I’ve just completed a re-vamp of a site I run called Tweeted Trips. It’s a site I created while on the road cycle touring, so the original was put together quite quickly and was really built as a proof-of-concept. The new version is much more robust, cleaner and has more features.
The code was originally built without any framework, so in order to formalise the project and make it easier to expand I decided to transfer it to the Codeigniter framework. This was not as big a task as I had feared. Because Codeigniter is so flexible in the way it allows you to work, and because the code was already built in a roughly MVC way, I was able to easily port it all over. As a result, the extra improvements I’ve added to the site have been quicker to roll out and I’ve got more confidence that the site is built on a solid MVC foundation.
The most obvious change on the front end is a cleaner look and feel to the design as well as responding better to different screen resolutions. This is all thanks to Twitter Bootstrap which is a front end HTML framework provided by the people who make Twitter. It’s a basic set of HTML and some markup conventions which allow you to quickly develop sites which look and perform well without having to worry too much about the design. I have made use of the responsive layout to provide full width maps to really show off the trips. The interface for editing the maps is nicer now as Bootstrap’s form elements and buttons provide real application level UI standards with the minimum of front-end effort.
Bootstrap is a useful tool, but it’s not for everyone. Some complain that the HTML requires too much verbose markup which goes too far towards putting style information in to the page rather than the stylesheet. It’s true, that the markup isn’t as elegant and clean as it might be if I’d have styled it all from scratch, but I think that as a developer you have to treat this as a different way of working.
Another critaiszm is that Bootstrap results in too many websites that look the same. For this reason, it’s often not suitable for larger commercial ventures. But I think that if you use it as a base and make sure you customise it enough, you can get really beautiful, clean designs with CSS you can trust and you can get it all remarkably quickly.
Check out the new site at TweetedTrips.com