Is Bootstrap hard to learn? 6 crucial things to consider

Learning to code is an incredible journey. But each step has its pitfalls and challenges to be aware of. Picking up a CSS framework like Bootstrap is different from learning raw HTML and CSS. When learning Bootstrap you are playing by the rules that other developers have set. You have to follow certain conventions otherwise, the various Bootstrap elements won't work.

The plus side is that if you follow these “rules” everything comes together a lot quicker than if you were to code everything from scratch. Overall, Bootstrap is not hard to learn. Its simplicity has made Bootstrap the most used CSS framework in the world and 86% of developers stating they would continue using it. Bootstrap is easy to use, has excellent documentation, and has fantastic community support.

However, some parts of Bootstrap are harder to learn than others. It’s worth getting an idea of where you may struggle so you can put some extra time aside.

How hard is Bootstrap to learn?

Bootstrap is easy to learn, and this has helped it become the most popular CSS framework in the world. Picking up Bootstrap can seem complicated when learning to code. You can end up fighting against the framework. Usually, the reason behind this is a lack of experience and exposure. I found once I had a better understanding of CSS, Bootstrap came easy.

Let’s take a look at how hard Bootstrap is to learn and the things to watch out for.

1. Getting Started

Bootstrap is exceptionally well documented so getting started is simple. The first challenge you will face is getting it to work in your HTML document.

To get going with CSS:

  1. Go to Getting Started page
  2. Copy the CSS stylesheet <link>
  3. Open your HTML document
  4. Paste the link into the <head> of your document before any other stylesheets.

To enable JavaScript:

  1. Navigate to the getting started page
  2. Copy the <script> tag underneath the JS heading.
  3. Open your HTML document
  4. Paste the link just before the closing </body> tag.

In terms of getting started, there is nothing hard about learning Bootstrap. In four easy steps, you can have CSS up and running in your HTML document. If you aren’t sure where to paste the tags, don’t worry. They even have a starter template for your HTML on the Getting Started page. It couldn’t be simpler. I've included a short video below on getting started with Bootstrap

2. Picking up the basics

Bootstrap has a lot of elements. Typography, Buttons, Navigation, Modals, Tabs, Accordions, and Carousels are just a few of the things available to you. There are also a lot of JS-based components.

Bootstrap isn’t hard to learn if you are sticking with the basic components. It gets slightly more complicated when you bring in the JS plugins. However, even this is just a case of ensuring the correct markup and classes are used.

Picking up the basics of Bootstrap is easy because of its documentation. You can copy and paste fully working code on their site. Doing this won't give you a deep understanding of the framework. But it will allow you to play around and grasp how things are put together in the Bootstrap world.

3. Learning CSS

A mistake that developers make when deciding whether they should learn Bootstrap is to skip CSS. Bootstrap is just a framework that abstracts away CSS by using premade classes. Instead of having to write everything yourself, the classes have been pre-written so you can get on with creating your sites.

It removes a lot of the heavy lifting but you need to understand CSS. You don't need to be able to implement media queries as it does for you. But you need a grasp of responsive design to understand how it works. Without prior CSS knowledge, you will end up fighting Bootstrap rather than working with it. Bugs will crop up and you won't know why, or how to solve them.

Bootstrap is hard to learn if you don’t have any prior CSS knowledge. Make sure to learn HTML before JavaScript, and CSS before Bootstrap. It will save you headaches later on.

4. Customizing Bootstrap

One of the big criticisms leveled on Bootstrap is websites that use it all look the same. However, Bootstrap can be almost infinitely customized. It is just a framework. As a developer, it is your job to take the tool and use it appropriately. The problem is that customizing Bootstrap is more difficult to learn than just picking it up and running with it.

Early on, keep it simple and just get familiar with how it works. Then as your knowledge grows look into modifying variables and other elements. Bootstrap uses SASS which is a CSS preprocessor. It allows you to use variables, mixins, maps, and other cool features.

Picking up SASS is a skill in itself and something you won’t pick up when you initially learn Bootstrap. You’ll have to get to grips with different NPM package managers, inheritance, importing files, and even learning about GitHub.

5. Responsiveness

Nearly 55% of all web traffic is now from mobile devices, so responsive websites are an absolute must. Websites from the early 2000s that didn’t respond to different screen sizes are an absolute no-go. Google now includes usability as a key ranking factor.

Responsiveness is offered out of the box with Bootstrap and is easy to learn. Once you get to grips with the class names for the different breakpoints you are good to go. The success of Bootstrap can be attributed to how easy the grid system they use to learn is. It immediately gives your website a responsive structure.

6. Templates and Themes

It’s estimated that 22% of all websites use at least some aspect of Bootstrap. On top of that, a third of all sites are built using WordPress. The market for Bootstrap templates and themes is enormous. But learning to create Bootstrap themes for WordPress is difficult. The complexity is far beyond just the other things we have discussed in this article.

However, it is something for newbie developers to aim for. Creating your own theme means you can deliver better quality more quickly to your clients. You can also put them on a marketplace and earn passive income from people buying them. Although the market for this is saturated.

How much time will it take to learn Bootstrap?

The length of time you have been coding will impact how hard it is to learn Bootstrap. It will also take you much longer to pick up the framework.

No Coding Experience

For newbies with no experience, you can expect to pick up Bootstrap in a few weeks. It will take this long because you will have to learn HTML and CSS as you go along. These two skills can take months to learn on their own.

I’d highly recommend not jumping into Bootstrap before understanding how HTML, CSS, and JavaScript work. Bootstrap was built to be easy to learn but not as a shortcut to becoming a developer. Nail the basics first and it is easy to learn.

With this level of experience, you still may struggle to put together a basic static site with Bootstrap after two weeks.

New Developer

With some coding experience under your belt, you can expect to learn Bootstrap in a day or two. What do I mean by experience? You should have a good grasp of the fundamentals behind the big three. With this learning Bootstrap is easy.

More experience makes reading documentation easier. Bootstrap has some of the best documentation going, so it's a breeze to pick up for people who have a grasp of coding. At this level, you should feel comfortable creating and modifying elements to easily put together a site.

Experienced Developer

As an experienced developer, you will realize that you already know Bootstrap because you know CSS. Essentially all you are learning is the syntax - what classes and layout correspond to which element.

The turnaround time for learning Bootstrap is essentially a couple of hours. You’ll like to work with the documentation open just to refer to it as your build stuff in HTML. At this level, you should be able to comfortably customize the framework. Digging into the SASS files won't be an issue and you can even create your own themes.

Conclusion

Bootstrap is not difficult to learn. The purpose behind its creation was to make CSS straightforward. The learning curve is pretty flat, especially if you already have a good grasp of CSS.

How hard Bootstrap is to learn will also depend on what you intend to do. Basic elements are easy to pick up. But you’ll have to spend a bit more time learning if you want to customize it and build extra features.

Just remember not to skip ahead. Nail the fundamental of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript first, and learning Bootstrap will be easy.

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