Building a Better Product and ‘Harbour Front Web Days’ on 27 – 29 May in Hong Kong


This is a guest post from web designer and front-end developer Holger Bartel, also the founder of Open Device Lab HK and the co-founder of uforepublic. You can follow him on Twitter @foobartel.

Building a Better Product

Looking back to working on my first startup in 2007 I sometimes wish we had the tools which are available today. Back then many things we did haven’t changed until today and the techniques and strategies are still the same. But lots of what is out there and what we know today would have helped make our lives a lot easier and would have allowed for much faster validation and progress.

Nowadays you have an idea, plug in Bootstrap and … wait. This is part of where today’s problem starts.

Many people who found a startup don’t have a tech background and thus rely on outside help or technical co-founders. There’s generally nothing wrong with that and I encourage everyone to do so and get in the boat of entrepreneurship and lifelong happiness (your mileage may vary). Still, understanding more fundamentals can tremendously ease your painful experiences, lets you avoid common pitfalls and leads to a better product that you’re building.

Workflows and the process of how products are being built these days have changed a lot and that’s a great thing. “Ship fast, fail fast” has become one of the most important mantras in the startup world. Still you need to know how to quickly get to the point of shipping fast. This is where a certain understanding of process will support your venture, no matter if you are in the role of the designer, developer, marketer or the business person. Of course you can trust your team of expertise you are working with, but it’s always a good idea to have the expertise on your side in the first place.


Part of the process to get to results, a minimum viable (MVP) or even final product quickly, is using a front end framework. One of the most common issues I do see with this is the lack of creativity due to not breaking through the default boundaries of a framework. Understanding your tools is how to avoid getting stuck with these restrictions and tweak things to give your product personality.

We have seen Bootstrap on the rise, but there are many other alternatives, e.g. ZURB’s Foundation, out there as well. I’m not going to judge which framework is the better one, but the main point is to understand what you are working with and how it can support your work. Many times people just plug in Bootstrap, change some colours and consider it done. I can tell a Bootstrap site from a few miles away, but it definitively doesn’t need to be that way.

Oftentimes this results from putting too little effort into design and even more from relying on the defaults of such frameworks. You don’t have to become an expert (whereas it obviously doesn’t hurt to be one) understanding every little detail, but having a good knowledge of the underpinning technologies will allow you to change and alter things for the better, lets you tweak your product to differentiate yourself from your competitors and also make your work a little easier.

Any framework – no matter if strategic or code-based – is meant to help you get started quickly, but overriding, changing and altering the defaults to fit your pants will always be part of your job.

Learn at Harbour Front Web Days

To gain some insights into building better products, responsive sites and understand front end frameworks a little better, attend the events of Harbour Front Web Days where ZURB, the creators of Foundation share helpful insights. There will also be swag and drinks with time to network and learn from other people in the industry.

Register for the Harbour Front Web Days here!

Holger Bartel on Startbase.HK: Holger Bartel

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