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It seems to me that standardised interfaces are regarded as a good thing in interface design, since it allows users to reuse their knowledge in different interfaces. This seems very true in desktop applications. I appreciate for instance knowing that the about/help menu might be on the right in the menu bar.

On the other hand, sometimes small incremental improvements just won't do. And things need to be built from scratch again. This could happen when trying to adapt to a new media for instance.

Please tell me if I'm wrong, but this seems a bit off in the web area, Apparently more creativity is generally allowed in this area, if not encouraged, right ?

Hence is my question : I am currently wondering about the feelings of the UI/UX community towards the twitter bootstrap framework. I am not a UI/UX guy,and I personally greatly appreciated it's ease of use. But I am now wondering : isn't it "boring" to see the same design in so many sites ?

And so should we generally use this framework on websites in order to weight knowingly towards some kind of standardisation ? Or on the contrary avoid it, and favor more unique and creative approaches ? Or even something in between, like adapting the color palette ?

Thank you for reading this (long) question.

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From a Creative standpoint, there are many ways to skin a site.

While Bootstrap offers flexibility of layout options, I do not feel it is a bad thing for sites to look similar but be varied in Branding. After-all, isn't that where we are at now? How many sites have you come across that have the exact same layout but vary on a creative level? This is what prevents visual exhaustion.

From a UX perspective, it's usually better to stick to convention as that is what is more intuitive for the user.

Remember too that at the end of the day, content is still king. As long as users are able to get to the content they need in an efficient manner and have it displayed in a way that is easy for them to absorb, our job as the UX designer is done.

  • By "content" you mean the core information, as opposed to the form in which the information is displayed, right ? And so the goal of the UI would be to "get out of the way", right ? That makes sense. I think however I'm biased here, because having used it, I recognize bootstrap when I see it, and I think "ah bootstrap again". Does that happen to you also ? – nha Mar 21 '14 at 20:44
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    Yes, but I recognize that it's a means to an end. From a feasibility perspective - most devs customize the template. It then becomes more of a tech question of whether it's more efficient to start from Bootstrap or scratch. Creatively, you make your own design. You don't have to be forced into having templates dictate this. – Pdxd May 6 '15 at 18:59
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Bootstrap is a responsive framework. First and foremost, it's a quick way to get a scaffolding set up to allow your site to be responsive.

That it includes a set of default UI look and feel elements is just a bonus, and one that a lot of people lean on--perhaps too much as you hint at.

So, it's not Bootstrap that is 'boring' as much as it is the use of it without any customization that makes them all look the same. From a branding/UI standpoint, rarely do you want to just go with a popular template from a visual look and feel standpoint and you'd certainly want to customize it to better fit the particular needs of your site.

  • So if I get you right, Bootstrap is just a starting point and you need to customize it, right ? I think this is also what the creators initially wanted. The question to me is : to which point ? For instance would colors/branding minor layout change be enough ? – nha Mar 21 '14 at 20:42
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    Bootstrap is definitely intended to be a starting point. A way to get things set up for building a responsive web site. As to how far one should customize the look and feel, well, there's no simple answer to that. It all depends. But yes, in general, you likely rarely want to use the default look and feel. – DA01 Mar 21 '14 at 20:52
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If you strip UX back to basics, an intuitive UI is one that speaks the language of the human brain and gives it what it expects based on thousands of years of culture and millions of years of evolution (e.g. movement at the corner of the eye draws attention, red = important).

Sticking to conventional layouts is a cheap way to ensure that users can understand and navigate your content, but for those with knowledge and resources it is certainly not the only way. If you have the time / resources, then experiment, and experiment some more, but always refer back to your user base with usability testing.

  • I really like your expression "speaking the language of the brain". Also if I get you right, the good kind of compromise we can do are in between "standard and cheaper" or "researched and unique" ? It make sense : I would definitely try to avoid "costly and uniquely crappy". Also, do you happen to have a link about the "movement at the corner of the eye draws attention" part, and one possible use/implementation ? – nha Mar 21 '14 at 20:46
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    It's just the way peripheral vision works in humans. We are generally really bad at seeing colour and shape at the edge of our vision, but good at detecting movement. A good use of this in a UI could be a monitoring tool with a lot going on that requires the user's attention. If the user is focused on another part of the screen they may not perceive a status icon change from green to red, or from connected to disconnected. A slide up notification will be more effective in getting their attention. – Franchesca Mar 22 '14 at 12:30
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I would go for 80% standardization and 20% uniqueness.

Your webpage should have a specific goal - telling a story, explaining a problem or selling a product.

These goals are commonly used by most websites and become standardized by users as the most visited websites use a common design.

Design can be evolved but changing it too much (by adding useless animations to e-commerce and blog themes) may break usability.

Imagine you visited a website that would have the main logo on the right instead of left. It may be unique, but will your visitors be happy?

So be creative, just don't overdo it :)

PS: Here's a nice example website with a simple design that just gets the job done.

I would also recommend looking at the usability studies from the Baymard Insitute.

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