with bespoke development is that it’s easy to make an error and divert from your design team’s plans. This can mean having to go back and make minor changes to your site, but it also means that your design team will have to be sure to review your work. So you’ve got time being wasted across multiple organisations.
Instead by ensuring the work is done ahead of time you can ensure that each functional team’s time is not wasted and your website is on brand and looks excellent. Keeping in line with the vision of your project is essential, and without an easy way to stay within the scope of the project, it might be hard to avoid costly mistakes.
Using a website builder, or a template, or framework is the perfect way to streamline your web development process and has been a popular option for a while, particularly frameworks. If you are less technical, website builders now give you the power of templates and frameworks without the code.
This allows for less technical users to realise the synergies of development as well as developers to take a more design-centric approach to how they build their websites. All in all these changes to the web development process will help and allow developers, designers, and content creators to work more closely together with the technology with which they are most comfortable.
Web development doesn’t have to be uncomfortable for everyone. Streamline the process by using pre-built components and unlock the power of a more predictable process.
I have been building web applications and other digital products for more then a decade. Currently on an exciting journey discovering the ins and outs of content marketing while growing my newest business. Dedicated to helping digital agencies and entrepreneurs around the world succeed!