Friday, February 8, 2013

Using Bootstrap is cheating!

Recently I've launched the beta of a new website. The instant response I got from my programmer buddies was (did you click? you're probably a programmer too... does it match your first thought?) a consistent "Bootstrap!" shout.

My first impression was that it means "I know it too, I'm up to date". Maybe that's part of it, but it's certainly not all. The feeling I have now is that using Bootstrap is cheating.

Just like most people think that work must be hard and no fun, otherwise it's not work, do people believe that making a nice, consistent UI must be troublesome and hard? Or is using the standard theme without customization not acceptable?

For other technologies I never got such a reaction in the past. "HTML!" or "ExtJS!" ... never heard.

Bootstrap isn't perfect, but it serves its main purpose well. At a very low cost it brings a consistent, clean and clear user interface. Users want intuitive, standard interfaces, common patterns. Figuring out how each site works with a hand-knitted GUI sucks too much energy.

This is a standard ExtJS 4 form as showcased on their website:

Notice something? Pretty standard, isn't it? User interfaces looked like this for decades. The problem: it's not awesome.

It wastes too many brain cycles to figure out which button to press. I've certainly pressed the wrong one in the past. And for the users who have to fall back to a secondary language because there is no translation for their primary language yet, it's worse:

Now compare this to bootstrap buttons:
I'm not sure I've chosen the correct Google translate offerings... and it doesn't even matter. Color and size suggest the meaning already.

The aforementioned Surfr platform uses the traditional "..." on button labels to indicate that no harm is done pressing this button, another screen with information or options will appear first. For actions that perform data modifications (such as saving a record) an exclamation mark is appended to the action's name: "Save!". And actions that can't be undone are additionally styled with a warning color:

The critical among you will say "you can do this with ExtJS too". Of course you can. You can do everything from scratch. Fact is, the average site using Bootstrap is easier to read and use compared to the average self-made ui site - at almost no development cost.

I like standards. I like simplicity. I hate to deal with css and browser issues. Conclusion: Call me a cheater... but I like Bootstrap.

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