Ohloh is getting Bootstrapped

Ohloh is getting some reconstructive surgery. We’ve been adding CSS/JavaScript since 2006 and we haven’t really stopped to clean things out. As a result, we’ve accumulated a ton of technical debt in the form of CSS (well, SASS really), JavaScript and HAML/ERB partial views. The Ohloh team has a lot that we want to get accomplished this year and all of it centers around user-visible features.

The problem with user-visible features is that they need to be visible.. to, ah, users. With our current UX platform (which was built back in the beginning of Ohloh and has never really been updated) this would have been an almost impossible feat. Time for a wholesale change!

As I hinted to in the title, we decided to go with one of our OSS Rookies for 2011, Bootstrap, from Twitter as our presentation framework. The choice was easy for us. I evaluated Bootstrap, Zurb Foundation, Kendo UI and jQuery UI as possible candidates (you can compare three of the projects on Ohloh - KendoUI isn’t open source) but in the end Bootstrap won out.

Why? Well, I’m glad you asked!

Community - Bootstrap has, at the time of this writing, 29k watchers and 6k forks. Those numbers are epic for Github. At any given time, Bootstrap has ~40 pull requests open from active committers, they are actively fixing bugs and shipping fixes.

Extensibility - Bootstrap has a great extensibility story, Font-Awesome and Bootswatch are a small sampling of the FOSS that is built around Bootstrap.

Framework vs Control Suite – After looking at KendoUI and jQuery UI we realized pretty quickly that we needed more than just a suite of controls. We needed a full-featured framework, grid layout, typography, base CSS to reel us in and help us prototype in a tighter loop.

Easy to integrate – Ohloh uses a fixed-width layout so we needed that to be a first-class citizen in our framework. Sure, we probably want to be able to do fluid-width to support mobile content and reactive designs but time-to-market was a key factor for us. We didn’t want to spin our wheels fixing pages that don’t need to be fixed yet.

What Now?

The Ohloh team has already started contributing back to the Bootstrap project and I’m sure there will be more of that in the future.

For Ohloh, well, now we’ve switched switched over to Bootstrap, so it’s time to iterate. What do you like? What do you think is broken? What would you like to see done differently? Let us know by posting a comment or send us a message on twitter: @ohloh, @codeimpossible (that’s me).

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  • Kevin

    What was it about Foundation and/or Bootstrap that drew you to Bootstrap over Foundation? I’m considering moving from Boostrap to Foundation to start with a slightly cleaner slate to build on. After becoming familiar with Bootstrap, I keep coming across the same UI elements on other sites.

    • codeimpossible

      For us (well, me really) it was the wide adoption and support of Bootstrap that drove me there. Also, I like their markup style and say what you will about semi-colons but their javascript is really easy to read.

      One technical reason, if I had to pick one, was that Bootstrap supports both fixed-width and fluid layouts while Zurb only supports fluid styling. This was a huge deal for us as all of our site is fixed-width and we didn’t want to have to redesign everything.

      • Kevin

        Thanks for the reply!

  • http://aniszczyk.org Chris Aniszczyk

    Awesome, thanks for using Twitter Bootstrap and contributing back!

  • Marc Laporte