This is my first post so go easy.
Hi billyshears. Welcome to the forums.
There are some pretty strong views on frameworks around here—on both sides of the fence! Personally, I don't like them, as they are full of bloat, and often end up making life more difficult, as you have to hack them around to suit your need—rather than starting from a lean, clean slate.
Having said that, there is no doubt a lot you can learn from them, too, so by all means dig into them to see how they are built. That will certainly give you a lot of ideas on how things can be done. Foundation and Twitter Bootstrap are pretty big at the moment. For HTML5, the HTML5 Boilerplate is also good to look into for ideas about how to do things.
I think I am going to try Less Framework or Skeleton.
Does anyone else have any suggestions on how to go from recreating the rather dull sites provided in HTML/CSS books and move to creating professional looking sites?
One of the criticisms of framework-based sites is that they all basically look the same. A better way to design is to study the content first, and work out how best to present it to be easy to access and understand. Design then can be built around that content, giving you a truly unique design.
It's worth studying sites you think do look professional and working out how they were created and what aspects of them make them look good and work well.
my liek or dislike of frameworks aside. They function best as a time saver for people with some [serious] expertise rather than a learning tool. A framework may ( or may not) keep you from having to hand code patterns you already often use. But if you dont know the fundamentals of the language the framework is based on chances are you wont be able to take full advantage of it and it definitely wont help you understand where those basic fundamental principles are.
Think of a frame work as a tool for intermediate code to try construct higher level code.
hope that helps
This is some great, solid advice.
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