Why Designers Love Bootstrap
Bootstrap is one of those open source offerings that the internet comes up with every once in a while that has the ability to please users across the board. No matter what level you are as a web designer – from complete novice to seasoned pro – Bootstrap is a front-end framework that lets anybody build a professional, responsive, good-looking and functional website in no time at all. All you need is a basic knowledge of CSS and html and you’re good to go.
It provides the web developer with some great typography capabilities to play with, and, since it’s undergone several changes over the years, nearly everything that you build with it has a modern feel – from menus to navigation to checkboxes – all with minimum fuss and effort.
There is a little saying that floats around, however, that goes something like, “All Bootstrap websites look the same.”
Anyone in the web design and development game will have heard that at some point, and the less autonomous of individuals may have even repeated it in perhaps a rather puerile attempt to look clever. Personally I’d disagree with the statement. Sure, the Bootstrap framework certainly enables the building of similar websites. But I find that to be a rather reductive viewpoint. Just because everyone who uses Bootstrap is following the same rules, doesn’t mean that they play the game in the same way. I mean if you play chess, football or tennis then you will be bound by the same rules as any other player, but that doesn’t mean that you will perform to the same standard of Bobby Fischer, Cristiano Ronaldo or Tim Henman, does it?
No. Anyone can build pretty much anything with Bootstrap, and those detractors could do too if they took a little time to reconfigure the default Bootstrap styling.
And I’m not alone in my opinion – those nay-sayers aside, there are actually many designers out there who love Bootstrap. But just in case you’re still in any doubt, Christopher Gimmer put together a blog post towards the end of last year entitled ‘30 Must See Websites Built With Bootstrap’, and I’d encourage you to take a look (though below I’ve included a couple of screenshots of my favourites).
Why Designers Love Bootstrap
Bootstrap, of course, is not the only front-end framework out there that enjoys a good share of popularity. On a roughly even par is Foundation. Both are great, and, to be honest, it’s not really a case of one being any better than the other, but rather that some things are more suited to each, and inevitably designers end up with their personal preferences. But, this blog is about Bootstrap, so we’ll leave Foundation aside for the moment, and concentrate now on exactly what it is that suits Bootstrap so well, and why you should be taking note of its capabilities for your web design projects.
The Grid System
The grid system is arguably the most important element of a front-end framework. It’s what gives developers the ability to very quickly produce prototype layouts and make changes to them very easily.
Bootstrap’s grid system is highly responsive, flexible, and is now optimised for the production of mobile-first design (which, as we have discussed in previous blogs, is highly important since Google’s search algorithm update in April this year). With Bootstrap you can divide your screen into 12 separate columns, which helps no end when it comes to scaling your site to mobile and desktop screens.
Unlike Foundation which uses rems, Bootstrap uses pixels for calculating widths, heights etc. Pixels, of course, are much more familiar to work with, and any developer who has any experience in graphic design will have used them before, which indeed is why many designers love Bootstrap.
Anything that’s open source is quite frankly amazing in my opinion. And Bootstrap is no exception (and Foundation, too, to be fair). Hosted on Github, it is released under the MIT license, which means that designers have complete freedom to experiment and change the framework however they wish, without having to deal with purchasing and licensing issues.
Yes, harking back to my introduction, Bootstrap is fully customisable, meaning that only the sites which use the default settings should end up with a “Bootstrap look”. All of the CSS and JS behaviour can be overridden, though it has a very large variety of themes readily available, all of which offer something unique. So, even if you’re starting with a theme, you can still customise it to something that’s different than anything else that’s out there.
All modern major web browsers are compatible with Bootstrap. What is more, even if a user is accessing a Bootstrap site using a browser that predates html-5, the plugins HTML5Shiv and Respond.js come bundled in with the default template to overcome this.
Why do you love Bootstrap? Perhaps you prefer Foundation? Either way, it would be great to hear your thoughts – please leave any comments below.