Create Your Own Starter Files

Emily Lewis

I have a love/hate relationship with pre-built frameworks. I love the idea of the benefits frameworks offer, from rapid prototyping to code consistency across projects. But, in practice, I hate frameworks. They are often far more than I need. They use naming conventions that don’t jibe with my own preferences. And I rarely (if ever) have been able to port prototyping code into production without major rewrites.

This is why I decided to create my own front-end system for our work at Bright Umbrella. And this is what I shared at the recent CSS Dev Conference in New Orleans:

Key Takeaways

My presentation detailed why I decided to create a custom front-end system, how I created it and how it has evolved, and what project deliverables rely on it. I put together the slide deck with the intention that it can be a reference for anyone interested in creating their own stater files (with lots of good links to other resources).

But if you aren’t even sure if the idea of a custom system makes sense for you, consider these key takeaways ( and then check out the deck):

  • A custom system is a framework, which means you get the benefits of a framework with the benefits of your own internal preferences and process.
  • Because you build your own, you are closer to the solutions involved, which makes it easier to troubleshoot, maintain and evolve.
  • A custom system can scale to support one deliverable or many deliverables, all using the same code base. Bright Umbrella’s starter files support every single one of our web-based deliverables: style tiles, live wires, front-end templates and client style guides.
  • You don’t have to have a fully fleshed-out solution to start using your own system. It is (and, perhaps, should be) an evolution.
  • It isn’t just about creating your own system, it’s about maintaining it. This means you have to be committed. You have to plan. You have to define rules for maintaining. And you have to stay up-to-date on techniques.

In Good Company

My biggest takeaway from the conference as a whole was validation that what I’m doing with Bright Umbrella’s starter files is a solid direction. Many other presenters discussed their own approaches to in-house “frameworks,” and several attendees told me that they, too, are building their own front-end systems.

It was so nice to get confirmation from other developers that a custom framework/system isn’t just a result of my obsessive coding preferences, but a very real solution with tangible benefits.

Other Great Stuff from Other Great Folks

Environments for Humans are the brilliant minds behind and organizers of CSS Dev Conference. So it is no surprise it was a fantastic event. In fact, the sessions I attended gave me dozens of new ideas for my next round of updates to Bright Umbrella’s starter files system.

Here are some of my favorite presentations from the conference that you should really check out yourself:

Stay Tuned!

If you are looking for even more information about creating your own starter files, keep an eye out! I’m working on a long-form tutorial for net magazine that will go into even more detail than I was able to fit into a 45-minute presentation. Be sure you’re subscribed to our blog and/or are following us (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) to be notified when that piece is published.

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