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Should I use online templates to build websites or write the CSS myself?

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College Student at Taro Community8 months ago

Hi, I was creating a website for a local business this fall and was going to ask would you guys recommend using an online template that's already made or should I actually try to code in the template using CSS?  I know that using a template can be easier such as by using squarespace but am unsure of how that will come off on my resume.



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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    8 months ago

    Use an online template. Small businesses want results fast, and it'll be difficult for you to get something production-ready quickly, especially if you're new to CSS.

    You're right that a WYSIWYG solution (like Squarespace) will be less impressive than hand-rolling your own, but I'd try to extend the project in interesting ways where you can write custom CSS or JavaScript. This makes the project worthwhile for a software engineer.

    The more nuanced answer is - This depends on your learning goals:

    • If you want to learn CSS, you can do this on your own. I'd recommend using something like Tailwind and going through some sort of web design content/course.
      • Learning this is tricky for a college student without a mentor, and I wouldn't want to risk souring the relationship with the small business.
      • In addition, even if you become an expert in CSS, it doesn't make you much more employable. I've never heard of anyone get hired simply because of their god-tier CSS skills.
    • If you want to have experience, I'd strongly push you to use something like Squarespace. This goes back to the idea of "what" not "how" -- the end user doesn't care how you came up with the solution; they just care about what it enables.

    I highly recommend going through these:

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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    7 months ago

    If you're stretched for time: Use the template and take whatever shortcuts it takes to deliver the website on time, get paid, and be able to put this on your resume. It won't add much value as using Squarespace doesn't exactly make you a software engineer, but it's better than the project falling apart from missing the deadline (at that point, you can't honestly put anything on your resume from this).

    If you have ample time: Actually build the website with code and use a proper web-stack like React and TypeScript. If you have even more time, build a proper back-end and treat the project as a giant learning experience.

    Also, Rahul is right in that having CSS experience isn't super meaningful. Something I have told many junior engineers is to leave HTML/CSS off their experience. It's like telling people that you know how to breathe. If you're applying for a web role, it's assumed that you know what HTML/CSS are.

    To get maximum learning from this project, I recommend this: "How to Learn/Practice Clean Code, particularly by oneself?"