The CSS Grid Layout vs CSS Frameworks Debate

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CSS Grid Layout vs CSS Frameworks

With cutting-edge CSS standards like CSS Grid Layout and Flexbox, coding a web page layout is no longer such a pain. If you add to this that browser support for both Grid and Flexbox is pretty good too, then the question is bound to come up: Why should consider learning and using CSS frameworks in my development work?

In this article, I’ll focus on Bootstrap, since it’s arguably one of the most popular among all the CSS UI libraries available out there.

In my view, there are still a number of reasons why it does still make sense to learn and use Bootstrap today.

Here’s a few of them for you.

What Is CSS Grid?

Rachel Andrew, a well-known speaker and writer on all things CSS Grid-related, defines it as follows:

Grid is a grid system. It allows you to define columns and rows in your CSS, without needing to define them in markup. You don’t need a tool that helps you make it look like you have a grid, you actually have a grid!

The implementation of this CSS standard gives developers the much needed ability to build page layouts with native CSS code, with no dependency from the HTML markup except for the presence of a wrapper element that works as containing grid. Just imagine the flexibility and the potential for creativity in web design!

For instance, you don’t need custom classes or extra rows in your markup to build this simple layout:

Simple web page layout built with CSS Grid

Here’s the HTML:

<div class="grid">
  <header>Header content</header>
  <main>Main content</main>
  <aside>Sidebar</aside>
  <footer>Footer</footer>
</div>

As for the CSS, this is where you’re going to build your visual layout. All it takes in this simple case is a few lines of code:

.grid {
  display: grid;
  grid-template-columns: repeat(12, 1fr);
  grid-template-rows: 50px 150px 50px;
}

header, footer {
  grid-column: span 12;
}

main {
  grid-column: span 8;
}

aside {
  grid-column: span 4;
}

That’s it, you’re done! Not bad.

What Is Bootstrap?

At the time of this writing, 3.6% of the entire Internet uses Bootstrap:

Bootstrap usage

On the Bootstrap website, you’ll find this definition:

Bootstrap is an open-source toolkit for developing with HTML, CSS, and JS. Quickly prototype your ideas or build your entire app with our Sass variables and mixins, responsive grid system, extensive prebuilt components, and powerful plugins built on jQuery.

In other words, Bootstrap gives you ready-made components that allow you to whip up a beautiful web page in no time.

Just write the appropriate markup, and your app looks great out of the box.

Bootstrap makes it also super easy to customize its look and feel to your liking and lets you pick and choose the bits you need for your project.

Why Bootstrap When We Have Grid?

The biggest complaint about Bootstrap has always been code bloat. The reasoning was that it included lots of extra CSS code that remained unused in your projects. The second biggest complaint was that Bootstrap components were styled in every detail and this could present some problems when it came to overriding some CSS rules.

Starting with the latest version of this popular front-end component library, both criticisms fall to pieces: Bootstrap is totally modular, so you just include what you need. Also, the Sass files are structured in such a way as to make it very convenient to customize the original styles to your needs.

Today, the main reason against using Bootstrap is the fact that with CSS Grid, CSS has a grid system of its own, which doesn’t have any external dependencies, and which, once learned, enables developers to build all sorts of layouts with relative ease.

Although I’m a CSS Grid fan, I think Bootstrap has still its place in front-end development and will have for some time to come.

Here are at least three reasons why.

Bootstrap Is More Than Its Grid System

It’s true, the #1 reason to use Bootstrap is the handy grid system, which makes it a breeze to build responsive web pages. However, Bootstrap has some great components like the versatile new card component, which you can use to display all types of content, such as text, images and videos, and the responsive navbar, which works out of the box. You can also pick a ready-made color scheme of your liking for most components.

And what about the functionality of a good many of these components? With Bootstrap, adding dynamic tooltips, carousels, or dropdown buttons is just a matter of writing the appropriate markup. If JavaScript is not your forte, you can still take advantage of these components without writing a line of JavaScript.

Also, if you’re not a CSS wizard, you can still leverage the power of Bootstrap in your web design while you’re learning the tricks of the trade.

Bootstrap Is a Great Prototyping Tool

Sometimes you just need to a working prototype for a client. Bootstrap lets you do this in no time and with very little to no custom code. This doesn’t only hold for the grid system, but also for all the ready-made components it has to offer.

Just add a little markup and your prototype will boast a sleek responsive navigation bar or a fancy alert box.

Working on Older Websites Built With Bootstrap

One common task for developers is to work on existing websites coded by other developers. There’s no denying the fact that a huge number of websites rely on Bootstrap for their front end. Knowing how to work with the framework will come very handy if it’s up to you to refactor and maintain the codebase. It’s not by chance that still lots of job postings have Bootstrap in their list of desired skills.

Conclusion

To conclude, Bootstrap is not going away any time soon. The latest release comes with huge improvements over the previous versions, from the clever use of Sass mixins and maps for easy customization to the introduction of new components, utility classes, and an ever more modular architecture.

Add to this great documentation and ease of use, and Bootstrap is still a mighty contender in the front-end ecosystem.

What do you think? Is your next project going to be built with Bootstrap or CSS Grid?

If you’ve heard about Bootstrap but have been putting off learning it because it seems too complicated, then play through our Introduction to Bootstrap 4 course for a quick and fun introduction to the power of Bootstrap.

Frequently Asked Questions about CSS Grid Layout and CSS Frameworks

What are the main differences between CSS Grid Layout and CSS Frameworks?

CSS Grid Layout and CSS Frameworks like Bootstrap are both powerful tools for web design, but they serve different purposes. CSS Grid Layout is a CSS module that allows for the creation of complex web layouts with rows and columns. It’s a native feature of CSS, meaning it doesn’t require any additional libraries or plugins to work. On the other hand, CSS Frameworks are pre-prepared libraries that are designed to simplify the process of web design. They come with pre-designed components, such as buttons, forms, and navigation bars, which can be easily customized and reused.

Is CSS Grid Layout better than CSS Frameworks?

Whether CSS Grid Layout is “better” than CSS Frameworks depends on the specific needs of your project. CSS Grid Layout offers more flexibility and control over the layout of your web pages, making it a great choice for complex, grid-based designs. However, CSS Frameworks like Bootstrap can save you time and effort by providing pre-designed components and styles. If you’re working on a large project or need to get a website up and running quickly, a CSS Framework might be the better choice.

Can CSS Grid Layout and CSS Frameworks be used together?

Yes, CSS Grid Layout and CSS Frameworks can be used together. In fact, many developers use CSS Grid Layout for creating the overall layout of their web pages, and then use a CSS Framework for the individual components within those pages. This approach allows you to take advantage of the strengths of both tools.

What are some alternatives to CSS Grid Layout and CSS Frameworks?

There are many alternatives to CSS Grid Layout and CSS Frameworks. Some popular alternatives to CSS Grid Layout include Flexbox and CSS Multi-column Layout. These are also native CSS modules that allow for the creation of flexible layouts. Some popular alternatives to CSS Frameworks include Foundation, Bulma, and Tailwind CSS. These are other CSS Frameworks that offer different features and styles.

How do I choose between CSS Grid Layout and a CSS Framework?

When choosing between CSS Grid Layout and a CSS Framework, consider the needs of your project and your own skills and preferences as a developer. If you need a lot of control over your layout and enjoy working with CSS, you might prefer CSS Grid Layout. If you prefer to work with pre-designed components and want to get a website up and running quickly, a CSS Framework might be a better choice.

Is Bootstrap a CSS Framework?

Yes, Bootstrap is a CSS Framework. It’s one of the most popular CSS Frameworks available and is known for its responsive design, pre-designed components, and extensive documentation.

What are some of the advantages of using CSS Grid Layout?

CSS Grid Layout offers a number of advantages. It allows for the creation of complex layouts with rows and columns, it’s a native feature of CSS, meaning it doesn’t require any additional libraries or plugins, and it offers a lot of flexibility and control over the layout of your web pages.

What are some of the advantages of using a CSS Framework?

CSS Frameworks offer a number of advantages. They can save you time and effort by providing pre-designed components and styles, they’re often well-documented and supported by a community of developers, and they can help ensure that your website is responsive and looks good on all devices.

How do I get started with CSS Grid Layout?

To get started with CSS Grid Layout, you’ll need a basic understanding of HTML and CSS. From there, you can learn more about CSS Grid Layout through online tutorials, documentation, and practice.

How do I get started with a CSS Framework?

To get started with a CSS Framework, you’ll also need a basic understanding of HTML and CSS. From there, you can choose a CSS Framework that fits your needs, download it, and start exploring its documentation and features.

Maria Antonietta PernaMaria Antonietta Perna
View Author

Maria Antonietta Perna is a teacher and technical writer. She enjoys tinkering with cool CSS standards and is curious about teaching approaches to front-end code. When not coding or writing for the web, she enjoys reading philosophy books, taking long walks, and appreciating good food.

bootstrapbootstrap-hubBootstrap-resourcescss frameworkscss gridlearn-advanced-css
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