LayoutIt! has launched in beta, providing the means to build layouts with Bootstrap using a drag and drop interface.
Co-creator Martn Capeletto, also co-founder of Entropeer, told .net LayoutIt! was created to help with the company’s own projects: “Every time we needed to start a new project, we invested several hours doing the same thing: downloading a CSS framework and jQuery, organising everything, and doing some basic layouts. With LayoutIt!, we can save a few hours, which amounts to lots of hours once it’s been used on many projects!”
Although Capeletto recognised other frontend tools are available, he said they tend to focus on being site-builder solutions, where you configure everything in the page. He thought they required too much investment to master and had a tendency to output poor code. By contrast, LayoutIt! could be “the kick-off for your frontend project,” where you visit, create a page structure, add some components and then download everything as a ZIP for further work.
Capeletto added that the tool “could also be used for quick prototyping, or for when you need to show someone an idea," noting that "clients might more easily understand what you’re talking about”.
As may be expected, industry figures were sceptical, arguing it could quickly and easily create your frontend code. Even so, LayoutIt!’s advantages were clear. “I’m on record as believing no software, however advanced, will ever replace frontend development as a craft,” argued Happy Cog president Jeffrey Zeldman. “That said, there’s nothing wrong — and a lot right — with tools that let you quickly create a prototype."
Zeldman explained that prototypes help you “test assumptions about user behaviour and interface design decisions, get client or internal approvals, and keep your team in the loop about where a project is going”.
LayoutIt “takes a popular framework and makes it even easier and faster to use, which is great”. His caveat: “As long as it's used only for prototyping — not for creating a finished product — LayoutIt! seems like it could help a team do good work faster.”
Capeletto remarked that, with the site only having been live for a matter of days, the team is still focusing on processing feedback and tuning the application. However, he stressed that the plan is to keep it as a free service: “The idea of just clicking ‘start’, building something and then downloading or sharing it is getting really positive feedback, and so that will stay as it currently is. In the future, we might add optional registration so users can see all of their in-progress works or access extra functionality.”
For now, then, whether you choose to use LayoutIt! for prototyping or beyond, it’s not going to cost you any money — but it could save you some time.