If you're a developer, whether frontend or backend that does not matter, the primary thing you need to understand is that you will be judged by the quality of your contribution to the application development phase. The thing is, the impact of every software or code you write is measured against the end user's experience. Your users often have little or no technical knowledge, and they do not care about what tech stacks you use or algorithms you employ. Customers want software solutions that live up to their expectation and delivers the outcome they desire. So, it can be an excruciating task to write good functional programs and making sure your customers are satisfied at the same time. Thankfully, you can get out of this diabolical situation by using the right amount of proper and functional boilerplate codes appropriate for your situation. If you're a frontend developer, chances are you're always struggling to live up with the variable requirements of your customers or company. You write a feature the customer wanted, and now he wants something else. A high-level knowledge of the proper employment of boilerplate codes into your frontend development can help you in many such scenarios. If you have the right techniques and codes organized for common features, you'll be able to handle most of your customer's changing requirement without much trouble.
Boilerplate Codes: Definition and Overview
The term boilerplate is being used for over the last century or so. It started as a common jargon and referred to the reusable parts of a legal document. Suppose a lawyer handed out a 5 pages legal contract for you to sign, most of the writings of that contract is boilerplate, meaning they are used universally for most other clients alongside you, with only some minor changes highlighting your personal details and conditionals. So, boilerplate can be thought of as a unit of text that people often use with little or no alteration at all. The term aligned itself within the programming community as a unit of common code that can be used and reused over and over again. Boilerplate codes are often easily extendable and can employ any specific feature the programmer envisions. The skill lies solely within the developer. Dev teams, mainly frontend, typically utilize a lot of such boilerplate codes to aid their development process and create fast prototypes to show their employers. If the feature or functionality needs to be changed, they can again write another functionality in a very short time using boilerplate codes. However, as much of a blessing it may sound, to utilize the maximum power of boilerplate codes, you need to be well-experienced and have to organize your own set of boilerplate codes. You have to curate your personal collection of rules regarding when to use which boilerplate codes and where to use them.
Why Having a Good and Functional Boilerplate is Necessary?
So, you might be asking yourself that boilerplate code is excellent and all, but why should you use it? What're the advantages of using such boilerplate codes and why should you learn how to use it. In this section, we'll outline the most important and convenient reasons for you to opt-in with regular use of boilerplate codes in your frontend development.
Good and Readable Documentation
Proper documentation is something programmers often find hard to get their hands on. It is a process where developers describe the various use cases, operations, maintenance, and design aspects of their codes for letting you employ them efficiently in your projects. Access to good and readable documentation can sky-rocket your frontend development projects and lets you concisely utilize boilerplate codes. Having such documentation is a primary characteristic of good boilerplate codes. If you discover a nicely written piece of code that performs something that you regularly use in your frontend projects and has very good documentation, it will give you the option to extend that code and employ in your projects without any interruptions.
Code structure with a deeper abstraction level
High-quality boilerplate codes are structured neatly and concisely and employ industry grade programming structures and patterns. The deeper abstraction levels of such boilerplates often reduce the overall size of the code itself and increase the performance metrics significantly. This, added with good and readable documentation, allows developers to extend the boilerplate's capabilities pretty quickly. Boilerplates with great structures and abstraction levels give developers the luxury to play with them and to understand them much better. By doing so, developers are able to get the fastest insight into that particular boilerplate's use cases and will be able to use them efficiently for their personal frontend development projects.
Follows Proper Coding Standard
Great boilerplate codes always employ the best possible coding standards, a necessary element to improve the quality of your overall program and increase productivity. These coding standards are just styles or conventions accepted by major programming communities. However, they are crucial for a top-level frontend application development. Following such conventions means sticking with proven best coding practices, like if you use spaces instead of tabs to indent your code, then use that everywhere in your code. Although, there's no one right or wrong coding standard, aligning yourself with the practices employed heavily in the industry will help your program reach out to communities much quicker and may even help your program gain rapid traction.
Proper Navigation and Routing Structure
During front-end web development projects, designing the navigational endpoints and routing structures take the highest amount of your precious time. Every great boilerplate code ensures that you can rely on them for utilizing the least amount of time on such overheads. This is one of the primary reason boilerplate codes are being employed relentlessly by frontend software developers all across the globe. However, when choosing the right boilerplate for your next project, make sure to ensure that the routing and navigation structure of that boilerplate is compatible with your specific development approach.
Has CLI tools
Most of the time when you use boilerplate codes for your frontend development, you can utilize some form of CLI(Command Line Interface) tools to aid rapid prototyping and fast scaffolding of your project. Like if you work with the Laravel framework for PHP, you will get access to its customized command line interface known as Artisan. These CLI tools are great at reducing too many manual processes and thus contribute to booming productivity at your workplace. You can find good CLI utilities for not only Laravel but also for other popular frontend frameworks such as ReactJS or Angular.
As boilerplate codes are usually based on best coding practices, they're massively scalable. When developing your frontend programs, scalability is something that's really important for your projects. It is a system to handle a large number of growing requests or processes your program will experience as it starts to gain mainstream attraction. Without proper scalability measurements in place, even top-notch frontend programs will not be able to live up to its expectation. So, when building your frontend app, try to choose a boilerplate that has both optimal and effective scalability mechanisms in place.
Easy testing tools
When opting with boilerplate codes, try to make sure that it can be easily associated with various testing tools. Chances are that if you choose a proper boilerplate code, you can usually get access to easy testing tools in no time. Testing is an integrated part of frontend software development and plays a vital role when it comes to production. Boilerplate codes that have proper testing tools will allow you to test your program for potential errors and vulnerabilities right from the development phase. If you choose to write your program from scratch instead of utilizing boilerplate codes, you'll also have to write all the test units yourself, thus reducing your productivity by some significant factors.
Necessary API modules
Industry standard boilerplate codes like that of React will always come with every necessary API modules that you may need. These are very important in ensuring a fast development period. With the right API modules in place, your program will be much shorter as it can use API endpoints for tasks that you'd need to write codes otherwise. You can find almost any type of APIs you may need for your frontend programs, thanks to a large number of opensource API endpoint developers. Utilizing such modules can lead to a much profound and productive workplace environment. Code Splitting Boilerplate codes are usually split into different sections based on their requirements and actions. You can think of these divided sections of code as different layers which you can shape in your own way to get the desired operation for your frontend programs. However, how codes are split and which criteria's are behind their classification can vary across organizations. So, you need to get a proper hold of how the boilerplate of your choice is split, which in turn will let you effectively extend their functionalities.
Using Boilerplate Codes Properly
Although boilerplate codes can fasten up your frontend development projects significantly, you need to employ these effectively in your program, or you'll end up with long blocks of unnecessary codes. For using boilerplate codes effectively, you need to maintain some proper guidelines. If you work as a team, try to consult the team leader first to get his insight on how should you employ the boilerplate codes and when to avoid those. As your team leader controls how the development phase continues, it's essential you maintain a good understanding with him. When coding new features, always try to find if any good boilerplate already exists for such functionalities. When you find a perfect boilerplate for this new feature, show them to your team leader to get his approval on whether you should use it or not. If you notice that you're using some specific blocks of code for almost every feature of your frontend project, try to create your own boilerplate by saving those specific codes as a different file with the ability to call them via functions or methods directly from your new programs. As you become more and more experienced, you will be able to locate new boilerplate codes pretty easily. Try to make your collection of boilerplate codes as neat and concise possible, which will help you extend their functionalities when you need it.
Drawbacks of Using Boilerplate Codes
While boilerplate codes are mostly beneficial, they also come with a silver lining. If not employed effectively, they can become a nightmare for frontend developers rapidly. As junior developers usually lack experience, they are often unable to anticipate when a boilerplate code is necessary and when not. This can lead to unnecessary use of boilerplate codes all over your frontend development projects and may increase complexity. Another most common problem is, developers often try to use boilerplates wherever they can and sees them as a mean to avoid native coding. This is actually not a very useful approach as using too many boilerplate codes can make your program redundant. Always try to figure where boilerplate codes are necessary for your project. Any seemingly repetitive code that comes up again and again in your frontend development should be replaced with "boilerplate codes." They can make or break your development process, depending on how you utilize them. So, effectively using boilerplate codes is essential for fast and convenient frontend development.
Although boilerplate codes have their own drawbacks, their effect mainly depends on you. If you're able to use them rightly in the right places, developing your frontend program will feel like a breeze.