One of the biggest issues I face when starting a project is always “how will this site/application look?”
As a developer, I tend to spend more time focusing on the backend and internal mechanics of an application and it really isn’t until later in the process that I start thinking about the design. More often than not, I usually start my development by doing some rapid prototyping – think of it as building out functional wireframes. Face it developers – whether you have a design background or not – the majority of users will only be seeing the front-end of whatever it is you are developing.
When I’m working on a project for a client, I like to at least present the application concept to them in a friendly format.
Developers are lucky these days because there are numerous frameworks out there that take some of the design process out of our hands and make it so we can present our projects in a clean, well laid out format. The first of these that comes to mind is Foundation by Zurb. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about Foundation. It is a responsive front-end framework that takes a lot of the guesswork out of laying out your site. Everything is laid out in a 12 column format, so creating a basic site from wireframes to web is extremely quick. They have also styled up all the elements you need to get started, added some scripts to get you up and running and basically cut down on your “setup” time. Foundation is just one of these frameworks. You might have also heard about Bootstrap and HTML5 Boilerplate – there are literally hundreds of these front-end frameworks available for you to start creating your application and spend more time on developing and less time worrying about the design.
So, what would my process be to get a web application up and running?
1. Download and install a framework in my favorite LAMP environment.
2. Create the folder structures and download and supporting libraries that I would be using.
3. Start prototyping.
I’ve found that this also helps in the long run, because if you set up a “default” library for development, you can copy that and use it to start on your next project.
I find that most often, I can take an idea from napkin to web in about a day with this method. Obviously, the more involved the application, the more time it will take, but I’ve found that most applications I’ve worked on, whether it’s a mobile web application or a simple form – all can be created quickly and easily with these tools.
In my world, time is money – I’m all about saving time and maximizing quality. Believe me – your clients will be wowed when you show them a functional app before the design phase begins. In fact, you might just inspire your designers to rethink how they design!