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FMYI Converts To Twitter Bootstrap To Simplify Social Network Development

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Last week I stopped by the offices of FMYI, a small Portland-based company that is one of the first enterprise social networks to use Twitter Bootstrap.

I wondered why a tiny startup with some very big customers would turn to a brand-new framework for designing the latest version of its collaborative community-development application. After talking to President Justin Yuen, it became apparent that I needed to broaden my definition of “getting the work done.” It’s more than that. It’s about getting the work done beautifully. And by beautiful I mean the services that make it elegant for people to use. We can get that with services that we love to use in our home. Work needs to be the same way.

In essence, Twitter Bootstrap is a framework that brings uniformity to the frontend of a website or application. Here’s how AppFog CEO Lucas Carlson described Twitter Bootstrap in a recent post:

The benefit of this is clear: if a whole team of developers is using and modifying the same stylesheet, then #37C5E5 can be terribly unwieldy (unless, of course, said developers have an uncanny ability to decipher hex color codes!). On the other hand, it’s immediately clear what is meant by @blue, and this could mean avoiding unnecessary headaches in large projects.

Bootstrap is essentially the embodiment this principle of transparency writ large, and extended beyond stylesheets into all of the elements that dictate sites’ appearance to the end user.

Twitter’s beauty is in its simplicity and elegance. Bootstrap has all of that and the functionality to work in the latest desktop browsers as well as tablet and smartphone browsers via responsive CSS. Think dynamic-versus-static style sheets that give the capability for the app or website to adapt to different environments. Bootstrap is described on its site as coming with a “12-column responsive grid, dozens of components, JavaScript plugins, typography, form controls,” and a web-based customizer so users can customize it.

FMYI’s new features use Twitter Bootstrap capabilities in some of the following ways:

  • A responsive design that adapts the interface for the size of the browser window and mobile/tablet screen.
  • Added Bootstrap JavaScript features such as the carousel  and a slide open capability in the left navigation.
  • The header now stays at the top of the screen while a customer scrolls for access to support, highlighting one of FMYI’s value adds of free support for all users.

What I like about FMYI’s use of Twitter Bootstrap is that it takes the modern river of news-style interfaces with all the abilities that come with JavaScript, such as rollovers and a slider-style navigation.

I am spending the next two days at IBM Connect in Orlando for briefings about IBM Connections, the company’s enterprise social networking technology. Compared to IBM, FMYI is about as small a competitor you will find. But Bootstrap is the difference. The backend where developers work is unified. On the frontend, it is a loose array. Twitter Bootstrap brings that together. I will have to ask but I am not hearing IBM talk about this kind of innovation.

In the end, FMYI may be a very small company, but it represents how a unified framework like Twitter Bootstrap has the potential to become the standard way websites and collaborative services are built and designed.