ZURB is the creator of Foundation 5, one of the most popular frameworks available today. They were the first to use responsive grids, to implement mobile first approach, and are paving the way for the future of frameworks. What we find really exciting is that Foundation is just one of many projects from this creative team!
Zing Design got the opportunity to ask some of the team from ZURB about what they do, how they do it and where they and the industry are headed in the future.
How did ZURB come about?
ZURB has been around since 1998. It all started in the apartment of our Chief Instigator and Founder, Bryan. But it goes back a bit further than that. As a child, Bryan participated in opportunities that shaped his approach to design and education, such as the “odyssey of the mind” — a classroom activity where Bryan and his classmates would solve an interesting problem in creative ways. There were other opportunities along the way, including a middle school instructor who pushed him to learn new things. At Stanford, Bryan had advisors like IDEO’s David Kelley and Stanford’s Ralph Faste.
All these opportunities touched ZURB in many ways. Education, providing similar opportunities to others, is the drum beat behind our organization. It’s the engine that propels us, both internally and externally. A purpose formed by Bryan’s early experiences, as well as his 10 years teaching design conceptualization (ideation/presentation) at Stanford, where he tried to figure out how to bring product design concepts to the then-emerging digital world in 1998. Thus, ZURB began.
Over the past 16 years, we’ve helped more than 250 startups, grown-up startups and companies design better products faster.
How many people work for ZURB?
Currently, 20 plus and growing!
What makes ZURB different from other product companies?
ZURB isn’t your typical design consultancy or product company. We don’t go for the “Mad Men” reveal. We work alongside our clients, engaging them in direct conversations to get their feedback. We don’t have product managers or internal handoffs. We use design thinking and tight feedback loops to get things done quickly.
Every design problem should always be a business problem
We balance user needs, business goals and technical feasibility. Whereas in other companies designers might not know how to code, our product designers understand code so they understand any technical constraints a project might have. Not only do we consult, but we’ve built tools to help us and others build products faster — such as our front-end responsive framework, Foundation, and our product suite of apps.
How do you feel about your biggest competitor — Twitter Bootstrap?
We are big proponents of open-source, so it’s great to see other frameworks out there. Foundation, however, was the first to be responsive, the first to go Mobile First. We’re also the first framework to delve into accessibility. We’ve stayed ahead of the curve and will continue staying ahead of the curve with the upcoming Foundation for Apps, using things like Flexbox , Motion UI and Angular JS. Many of these other frameworks have a root with ZURB as a company, such as Bootstrap, Skeleton and Ratchet, which are all from former ZURBians, and Gumby even began as a fork of Foundation.
(Zing Design has previously compared Foundation to Bootstrap in this article)
Where do you find inspiration for your products and plugins?
We find inspiration from our client work, building our own products, and from paying attention to what’s happening in the industry then thinking of how we can move it even further. We also find inspiration from each other, where side conversations sometimes spark the latest ZURB Playground piece, such as Responsive Ads. With Foundation for apps, we’re going to see a large number of components we’re creating to solve very specific problems. These are plugins that we’re prototyping and changing and prototyping again, the number of components we’ll be releasing be only a fraction of what has been coded within ZURB over the past few months.
What do you think will be the main web trends for 2014-2015?
This year has been marked by the Web App vs. Native App debate. With Foundation for Apps, we’ll begin to see more and more web apps that function like native apps. Over the last several years Foundation has helped tons of websites take their slew of desktop, tablet and mobile views and turn them into one cohesive code base. The biggest trend and most exciting challenge of the next year will be the same for apps. Which will be larger full screen experiences, single page apps, and motion. We’re tackling all three with Foundation for Apps.
Where do you think digital technology is headed in the future?
We’ll see more and more connected devices, from your watch to your phone to your glasses. We’ll also be seeing a move back to a more open web. Letting a handful of companies decide what is allowed as an app on a device can be scary and, just like with desktop apps, we’ll be seeing the mobile space move more and more to the web.
What are ZURB’s short term and long-term goals?
Our short term goals are focused on launching Foundation for Apps and the next iteration of our product suite. As for long-term goals, we plan to be around until the far, far future!