It is worth clarifying that we are not going to discuss learning Bootstrap instead of CSS. As a new developer, you should always start with the fundamentals and then work your way to frameworks and libraries. Getting to grips with how the language works under the hood will pay dividends in the long run.
Instead, we’ll look at the reason why you should use Bootstrap instead of CSS for your upcoming projects. Let’s assume you already learned the basics and want to understand the benefits of working with Bootstrap over pure CSS.
What is Bootstrap?
Bootstrap is an open-source framework that helps developers implement consistent user interfaces across multiple projects. It has a huge focus on responsiveness and means you don’t have to write different CSS for each different screen size or device. The mobile-first approach, now considered an industry standard, was popularised by Bootstrap and is baked into its core.
It was created by Jacob Thornton and Mark Otto while working at Twitter and released in 2011. Bootstrap has since grown to be the most used CSS framework in the world. It isn’t perfect but it has helped software engineers across the globe.
Why choose Bootstrap over pure CSS?
You should choose Bootstrap over pure CSS if you want to reduce the project time frame, keep your styles consistent, want to avoid JS development, and intend to use SASS or SCSS. Bootstrap reduces the amount of project overhead by reducing the time you spend on the initial setup phase.
CSS is not a programming language but still requires an incredible amount of experience and knowledge to fully master. The syntax is simple but mastering the implementation of CSS can be tricky, especially if you skip the basics.
Too many developers use frameworks like Bootstrap as a crutch and never actually dive deeper into the language. So the assumption here is that you have a good knowledge of how CSS works before you try and implement Bootstrap. Unfortunately, if you aren’t sure how specificity or inheritance works in CSS you could end up fighting against Bootstrap and making your life more difficult.
So what are the main reasons you should use Bootstrap instead of CSS for your next project?
Part of the reason CSS frameworks have become so popular is because of the incredible amount of time they save developers. You don’t have to consider things like responsiveness as it’s provided out of the box with Bootstrap. That means you don’t have to waste time rewriting CSS code for specific screen sizes or devices – just add the right class and you are ready to go.
Rather than having to begin every project by defining CSS for every component or class, Bootstrap allows you to inherit what you need and customize what you don’t. It’s a great starting point and cuts down on repetitive boilerplate code.
2. Modern CSS
Once you have used SASS or SCSS, pure CSS can feel like a bit of a chore. SASS is essentially CSS with superpowers. It compiles down into CSS but has the feel of a programming language with the ability to create functions and variables.
You don’t need Bootstrap to use SASS but it comes built with SASS in mind. You easily modify existing colors, mixins, maps, and variables because Bootstrap exposes these files in their code. Essentially it makes customizing your projects even easier and further reduces developer overhead.
You can create SASS files yourself but similar to just using pure CSS, it takes a lot of time and effort. Updating old projects is also far simpler with a Bootstrap/SASS combination because you just store values in variables and update these in the future.
Bootstrap comes with so many JS features as standard – collapsible menus, accordions, tooltips, and form validation are just a few that spring to mind. It essentially allows you to focus on what you and the client want to achieve with the website rather than the technical implementation.
Having multiple developers work on a single project can help cut down the development time but has some drawbacks. Keeping styles consistent across a large project can be difficult if you have multiple people working on it.
Bootstrap improves consistency across a project. Spacings, fonts, colors, and styles can all be standardized in one file and then used throughout the project. It removes inconsistency by taking away the need to create unnecessary styles.
Upgrading legacy websites or projects also becomes easier because you can assign values to variables and just change these at a later date. In contrast, allowing developers to create hundreds of styles each would be a nightmare to update.
Bootstrap is easy to learn so maintaining consistency, even for new members of the team, is straightforward.
5. Project focus
Each project has different aims and outcomes. For simple websites, the focus is usually on design and appearance. Using Bootstrap allows you to focus on the things that will move the needle in the project. You don’t have to get caught up in coding custom functions to control elements or worry about writing a CSS class to align images properly.
As a team, it means you can hone in on what will provide clients with the most value and how to implement that.
What are the advantages of Bootstrap over CSS?
Appreciating the fundamentals is incredibly important and it is one of the reasons why frameworks will never entirely replace the core language. Getting to grips with CSS makes using the surrounding frameworks simpler and easier. There are enormous benefits to choosing a framework over the vanilla version of the language.
The main advantages of using Bootstrap over CSS include:
- Responsiveness – Your website will work beautifully with all screen sizes and devices with the addition of just a few Bootstrap classes. With pure CSS you’ll have to waste time coding your own.
- Features – With Bootstrap you get layouts, UI elements, modals, buttons, cards, alerts, accordions, and menus as standard. You don’t need to spend time getting these foundational elements working.
- SASS – SASS is the future of CSS and enables you to quickly and effectively write impactful styles in fewer lines of code. It enables you to DRY up your code and put effort into parts of the project that matter most.
- Ecosystem – Bootstrap has an enormous community of developers and designers working to improve it. It also has some of the best community support in the tech industry which means you’ll always have an answer to any problems. It’s the most used framework in the industry and will be for years to come.
- Speed – Making prototypes or even production-ready websites using CSS takes more time than using a framework. With Bootstrap you are able to get stuff out of the door quicker and cheaper.
The best thing about Bootstrap is that it’s essentially a powerful implementation of CSS. It uses the existing underlying stylesheet language to superpower your projects and saves you time and money.
As a developer, it avoids the painful process of having to start from scratch with every project and gives you time to focus on the things that matter.
Should you use bootstrap?
You should use Bootstrap because it is a popular front-end framework that can be used to create responsive and mobile-first web apps quickly and easily.
However, if you have very specific design or functionality requirements, Bootstrap may not be the best option. Since it is a pre-built framework, you may need to customize the components or write your own code to achieve your desired look and feel or functionality. This can be more time-consuming than building from scratch.
Overall, Bootstrap can be a great tool for building web applications, especially if you are a beginner or need to develop something quickly. However, it’s important to evaluate your specific needs and goals before deciding whether to use Bootstrap or another framework.
Nathan Britten, the founder and editor of Developer Pitstop, is a self-taught software engineer with nearly five years of experience in front-end technologies. Nathan created the site to provide simple, straightforward knowledge to those interested in technology, helping them navigate the industry and better understand their day-to-day roles.